Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pumpkin Dump Cake - Easiest Recipe Ever

Oh happy day, it's really finally going to be fall tomorrow.  It has been almost 90 degrees here in Nashville for the last week.  It's going down to a low of 40 tomorrow night.  Yahoo!

Fall means all things pumpkin.  Do you like pumpkin?  We love it in our house (me particularly) and our youngest so is also a big fan.  When he was younger he could eat a whole pumpkin pie at one sitting.  He didn't like most sweets, but pumpkin and pecan pie sure made him happy.

He lives in Denver now and yesterday was his fiance's birthday.  We are so excited that she is going to be joining our family.  He called and said he wanted to bake her a cake but he didn't have a lot of extra money and did I have any ideas.  Hello!  How many do you want?

He said he didn't have a mixer, or milk, or eggs, or much sugar.  I suggested a recipe I had seen on Pinterest for a pumpkin dump cake that only took a can of pumpkin, a yellow cake mix, pecans, and a stick of butter.  That was the ticket!  Easy.  Not many ingredients.  No mixer needed.

He said he had the pumpkin, pecans, and butter.  All he needed was the yellow cake mix.  That's doable when you are lacking ingredients, equipment, and money.

I sent him a text this morning and asked him how the cake turned out.  He said it was delicious!  I trust his judgment when it comes to pumpkin desserts.  Since it is going to get cool tomorrow, I had to make vegetable soup and the pumpkin dump cake for dinner.  It's called anticipation  - and vegetable soup is always better the second day.

He was spot on about the cake.  It's delicious.  Our son in love ate several pieces and asked if he could "borrow" the rest of it to take home with him.  hahaha  I told him how easy it was to make and I made it gluten free by using a gluten free cake mix.  Even better!

Here is what you need:

1 can pumpkin (I used a 14.5 ounce can, but after I baked the cake I realized it called for a 28 oz can - it worked fine)
1 yellow cake mix (gluten free works)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 stick butter melted

My addition:  1/3 cup sugar, 2 Tsps ground cinnamon, mixed together

First, spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.  Spread the pumpkin evenly in the bottom of the pan.  I thought it might be a little blah, so I sprinkled 1/2 of the cinnamon mixture over the pumpkin.  I love cinnamon with pumpkin.

Next, sprinkle the entire dry cake mix over the pumpkin and evenly distribute.

Cover the cake mix with the pecans.

Melt the butter and pour over the pecans and cake mix.

Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar over the entire pan.  This makes a nice streusel topping when baked.  Yum.

Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until the cake mix lightly browns. (If using gluten free cake mix, it will not get as brown as a regular cake mix)  The pumpkin should be set, so wiggle the pan to make sure it is done.  If the pumpkin is not set, it will wiggle like jello.  You don't want that.  Put the pan back in the oven until set.
When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let cool before cutting.  It cuts in nice squares and is SOOOOOOOOOOOO good.  Pumpkiny, nutty, cinnamony, streusely.  Oh my.

I made fresh whipped cream to go with ours.  I could have eaten the whole pan.  I don't eat many desserts anymore because of the whole gluten issue.  Our daughter, who is also gluten free, was so excited to have dessert and know that she could make this to enjoy at home.  She's going to have to make it because her husband sure did like it!

Now that it's finally getting cool and because it's the season for all things pumpkin, you need to make this as soon as possible.  Really.  It is easy to make, has very few ingredients, and you won't be able to resist it.  There's no sifting or mixing.  What could be better than that to have a fabulous dessert?  I say go for it!  You won't regret it.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"Fall colors are funny.  They're so bright and intense and beautiful.  It's like nature is trying to fill
you up with color, to saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter turns everything muted
and dreary."  Siobhan Vivian, Same Difference

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Caramel Popcorn with Dark and White Chocolate and Nuts - Oh My!

Hey friends, how are you?  Are you as happy as I am that October is here?  That means beautiful fall weather, colorful leaves, Halloween, The World Series, football, bonfires, sweaters, and all kinds of fall celebrations.  Don't know about you, but I am more than ready for it all!

Do you like popcorn?  I'm really not a big fan, but if you decorate it up enough I will eat it.  I found a recipe on Pinterest that looked SO good, so I gave it a whirl.  It was the consummate Pinterst fail.  If you have never had one, count yourself lucky.  I HATE wasting ingredients.  Even more, I hate taking the time to make something AND wasting ingredients.  Grrrrrrr.

