An edible souvenir

My family and I escaped to the Twin Cities for a few days last week. We didn’t plan on doing much, but managed to pack a lot into four days away, including a visit to Valley Fair, shopping, a Twins game and canoeing on a lake.

My husband grew up in a river town. The kids and I did not. It took four tries before we were finally able to maneuver the canoe under a bridge – and this was after we crashed into a wall. Twice.

I was freaked out the entire time that we would tip over, but we didn’t. Our victory made lunch at Lucia’s a few hours later that much sweeter, as did the most delicious strawberry shortcake I ever had. Organic strawberries, homemade whipped cream and a shortcake with the best strudel-type topping. Yum!

I wandered to Penzeys Spices afterward and bought a 3.4-ounce jar of vanilla sugar, determined to recreate the magic at home. I served the recipe below at dinner last night. Is it a spot on duplication? Not yet, but I’ll get there. It did take four tries for the canoe, after all.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKEstrawberry shortcake

For the strawberries:

  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and slightly mashed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

For the shortcake:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For the whipped cream:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the strawberries with the sugar and vanilla sugar; set aside.

For the shortcake: Grease a round, 9-inch cake pan and set aside. In a large bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Blend in the butter and egg and mix well. Add enough milk to make a moist, slightly sticky dough. Start with 2 tablespoons and add more as needed. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour on the table, place the dough on top, and roll the dough gently into a 9-inch round. Place the round into the cake pan. Don’t worry if it isn’t a perfect fit. Brush with the melted butter. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the pan, let cool briefly and split apart carefully into two layers. We’ve found a bread knife works well.

Spread the strawberries between the layers and on top of the shortcake. Top with whipped cream or serve it on the side. To make the whipped cream, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until it reaches your desired consistency. Putting the mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for half an hour will give you successful whipped cream every time.

Recipe courtesy of Penzeys Spices (www.penzeys.com)

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It’s like summer in a (cookie) bar

Finding the creator of a cookie recipe take s’more investigation

This recipe for s’mores cookie bars has been floating around Pinterest for weeks now. If the Website wasn’t equipped to tell me “Hey, you pinned that already,” I would have pinned it a gazillion times.

I originally planned to make these on the last day of school, sort of like a “Hey, it’s summer!” treat (because nothing says summer like s’mores), but it didn’t happen.

I had great intentions. I bought all the ingredients, but then life got busy, as it tends to do. I put the chocolate in the freezer, but that wasn’t the best hiding spot in the world from a 14-year-old boy and 12-year-old girl, so Sunday night, around 8 p.m., I decided I better make the bars while I still had some chocolate left.

Side note: I learned my kids love dark chocolate. Good for them.

Another side note: My 14-year-old had not tried marshmallow fluff until I made these bars. I am trying to understand how that happened.

This is an easy recipe. Finding out who created it was the tough part. First I visited the Website that Pinterest led me to: Six Sisters’ Stuff.

I love this site. It started when six sisters, now living apart, wanted a way to keep in touch. I own their first cookbook and it is one of my favorites. However, the recipe is credited to another blog: Sugar Cooking. I click on that and lose 30 minutes of my life exploring Sarah’s food blog (It’s like Christmas!).

Guess what? Sarah didn’t create this recipe. She credits Lovin’ From The Oven, so I click on that blog and start all over again.

I’m 87 percent sure this is the original recipe. The post was written in 2008 and doesn’t link to another blog. How awesome is it to know a recipe that appeared on the blog sphere nearly five years ago is still going strong?

One thing – all versions of this recipe say it makes 16 bars. These bakers must be better at math than I am because I only got 12 bars out of the pan, and they were pretty small, too. Size-wise, it’s OK. These are a rich treat, but I don’t want to mislead you in any way.

S’mores are a serious business.

S’MORES BARS RECIPEsmores bars

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 king-sized milk chocolate bars (I used a combination of Hershey’s milk chocolate and dark chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.

Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough (3 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate, if necessary, to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick). Spread marshmallow creme over chocolate layer. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the marshmallow (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small, flat shingles and laying them together).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Recipe courtesy of: Lovin’ From The Oven via Sugar Cooking via Six Sisters’ Stuff via Pinterest

Men and potlucks aren’t the best combination

Here’s a conversation I had with my husband yesterday:

Me: Are you working in Iowa City tomorrow?

