Homemade Pumpkin Walnut Bread

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 15-ounce can 100% pure pumpkin (I use Libby’s)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease two 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pans.
  3. Combine ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and walnuts in a bowl; use a whisk to mix well and set aside.
  4. In large bowl of an electric mixer, at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until just blended.
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until very light and fluffy, a few minutes. Beat in pumpkin.
  6. At a low-speed, beat in flour mixture until combined.
  7. Turn batter into prepared pans, dividing evenly, and bake for about 50 – 60 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.
  8. Let loaves cool in pan about 10 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Enjoy!

Make Your Own Snack Mix

snack-mixRecently for the Easter holiday I decided to make my own snack mix to put in my parents Easter basket.  Yeah, you read that right…I made my parents an Easter basket.  You never are too old for an Easter basket!  They came to visit and we all had a lovely time.  It was probably the best Easter we have had in years!

Landon had so much fun chasing bubbles (a bubble machine was in his Easter basket) and the weather was gorgeous.

Now back to the Snack Mix….

Here are the goodies I put in my Snack Mix:

  • Cheez-its
  • Pretzels
  • Peanuts
  • Dark Chocolate M&Ms
  • Shelled Sunflower Seeds

I kept is pretty simple but my parents LOVED it!  It was perfect because they rode the train up to see me and it made a great snack for the train ride home.

The key to making it was using a GIANT bowl to mix everything up.  I was even able to up-cycle the peanut jar into my gift container.  All it took was some glue dots, scrapbook paper, and some stickers to dress it up!  

It is such a easy gift to make and doesn’t cost much.  It let my parents know they were loved and that we were very happy to have them for the weekend.

 

 

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz reduced fat cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups heavy cream

whipped-frostingCombine sugar, softened cream cheese, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl.  I used a Stand Mixer and the whisk attachment.  I mixed is until smooth and started at a lower speed and then increased it as the ingredients started to blend together.

When the cream cheese, vanilla extract, and sugar are combined, slowly start to pour in the heavy cream.  Again, start with a very low speed and then increase it to prevent a mess and to encourage better blending.  When all the cream is mixed in, it may take several minutes of mixing before the frosting fluffs up.  You will know when it is done, because icing will sort of accumulate in the whisk part.

whipped-frosting-2whipped-frosting-3This icing is still sweet but not in an over-powering way.  It is very light but can withstand piping.  I piped it onto the cupcakes below.  My piping would have been better if I could get the right pressure going (I had some bag overfill problems), I seriously need to invested in a extra-large piping bag.

This frosting made perfect strawberry and whipped cream cheese frosting cupcakes!

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Homemade Beef Stew

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Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 lb beef for stewing
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 32oz low sodium carton of beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. finely diced rosemary
  • 1 sage leaf
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 6 red potatoes, quartered
  • 5 carrots, chopped in 1 inch pieces
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped in 1 inch pieces
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 teaspoons water
  1. In a large pot, add oil and brown beef over medium high heat.  (You may need to do this in batches).
  2. Add beef broth, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and black pepper.  Bring everything to a boil and let simmer 1 hour.  While broth is simmering, wash and chop vegetables.
  3. Add potatoes, carrots, celery and onions to pot.
  4. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to pot.
  5.  Cover and simmer 1 hour.
  6. Enjoy by itself, over rice, or over biscuits.

Italian Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup

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Italian Sausage, Potato, and Kale Soup is one of my favorite things to eat when the weather gets cold. It is so delicious! It tastes similar to the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden. Bits of spicy sausage give the soup a kick while the cream and potatoes make it the best comfort food. Here is the recipe if you want to warm yourself up with a bowl of hot soup…

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper. chopped
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 8 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 10 cups water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4-5 russet potatoes
  • fresh kale, several stalks (diced in fine ribbons)
  1. In a large pot add water and bouillon cubes. Bring this to boil. While waiting on your water to boil, peel 2 of the potatoes, rinse, and quarter.
  2. Scrub ans wash the remaining 3 potatoes. Slice the potatoes in rounds with the skins on. This will add some texture to the soup and give it a nutritional boost. I like to keep the potatoes in various sizes. (Knowing the smaller pieces will turn in to mush to thicken the soup and the larger pieces will give the soup some heartiness.)
  3. Add the potatoes to the pot.
  4. Cook the sausage, drain, and set aside.
  5. Add the pressed garlic, diced onion, and red pepper to the pot. I always throw my onion it the food processor because it can dice it very fine and I don’t think its appealing to have a large piece of onion in soup.
  6. Let the soup boil on med-high for 20 minutes.
  7. Add in sausage and heavy cream and boil on low heat an addition 10 minutes. In the final 5 minutes, toss in finely chopped kale.
  8. Turn off the heat and enjoy!

Quick No-Rise Pizza Dough

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For the past couple of months dinner has been an after thought.  We have been so busy and my attempts to plan out our meals at the beginning of the week hasn’t happened.  This quick and easy, no-rise pizza dough recipe was something I could go throw together quick after a long day of work.