I made the caramel recipe for the popcorn and followed the rest of the instructions.  The caramel never set - it was so gooey that you could not eat it.  I tried putting it in the freezer and it was okay as soon as you took it out, but within 10 minutes it was back to a total goo ball.  It was completely inedible.  I tossed it.  Insert sad face here.

So, I went to my tried and true caramel popcorn recipe from a Gooseberry Patch recipe book that I have had for years and started over.  I added the white chocolate and dark chocolate and nuts called for in the Pinterest recipe.  The original recipe calls for cashews (yum), but the person I was making this for doesn't care for cashews so I added peanuts.  You could add any nut of your choice because they are all good in my book.  Here is what you need:

2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
20 cups popped popcorn

3/4 cup white melting chocolate
3/4 cup dark melting chocolate
nuts of your choice

Pop your corn however you like.  I use an air popper.  Measure 20 cups and set aside in a large bowl.

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan (I use nonstick) and bring to a boil; boil for 5 minutes stirring constantly so it doesn't scorch.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour over popcorn, stirring until thoroughly blended.  Spoon on a baking sheet (I use a roasting pan cause I like the deeper sides when stirring) and bake at 250 degrees for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  

Melt the white and dark chocolate according to directions.  I used about 3/4 cup of each and melted it in the microwave.  Drizzle over the popcorn while still in the pan.

Sprinkle the nuts over the popcorn.  Let sit until the chocolate hardens.

Now, dive in.  This is so good.  Oh my goodness.  This would be a great treat to eat during a football game, while watching the world series, or for a Halloween party.  You could pass this around a bonfire and it wouldn't last 10 minutes.  Better make a double batch.  Don't even put it in front of kids.  It's gone in nothing flat.

I know this recipe works as I have made it for years.  I make the plain caramel corn at Christmas time and give it as gifts.  Everyone always loves it and asks for more.  It is also gluten free for all of you who have to watch your gluten intake.

Give this recipe a try.  You are going to love it.  Actually, I like just the plain caramel corn.  It's a real sweet treat.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

"Fresh popcorn is near impossible to resist, second only to fresh doughnuts."
Shannon Wiersbitzky, What Flowers Remember

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bacon Jam is the Jam!

So sorry I have not posted in a while, but I have taken up painting and it is occupying a lot of my time.  It is my new passion.  Anyway,  this weekend, we are hosting an engagement party for our best friend's daughter and future son in love and I have been busy in the kitchen preparing things that I can do in advance.  They all look so good.

The house is all spit shined and polished and fall decorations are all in place.  It is supposed to be a beautiful day (yahoo), so we will put tables and chairs out under the trees for guests to enjoy a beautiful Tennessee September day.  The patio is another option for guests.  I love having options, don't you?

Today, I made this spectacular recipe for Bacon Jam that I found on Pinterest from The Kitchen Wife.  When we hosted our son's engagement party on July 4th weekend, I made fresh fig jam.  Sadly, there are no figs available here now, so I had to go with something different.   Well, finding this bacon jam was the answer and let me tell you, IT IS THE JAM!  WOW!!

The fig jam was served with goat cheese and crackers.  It was beyond delicious.  Hopefully, this will be just as successful - and I'm pretty sure it's going to be!  I mean, bacon?  Seriously?  Cooked with onions and wonderful spices?  It smelled so good while I was cooking it down, I could hardly stand it!  Oh my goodness!

The Kitchen Wife said it is good spread on a hamburger,  on a BLT, or as a pizza topping.  I can only imagine, because I could eat it by the spoonful.  It is amazing.  Here is what you need.

1 pound bacon (actually most bacon comes in 12 ounce packages now instead of a pound, but that             works)

2 medium yellow onions, or l large onion, peeled and sliced
2 TBSP Butter
2 TBSP rendered bacon fat
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP vinegar (she called for white, I used apple cider and it worked great)
1 1/2 tsps thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup water
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put the package of bacon in the freezer for about 15 minutes to make it easier to slice.  (I just took a package out of the freezer and sliced it, worked great).  First, remove the bacon from the package and cut across the bacon in 1/2 inch slices to make lardons.  I had nice big strips of sliced bacon because it was frozen together.  Don't be concerned, as it cooks it quickly falls apart into separate pieces.