Scott: Planning on it.

Me: Good. I’m making snacks. You can take them in.

Scott: Oh, for our potluck?

Me: I didn’t know you were having a potluck. I just felt like making treats.

Scott: Cool. I was thinking about bringing the rest of the German chocolate cake.

This was a cake he made Monday. It’s very good. It’s also nearly gone.

Me: You can’t take something we’ve eaten most of to a potluck!

I don’t understand how guys think.

I whipped up a Cherry Cheesecake Dip yesterday. It took less than 10 minutes, but it tastes like you slaved over it. Thank you, Pinterest, for leading me to this recipe!

CHERRY CHEESECAKE DIPcherry cheesecake dip

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 7-ounce container of marshmallow fluff
  • 2 containers of Cool Whip
  • 1 box of graham crackers
  • 2 cans of cherry pie filling

Crush one sleeve of graham crackers. Spread crumbs on the bottom of two 8-by-8 pans (or one 8-by-12 pan). Don’t pack the crumbs; all you need is a nice even layer.

In a bowl, mix together a block of softened cream cheese and marshmallow fluff until smooth. Using a spoon or a spatula, add the Cool Whip one tub at a time.

Divide the mixture evenly between the two pans. Use a clean spoon or frosting knife to gently smooth the mixture to the corners of the dish. Work slowly and carefully so not to disturb the crumbs on the bottom.

Top each pan with a can of cherry pie filling.

Break up remaining graham crackers and serve with the dip, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Recipe courtesy of: http://www.shellythemomager.blogspot.com via Pinterest

Impulse buying for the win!

I decided to count my cookbook collection the other day. I stopped counting at 200.

I didn’t think that sounded like a huge number. The looks I’ve gotten from friends and colleagues suggest that they don’t agree. Apparently, in an informal poll of eight people, 10 is an acceptable number of cookbooks.

Acceptable is boring.

The following recipe comes from one of my newer cookbook purchases: Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More. It was recommended to me by the lovely folks at amazon.com and it’s one of those recommendations that has worked well.

(Unlike the side ponytail I tried in eighth grade. Yikes!)

The broadcast and print journalists recently moved to a new newsroom at work, so I made brownies to celebrate. The bathroom renovation may not be finished (I’m getting quite the workout running up to the second floor to use their bathroom), but we have treats!

Just don’t spill a crumb on the new carpet.

Mom’s Famous Chocolate Marshmallow Browniesbrownies

  • 1 cup margarine (2 sticks)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (10-ounce) package of miniature marshmallows

Soften margarine and blend in sugar and cocoa. Beat together and add 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing after each one. Add flour, salt and vanilla and mix well.

Spread on large (10x15x1 inch) greased cookie sheet. Bake 22-25 minutes at 350. Remove from oven and cover entire top with 1 package of miniature marshmallows. Return to oven for 3 minutes, until marshmallows are soft and puffy. Cool and frost with chocolate frosting.

Mom’s Chocolate Frosting

  • 1 stick margarine (1/2 cup), softened
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons vanilla (depending on your taste)
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa
  • 2 to 3 cups of powdered sugar

Mix all ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth. Add more powdered sugar or milk until you reach desired consistency and spread on top of bars.

Recipe courtesy of Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More by Six Sisters Stuff

Happy food holiday times three!

Did you know that nearly every day on the calender is a food holiday?

Chocolate covered peanut day. Pie Day. Clam chowder day. I’m not kidding — nearly every day of the calendar is dedicated to a food.  It isn’t always clear who or what decided on these non-official-but-entertaining holidays, but seeing as this is more entertaining than scientific, it doesn’t really matter.

That being said, some food holidays days are more fun than others, depending on your culinary preferences. Feb. 27, however, just might be the greatest food day of all.

It’s National Chocolate Cake Day.

And National Strawberry Day.

And National Kahlua day.

To celebrate this most joyful of holidays, I made a chocolate Kahlua cake with a strawberry compote and Kahlua buttercream frosting.

Nothing like cake, and alcohol, to put you in the holiday spirit!