Ingredients:

  • .25 ounces of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup beer
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  1. Preheat over to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium bowl combine ingredients and knead into a dough ball. (Coat your hands with crisco to keep dough from sticking to your hands).
  3. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.  After dough rests it is ready to be shaped into a pizza!
  4. Add your toppings and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Enjoy your quick and easy pizza!

Pineapple upside down martini

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Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces of vanilla vodka
  • 2/3 cup pineapple juice
  • Splash or cherry juice or grenadine syrup
  • pineapple wedge and maraschino cherries (for garnish)

Combine the vanilla vodka, pineapple juice, and cherry juice into a shaker filled half way with ice.  Shake until cold in your hands.  Strain and pour into two chilled martini glasses.  Use a cocktail skewer to garnish with pineapple and cherries.  Toast to a special moment or just being fabulous and ENJOY!

This is one of my favorite drinks.  I love it!  These are great drinks for a bachelorette party.

Loaded baked potato hash brown casserole

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Ingredients

  • 1 (1 lb 14oz) package of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1/4 cup melted butter and 1/4 cup butter for sautéing onion
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled bacon with some extra to go on top
  • 1 tablespoon freeze dried chives

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sauté diced onion in 1/4 cup of butter.
  3. In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/4 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, sautéed onion, cheddar cheese, bacon, salt, and pepper.  I recommend layering and mixing the ingredients as you go so it is well blended.  For an added kick of flavor I like to add sliced jalapenos to this.  This particular casserole was for the whole family (including the little one, so I had to leave out the jalapenos).  Also, I buy pre-cooked bacon crumbles from Costco.  Makes this a quick dish to throw together!  One my best finds!
  4. Place mixture in a large casserole dish.  Top with sprinkle of cheese and bacon.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

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Ingredients

  • 2 blocks of cream cheese, softened (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a stand-up mixer or a medium-sized bowl combine butter, vanilla, and cream cheese. Mix together until creamy. Once creamy, gradually mix in the powered sugar. Make sure the cream cheese icing is well blended. Cream cheese frosting is perfect for piping on strawberry cupcakes or adding to a pumpkin roll (Or whatever you like, those are just two of my favorites).

Shepard’s Pie Recipe

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One of my husband’s favorite things to eat is Shepard’s Pie. Since it is Friday and he had such a long week at work, I figured he deserved some comfort food. Shepard’s Pie is an English dish but I’m pretty sure my version is straight-up American; being that I use ground beef instead of lamb. It’s a dish that combines meat, veggies, and (my husband’s all-time favorite) MASHED POTATOES! Notice, mashed potatoes was not lumped in with the veggies, in this house it’s a food group of it’s own. Even at our wedding we had a mashed potato bar. To make this savory comfort food you will need:

Shepard’s Pie mixture

  • 1 lb ground beef (I use the leanest I can find)
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 large onion, chopped into tiny pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 paprika
  • Canned veggies (We use corn, carrots, and peas. Also low sodium is ideal)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  • 1 tablesppon flour

Mashed potatoes

  • 1-2 cups milk
  • 3-4 peeled, washed, and quartered potatoes
  • 1/2-1 stick of butter
  • Sprinkle of salt

Directions:

  1. Brown ground beef in skillet, drain grease, and return to pan.
  2. Add onions and garlic to pan, cook with hamburger until onions are clear. If needed add a little beef broth, to cook onions/garlic.
  3. Add beef broth,ketchup, nutmeg, and paprika. Bring to simmer.
  4. Once bubbling, add in vegetables. MAKE SURE TO DRAIN THEM FIRST!
  5. Let them cook for about 2 minutes.
  6. After the veggies are heated through, add flour and stir. This should give the mixture a thicker consistency. Add flour as needed to get the consistency you want. I like mine to be similar to a runny gravy.
  7. Layer in a casserole dish once done.
  8. Preheat oven to 400°.

It should look something like this before you add it to the casserole dish. (This was before I added flour- if you want it really thick you can add cornstarch)

shepardspie

 

Mashed potatoes and Final Touches:

  1. Boil quartered potatoes 10-15 minutes until tender.
  2. Drain water. Return to where ever you will be doing the “mashing.”
  3. Add in butter, milk, and salt. Mix util nice and creamy.
  4. Add the potatoes on top on the Shepard’s pie mixture.
  5. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika if you feeling fancy.
  6. Bake in oven 30 minutes or until bubbly and top is browned.

That’s it! Dinner is served! This dish is actually pretty easy to make but I have heard of people making it really quick with instant potatoes. Where I come from, there is NO shortcut to potatoes. I am so ashamed for even mentioning the unspeakable-instant potatoes. BUT, whatever floats your boat. I know sometimes even Southern mom’s don’t have time for ALL that. I just know the one thing I can never skip on making homemade is mashed potatoes. A sure way to my man’s heart is through his belly!

What are some of the dishes you make for loved ones? I love finding new tasty dishes.