Put the cold bacon into a cold skillet to help render the fat from the bacon.  Turn the heat on to medium and allow the bacon to cook until all the fat is rendered.  It takes about 30 minutes.  The bacon will foam as it cooks - that is the fat being rendered.  It will look like this.
When I read the directions, I wondered if I knew when it was foaming.  It's like being in labor, you will know when it happens.  :)  You want to cook the bacon until all the fat has been rendered and the bacon and the fat are deep, dark brown - about the same color.  Watch the bacon, because when it gets to this point, it can burn VERY quickly.  As soon as it got very dark, I started removing the bacon to a bowl lined with a paper towel so it would drain.  Work fast, you don't want to ruin this lovely concoction!

While your bacon is cooking, peel and slice the onion very thin.  I cut my onion in half first, and then sliced it.  That way, it doesn't roll all over the place while slicing.

After you have removed the bacon from the pan, pour the excess bacon fat into a separate bowl (there was a LOT).  Do not discard.

Add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.  Add the sliced onions and cook over medium heat until they are translucent and soft.  They will be very brown.

Add the brown sugar, vinegar, half of the thyme, cayenne, a little salt and pepper.  Stir into the onions.

Chop the bacon very fine and add to the pan.  Stir all together.  Add 1/2 cup of water and let simmer until the water is almost gone.  She said 30 minutes, but mine was done in 20.  I have a gas stove, don't know if that makes the difference.  Just watch and don't let it burn.

Now, add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and the rest of the thyme.  Cook another 15 minutes, or until the liquid is almost gone.  Mine was done in 10 minutes.  The jam should be very dark like in the picture.  Yum.

Taste for seasoning and add a little salt and pepper if needed.

When you are finished, you have this beautiful, dark brown pan of bacon and onions that smells absolutely divine from the spices that have been added.  When I tasted it, it was sweet and savory and smoky all at the same time - with BACON!  Did I say bacon?  Oh yeah.

My BFF was here and I had her taste it.  She declared it divine and I looked at her and said "One jar won't be enough, will it?"  I had better make another.  And, so I did.  This should keep in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks  - if it lasts that long.  (Bring the jam to room temperature before serving.  There will be white spots of fat in it otherwise.) I can see more of this in my future.

One recipe makes 1 pint jar of bacon jam.  We are going to have this with goat cheese and crackers on Saturday.  I will let you know the crowd reaction.  I think it's going to be good.  Really, really good.

This would be a great housewarming gift, hostess gift, teacher appreciation gift, or Christmas gift.  In a basket with other goodies?  Wow!  Give it a try.  I think you are gonna love it.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

My grandmother ate bacon every day of her life and lived to be 96.  How bad could it be then?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Ribs Cooked With a Dry Rub Low and Slow - Incredible!

 Hello, friends.  It was a beautiful day here in mid Tennessee.  We were busy painting furniture this morning, and then I did my afternoon canvas art.  There is always that proverbial "what's for dinner" question hanging in the air.  I wanted something really good, but easy.

Do you get tired of fixing the same things over and over for dinner?  I certainly do.  While grocery shopping at Aldi yesterday, I noticed they had some really nice looking baby back ribs that were super reasonable.  They were $9.00 for a rack of ribs.  I don't ordinarily buy ribs because I think they are way too expensive for what you get.  Sometimes it seems there is more bone than meat.  Well, these looked really good, so I bought some.  It was a wise decision.

While cleaning up my paint brushes from the furniture painting session, I decided it would be ribs for dinner.  Yesterday, I cooked a bit pot of fresh green beans with new potatoes and a big pan of fried corn.  Both were fresh from the farmer's market.  Can I say Yum?  Yum!  There was also a fabulous cantaloupe in the fridge that I had sliced.  Excellent!  All I had to do was cook the ribs and reheat the vegetables.  I LOVE when that happens.

To cook the ribs, I decided I would put a dry rub on them and cook them in the oven low and slow first.  Then, we would put them on the grill for a bit, just to get them good and brown.  I made up my rub using spices that I had on hand and I had to write it down tonight so I wouldn't forget it because I will be using it again.  These ribs were so juicy, tender, and flavorful that we could not stop talking about how good they were.  Fortunately, there are some left for tomorrow.  Yay!