THE TRIFECTA OF FOOD HOLIDAYS CAKEchocolate cake

For the cake:

  • 1 chocolate cake mix
  • 1 package instant chocolate pudding
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup Kahlua
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup water

Preheat over to 345F

Combine all liquid ingredients in a bowl, then add the cake mix and chocolate pudding mix. Grease two 9-inch cake pans, or one 9-by-13 pan, and split the batter between the two pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes.

For the strawberry compote:

  • 1 pound strawberries, sliced
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Vodka, to taste (I used about 1/8 cup)

Put sliced strawberries in a bowl and mix the sugar into it. Let sit for about half an hour to release all the juices.

Strain the strawberries and put the juice in a saucepan. Bring it to a simmer with the lemon juice and vodka, and keep on a low simmer for about 20 minutes until it is reduced to a syrup. Pour the syrup back on the strawberries and put in the fridge to cool until you need it.

For the frosting:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • 2 tablespoons instant coffee
  • 1 tablespoon hot water

In small bowl dissolve instant coffee in hot water.

Beat butter at medium speed in a mixing bowl until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, Kahlua and hot coffee mixture. You can add more Kahlua if you want a stronger coffee flavor frosting.

This recipe makes enough frosting for a 9-by-13 cake.

Recipes to create this cake came from www.food.com, tiffanyhu.com/blog, and www.epicurious.com

Cake for breakfast? Heck, yeah!

I made my first-ever Bundt cake in October, in the middle of the 2012 Apple Challenge.

It was a stressful experience and my brand-new Bundt pan has since been banished to my pantry, stored on the bottom shelf behind a stack of cooking magazine so I can’t see it.

That’s why it took me a few minutes to find it yesterday, but I was a girl on a mission.

It was a snow day.

I was working from home.

I needed to update this blog.

I had to bake something.

I had everything I needed to make Chocolate Chip Cappuccino Coffee Cake, so that’s what I chose – even though it used a Bundt pan.

(Cue dramatic music.)

I’m happy to report my second attempt with this baking dish went well. I didn’t even have to watch a YouTube video on the proper way to grease and flour a Bundt pan.

That’s progress.

CHOCOLATE CHIP CAPPUCINNO COFFEE CAKEChocolate Chip Cappuccino Coffee Cake

For the chocolate chip streusel:

  • 1 lightly packed cup of light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup finely chopped pecans (I chose not to include these)
  • ½ cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

For the cake:

  • Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pan
  • Flour, for dusting the pan
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow or vanilla cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup strong brewed coffee or water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Make the streusel: Place the brown sugar, pecans, chocolate chips, flour, cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder and the melted butter in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake: Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust it with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, coffee or water, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the ingredients just come together, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the batter is thick and smooth, 1½ to 2 minutes longer, scraping down the side of the bowl again if needed. Pour two thirds of the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and sprinkle half of the streusel mixture on top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter on top of the streusel and, using a rubber spatula, spread the batter to reach the side of the pan. Sprinkle the remaining streusel on top. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer the Bundt pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a long, sharp knife around the edges of the cake, shake the pan gently and invert the cake onto a serving plate so that the streusel stays on the bottom of the cake. Let the cake cool completely, 25 to 30 minutes.

Make the topping: Place the confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder in a small bowl and stir to combine. Sift the mixture on top of the cake, and slice and serve.

Recipe courtesy of The Cake Mix Doctor Returns!: With 160 All-New Recipes by Anne Byrn

Will 2013 be the year of the pony?

For as long as I can remember, whenever someone asks me what I want for a present, my answer is a pony. Birthday. Christmas. Flag Day. A pony is an ideal gift for any occasion.

My wish for a pony of my own is well-known among my family and friends. My mom even considered having a pony at my high school graduation party – my school counselor owned several – but thought pony rides would be too messy for our guests.

Clearly I was hanging with the wrong crowd at that time.

As far as I can tell, the only good thing to come from my broken hand was that it happened four days before Christmas. If there was ever a year to expect a pony under the tree this was it. Sadly no pony materialized – that day. A week later a large box arrived in the mail. Inside was a pony Pillow Pet; a “Get well soon” present from my parents.

I named him Herbert Hoofer.