Here is what I used in the dry rub.

2 tsps salt
1 tsps fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsps Mexene chili powder (use your favorite, Mexene is mine)
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme

Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly and rub on both sides of the rack of ribs.  (This was just enough for one rack of ribs.  Increase the amounts by doubling or tripling if you are planning to cook more than 1 rack.)  I let the ribs set out for about 30 minutes so they would come to room temperature before cooking.

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.  It's all about low and slow.  After the ribs have set out for about 30 minutes, place them on a baking pan with sides.  I used a sheet cake pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place the pan in the oven.  Cook the ribs for 2.5 - 3 hours on low heat.  They smelled so good while they were cooking I could hardly wait to eat them.   For the last half hour, remove the foil and let the ribs continue to cook.

When I removed the ribs from the oven, I cut the rack in half to make them easier to handle on the grill. Dan put them on the grill for about 10 minutes because I did not want them to dry out.  They were just perfect when he removed them from the grill.

Not only did they have beautiful color, they tasted amazing.  I cut the ribs apart and put them on a platter.  We were both picking at little pieces of the meat before everything else was ready.  Dan couldn't wait to dive in.  Oh my, they were so good - so tender and flavorful.

This post is mainly so I remember what I used in the rub, but I also wanted to share the recipe with  you.  This rub would be good on just about anything, but it made these ribs some of the best we have ever had.

Give it a try, I think you will certainly enjoy the end result.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Summertime bounty makes meals so enjoyable.  Support your local farmers!  donna

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heavenly Hash Cake - AMAZING!

On July 4th weekend, we had a party for our youngest son and future daughter in love.  They were recently engaged and they were home from Denver for the weekend, so it seemed like the perfect time to celebrate with all their Nashville friends.

Cortney and Tyler asked me to make their favorite desert - Heavenly Hash cake so of course I did.  Everyone has probably had something called heavenly hash in their life, whether it is candy, ice cream, or some other kind of desert.  Heavenly hash usually involves marshmallows, but not this cake!  Instead, it uses angel food cake and unbelievable chocolate mousse.

This recipe is from one of my favorite cookbooks called St. Louis Days, St. Louis Nights.  Our oldest daughter gave it to me for mother's day while she was attending college in St. Louis.  I have had it for many years and some of my all time favorite recipes are from this book.

The good think about this cake is that you can use a ready made angel food cake from the grocery if you don't want to bake one yourself.  That eliminates a lot of steps right there.  The rest of the cake is a fabulous chocolate mousse that is made from scratch and worth any and all effort put into making it.  Here is what you need:

12 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
4 eggs, separated
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large angel food cake (store bought if preferred)

Melt chocolate chips over low heat; beat the egg yolks and add them to the chocolate after you temper it.  Do this by adding a little of the warm chocolate to the yolks and stirring thoroughly.  Now, add the yolks to the chocolate and mix completely.  It will be almost fudge like.  This keeps the yolks from scrambling.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites; add 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Beat until stiff peaks form.

In another bowl, beat the whipping cream and set aside.

Add the egg whites to the chocolate and egg yolk mixture.  Stir and add the chopped pecans, vanilla, and salt.  Don't be alarmed.  The egg whites dissolve into the chocolate mixture.

Fold in the whipped cream.

Cover the bottom of a large greased bowl with 1/2 of the angel food cake broken into chunks.

Cover with half of the chocolate mixture (if you can keep from eating it all).  Add the remaining cake broken into chunks.  Cover with the remaining chocolate mixture.

Refrigerate overnight.

Oh. My.  Goodness.  This is beyond good.  It is amazing.  Since I am gluten free, I cannot eat it with the cake, so I save a little of the mousse and eat it by itself.  SOOOOOOOO delicious.

This is a recipe that is fabulous to take to a pot luck dinner or for when you are having company.  It does make 12 servings, so you may not want to make it just for yourself (unless you intend to eat it all and it is that good)!

Heavenly Hash cake is so good, that I made it twice in 4 days for Tyler and Cortney to enjoy.  Yes, you want to make this one for sure - especially if you love chocolate.  Enjoy!

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

When someone asks you to make a favorite recipe for them - always oblige.  There is nothing like showing someone you love them this way.  donna

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sufferin' Succotash - Fresh and Delicious

When our youngest son was about 5 years old, I made lima beans for dinner.  He sort of came unglued and asked why we were having June bugs for dinner.  He was NOT interested in eating them for any reason.  I had to explain they were not June bugs, but lima beans and he was fine with that.  Quite relieved, actually.

We are from Indiana, and what we call June bugs are green beetle type bugs that appear in the summer.  We tied thread to them and you could fly them around for entertainment.  They were shaped like a lima bean and sort of the same color.  Hence, Tyler's consternation with what we were having for dinner.

You may or may not like lima beans.  I have always liked them.  Growing up, we ate what my mother put on the table, or we went hungry.   There were a few things I didn't like, so I didn't eat them.  After becoming an adult, I discovered that is was more the way the item was prepared than the item itself.  Squash was in that category.  My mom boiled it and it looked like scrambled eggs in the bowl.  I love it now, because I fix it a different way than my mother did.

We were at the farmer's market on Saturday, and one of the vendors had fresh lima beans - already shelled!  Yes!  I had already purchased lots of other fresh vegetables - corn, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes - and I wanted a new and interesting way to fix the lima beans.  I found this recipe on Epicurious for succotash made in a slightly different way than what we had growing up.  Our succotash was corn and lima beans, nothing outstanding.  This recipe is REALLY good.  Here is what you need:

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4-5 ears of fresh corn
2 cups fresh lima beans or 10-12 ounce box frozen lima beans
3 TBSP thinly sliced fresh basil

I added some freshly grated parmesan cheese.  YUM!

First, heat the oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and sprinkle with salt.  Saute' until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic, stir until fragrant - about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, corn, and lima beans.  *This recipe called for no liquid, but I added enough to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/2 way up the vegetables.  The other vegetables didn't produce enough liquid to cook the beans.*  Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, simmer until the lima beans are tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add the sliced basil.

I added some freshly grated parmesan cheese to each serving.  This is DELICIOUS!  There are so many layers of flavor rather than just boiled corn and lima beans.  Food is so much more interesting than when we were growing up.  Gotta love it!

You might want to give this a try for different and wonderful summer fare.  I think you could add some browned sausage or ground beef and you would have a fabulous one dish meal!  We all loved this recipe.  Hope you give it a try.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Succotash is a very southern staple, but originated with Native Americans.  Just a little FYI.  donna

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Polenta Pizza Bites - Gluten Free

We have been living in a whirlwind of busy-ness these past two weeks.  Our youngest son and his fiance spent the 4th of July weekend with us here in Nashville after driving from Denver.  To celebrate their recent engagement, we had a lovely afternoon soiree shared with family and friends.  Let me say, we are SO excited to have Cortney joining our family.

I made a LOT of food and a good time was had by all.  Many of us eat gluten free by necessity and I tried to make as many things as I could that would be enjoyed by everyone.  One of my favorite recipes to make when serving hors d'oeuvres has always been these yummy pizza bites made on party rye bread.  Well, rye bread was not an option, so I had to come up with something different for the base.

I thought about polenta since it is made from corn and I did some research of possible recipes and these are what I came up with.  They are awesomely good and quite easy.  Here is what you need.

2 rolls of ready made polenta, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jar marinara sauce
grated parmesan cheese
a handful of fresh basil leaves

Remove the casings from the Italian sausage and brown in a medium sized skillet.  Add the onion, and crumble the sausage while browning using a spatula.  Add the garlic when the sausage is browned so it doesn't burn.  Add the 1/2 jar of marinara sauce.  Set aside.

Slice the polenta into 1/4 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. I filled two baking sheets from the two rounds.   Place the polenta rounds under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, until they are lightly browned and just a bit crisp on top.  Remove from the oven.

Spoon the sausage filling over each polenta round. They hold about a tablespoon of filling.   I had just enough to cover all the slices from the two polenta packages.

Next, cover each mound of sausage filling with freshly grated parmesan cheese and return to the broiler just until the cheese melts.  Remove from the oven and put a few minced basil leaves on each round.

Serve and enjoy!

These were a super big hit and everyone loved them.  They were so good there we none left.  These are great hors d'oeuvres or could even be served as an entree with a salad for dinner.  Give them a try the next time you want something different or for those who have to eat gluten free.  Yum.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

As our daughter said during her toast for the newly engaged couple, "love is the best" and it is.    donna