It sounds silly, but Herbert is the perfect arm rest for my cast. True, he isn’t a real pony, but my doctor probably doesn’t want me riding a pony right now. That’s why I was OK when my birthday rolled around last week and my family assumed Herbert was enough pony for one year.

Rather than dwell the lack of a living pony at my house, and the extra candle on my birthday cake, I made birthday treats for my colleagues.

I am getting better at maneuvering my kitchen one-handed.

COOKIES AND CREAM CHEESECAKEScookies and cream cheesecake

  • 42 cream-filled sandwich cookies, such as Oreos, 30 left whole, and 12 coarsely chopped
  • 2 pounds cream cheese, room temperature (4 8-ounce packages)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Place 1 whole cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

With an electric mixer on medium high speed, beat cream cheese until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Gradually add sugar, and beat until combined. Beat in vanilla.

Drizzle in eggs, a bit at a time, beating to combine and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in sour cream and salt. Stir in chopped cookies by hand.

Divide batter evenly among cookie-lined cups, filling each almost to the top. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to overnight). Remove from tins just before serving.

Makes 30.

Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone’s Favorite Treat by Martha Stewart

Happy birthday to me!

birthday treats

Today is my birthday! To celebrate, I made cupcakes for my colleagues.

Who says birthday treats have to end after elementary school?

I spent most of last night baking and woke up early today to make the frosting. I have not had this many cupcakes in my kitchen since last year when I was in charge of making cupcakes for a baby shower.

(I made 99 miniature cupcakes that day in two flavors – chocolate mint and strawberry cream. I may have gone a little overboard.)

If you are ever looking for a fun, easy cupcake cookbook, I highly recommend Ann Byrn’s Cupcakes: From the Cake Doctor. I’ve made at least 25 cupcakes from this book and they always get great reviews. My daughter’s Girl Scout troop and huge fans of the s’mores cupcakes. They’ve never had the chance to make s’mores on a camping trip, yet, as it is either raining or there’s a burn ban. The cupcakes are an excellent consolation treat.

CAPPUCCINO CHIP CUPCAKES

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding – I didn’t have any, so I used chocolate
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • Mocha Buttercream (recipe below)
  • 1/3 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips, for garnish

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper lines and set aside.

Place the water and instant coffee in a small glass liquid measuring cup and microwave on high power for 40 seconds. Remove and stir until the coffee is dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs and coffee in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixture on low for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixture speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes.

Place the pans in the oven and bake until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched with your fingers, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool for another 15 minutes before frosting. Meanwhile, make the frosting.

MOCHA BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of instant coffee granules
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces (1/2 bar) German’s sweet chocolate, grated
  • 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon water, if needed

Place the milk and instant coffee in a small glass liquid measuring cup and microwave on high power until the milk is hot enough to dissolve the coffee, about 30 to 40 seconds. Remove and stir until the coffee is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and add the coffee and grated chocolate. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture has softened, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar. Blend with the mixture on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute more. Blend up to 1 tablespoon of water if the frosting seems stiff.

Frost the cupcakes. Garnish with miniature semisweet chocolate chips and serve.

NOTE: These cupcakes can be stored in a cake serve or under a glass dome, at room temperature, for up to 3 days – if they last that long. They can also be stored in a container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Recipe courtesy of Cupcakes: From the Cake Mix Doctor by Ann Byrn

On the first day of Christmas, I took on a new food challenge

Today was a rough day – and not just for me. It seemed everyone on the features desk was putting out small fires, so when someone mentioned craving a cookie, I mentioned that I had considered taking on a 12 Days of Christmas Cookies challenge for Everybody Eats.

“That’s a great idea!”

“You should do it! And bring the cookies to work!”

I told them I’d have to start today if I was to do this.

“And the problem is?”

OK. It looks like I’m taking on a Christmas cookie challenge.

To be honest, I’ve had a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit this year. Our house is decorated and all my shopping is finished, but without any snow on the ground, it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Maybe baking a different type of cookie for the next 12 days will help.

Or it will lead into my New Year’s Resolution – lose the cookie challenge weight.

Recipe No. 1 — Cherry Pecan Chews – was chosen because I knew I had everything I needed to make these cookies at home. Plus the red tint of the cookies just looks festive.

CHERRY PECAN CHEWScherry pecan chews

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
  • 1 cup toasted and finely chopped pecans

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together; set aside. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and almond until fluffy. Beat in egg. Mix in cherries and pecans. Add flour mixture, mixing until well incorporated. Pat dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper, and chill for at least 1 hour, although overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray. Using a small cookie scoop, portion dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing cookies 2” apart. Bake for 11−12 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges. Allow cookies to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Recipe courtesy of The National Cherry Foundation at http://www.nationalcherries.com

The end of the apple challenge is so a-peel-ing!

Day 29: Caramel Apple Cupcakes

I learned something new last week. If you frost cupcakes with melted caramel, it will look cool at first, but the caramel will sink into the cupcake overnight if you leave the cupcakes in a container on the counter and not in the refrigerator.

I made these for a bake sale at work. They were among the items available for 50-cents off because they tasted good, but they weren’t pretty.

My poor, sad cupcakes.

CARAMEL APPLE CUPCAKES

  • 1 package spice or carrot cake mix (regular size)
  • 2 cups chopped peeled tart apples
  • 20 Caramels
  • 3 tablespoons 2 percent milk
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

Prepare cake batter according to package directions; fold in apples.

Fill 12 greased or paper-lined jumbo muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small saucepan, cook the caramels and milk over low heat until smooth. Spread over cupcakes. Sprinkle with pecans. Insert a wooden stick into the center of each cupcake.

Recipe courtesy of www.tasteofhome.com

Recipe 30: Apple Crisp

Setting: My kitchen last week.

Me: I’ve got apple crisp!

Scott: You saved the best for last?

Apple crisp is my husband’s favorite dessert (after pumpkin pie), so it seemed fitting to make it for him towards the end of the challenge as a thank you for putting up with all apple dishes and running out to buy me a gala apple when all I had on hand was golden delicious.

He’s a keeper.

APPLE CRISP

  • 4 medium tart cooking apples, sliced (4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
  • 1/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with shortening.

Spread apples in pan. In medium bowl, stir remaining ingredients except cream until well mixed; sprinkle over apples.

Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm with cream.

Recipe courtesy of Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook by Betty Crocker (Betty Crocker; Nov. 15, 1998)

Day 31: Flat Apple Pie

I knew I wanted to end this challenge with an apple pie recipe, but not just any apple pie recipe. I used my newspaper column to ask readers to send me their favorite apple pie recipes. This is the one I chose.

FLAT APPLE PIE

Crust

  • 4 cups all-purpose enriched flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Crisco, either butter flavor or plain (you can also do 3/4 cup Crisco and 3/4 cup lard)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

This is a moist crust and rolls well. Divide the dough in half, then lightly flour the rolling surface which needs to be at least as big as the pan. (Hint: Lightly flour, then place the pan over the surface and make some impressions of where the dough needs to ‘roll to’ before you place the dough on the surface.)

Once you have rolled the dough fairly thin, fold in thirds to move it to the jelly roll pan. Nestle into the pan. Fix any ‘breaks’ in the crust by wetting your finger, gluing edges together with the wet finger, and then tap with a floured finger. Cut this crust off at the top of the edge of the pan; there will be no hang-over edge on this portion.

Pie innards

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 7 cups sliced raw apples–a variety of at least 3 kinds works the best, core and peel them before slicing (I used Honeycrisp, Jonagold and Granny Smith)
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon red hots
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Mix the first three ingredients together. Sprinkle about ¼ of the mixture on the pie crust in the pan.

Mix the apples with the remaining mixture, then spread on the crust.  Sprinkle the red hots and the butter over the apples.

Roll out the last half of the crust, and folding into thirds, place onto the pie, unfold, and cut the crust to hang about 1 inch over the edge of the pan all the way around. Tuck this behind the other crust so that the first crust is ‘interior’ to the other, and crimp the edge, sealing it. Make several slashes on the top crust to let air escape while cooking. Sprinkle the crust with more sugar to help it brown, and bake 1 hour at 375 degrees.

When the pie is finished baking, you can drizzle some powdered sugar glaze on it, enjoy it with some ice cream or eat it plain.

Recipe courtesy of a reader