Homemade Soft Pretzels

Homemade Soft Pretzels - Easy!!
I have always enjoyed a good soft pretzel.   But, then again, I am a nut for bread, period.   Add to that a craving for mustard, and I am drawn into the fresh, hot, soft, warm, delight, smothered with the tang of a good yellow mustard!

I am also a pinterest addict.   I think I spend more time on pinterest than on Facebook, which seems to be more productive.   Where is this going, you ask?  While perusing pinterest in search of ideas, I came across a pin for hot soft pretzels.  The picture of the pretzels was great, because a wicked craving for fresh hot soft pretzels ensued and was not satisfied until this morning.  So, all in all, that craving lasted 2 weeks, about?

I never really thought that making pretzels would be enjoyable.  I believed they were probably too complicated and the outcome would pale in comparison to those made at the pretzel stand in those rotating ovens.  I think I believed the magic to a good pretzel was in the machine and not in the recipe.  Oh boy was I wrong.  I got up this morning and started making my weekly batch of Challah (a recipe and tradition I picked up years ago while living and working in New York).   The recipe I had printed off from Fifteenspatulas.com was staring at me, begging me to just try it once.  I relented.  

It was easy!  If you make bread on a regular basis, or even if you make it occasionally, but enjoy it, Pretzels are a simple, fun, and enjoyable treat!  I had wished I had tried this years earlier, when my kids were still small.  They would have had so much fun!  I can honestly say, I am looking forward to grandkids some day, and making up for denying my kids the fun!

This recipe is basically Fifteenspatulas.com recipe.  I have doubled it and included instructions and a link in how to twist your dough into the pretzel.   Please enjoy!  If you have kids on vacation right now, get them involved!  There twists will be delightfully imperfect and unique.  Take a picture, send it to us and just have fun with it!




5 c flour
1 t salt
2 t sugar
2 pkg rapid rise instant yeast
2 c warm water

Open packages of yeast into the bottom of a stand mixer bowl.  Add the warm water to the yeast mix.  Let stand a few minutes.  With the paddle attachment in place, mix softened yeast and water on low speed for 2 minutes.  Stop and add to the yeast mix, the salt and sugar.  Again, on low, mix for a few minutes.  Now, slowly add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have added 4 cups.   Remove the bowl and the paddle, scraping the dough off into the bowl.  It will be soft and still very sticky.  Use a rubber scraper if necessary.   Turn out the down onto a floured smooth surface.  Gradually add the last cup of flour as you need the dough.   Add enough flour to create a soft and smooth dough.  The dough should still be warm, because of the temperature of the water.  Grease the bottom of your mixing bowl with butter and use any remaining for the top of the dough.  Place the dough into the bowl.  Top with a wet, warm flour sack towel and put into a warm place to rise for about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F.   Lightly grease a baking sheet.  I use a half-sheet jelly roll pan lined with a silicone mat.  It aids in proper cooking and browning, without burning.

When the dough has risen and is double in size, turn out onto a slightly oiled countertop.  Cut the dough in half, then each piece in half again, and continue until you have 16 pieces of dough.  Let rest for 5 minutes.   While the dough is resting, in a small bowel, combine 1 c of warm water with 4 T of baking soda.   Whisk until soda is almost completely dissolved.  Water will be cloudy appearing.

Roll each piece of dough into a long rope.  Shape into a pretzel by turning the piece of dough into an upside-down U shape.  Take the ends of the dough and twist together 2-3 times.  Then take the twisted end and bring it up and press it into the center of the U.   See this wikihow site for pictures on how to twist a pretzel. 

Dip the entire twisted dough into the bowl of water and baking soda.  Place onto the prepared baking sheet.   Sprinkle the pretzel dough with coarse sea salt and rest for 10 minutes.

Place into the preheated oven and bake for 9-10 minutes.  These do not take long to bake, so keep an eye on them!  When golden brown, remove from oven and brush with melted butter.  



Cinnamon Burst Bread

This recipe is a favorite and is based on the yummy bread made by Great Harvest.   Its good for eating, toasting, making into french toast and is a super bread if you love bread pudding. 

This recipe makes four loaves.  It can be halved to make two, if needed.

3 T yeast
1/2 c sugar
4 eggs
3-3/4 c warm water
4-1/2 t salt
4-5 T vegetable oil
2-1/2 generous cups (use more if you like) cinnamon baking chips
11-12 c all-purpose flour (or can use a bread flour or a mix of bread, all-purpose or white whole wheat).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine yeast, 1/4 c warm water and 1 T sugar.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  To a large mixing bowl, add remaining water, eggs, and oil.  Combine.  Add the yeast mixutre to the water, eggs and oil.  To this add salt, 4 cups of flour.  Mix until it resembles a good cake batter.   Add cinnamon chips and 7 more cups of flour, taking care to add them slowly avoiding dough to be too stiff.  Knead by hand or in mixer for 10 minutes.   Add any additional flour, if needed. 

Grease a large bowl.  Add dough to bowl, cover with wet, warm towel and let rise in warm location for up to 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size. 

Punch dough down and shape into 4 loaves.   Place loaves into greased bread pans, cover with wet warm towel and allow to rise one hour or until double.

Place pans in preheated 375 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush the tops of the loaves with butter. 



Corn Bread

A couple of weeks ago, in the throws of school and packing and house hunting, Hawley sent me a bunch of recipes to contribute to the site, cause she knew I was going crazy.  Of course, I didn't get to them right away, but here we are and we are back, at least until I have to unplug in a month and relocate my studio/office.  But until then, the stories and recipes will once again flow.  Thanks for being patient and thanks for continuing to come back to the site!

Today's recipe is cornbread... I am putting both Hawley's and my version of this recipe out there.  They are a tad different, but both are delicious and I know everyone usually has a reason why they like their cornbread a certain way.

Here's Hawley's:

When I got married, my mother-in-law gave me a cast iron frying pan and said that I would use this more than any other pan.  I did and I still do.  I love my black cast-iron pan.  I use it for pancakes, bacon, fried eggs, cornbread and just about anything that needs to be browned.  Here is a great recipe for cornbread that is cooked in the oven in the skilled.  Who would have thought?

2-1/4 c cornmeal (I use fairly fine ground cornmeal - Red Hill, Albers)
2 c buttermilk
1/4 c vegetable oil
4 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
2 eggs

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put cornmeal on rimmed cookie sheet and put in the middle of the rack of oven.  Let roast for approximately 5 minutes or until it starts to be fragrant.  Transfer hot cornmeal to mixing bowl and whisk in buttermilk.  Set aside.  Add oil to cast iron skillet and heat up in the oven until just starts to smoke, about 5 minutes.  take out and add butter.  Let the butter melt.  Pour all but 1T of oil into cornmeal-buttermilk mixture.  Whisk in remaining ingredients into cornmeal.  Put into the cast-iron skillet and bake until top starts to crack and sides are brown.  Remove and serve warm with whipped butter and honey.

My version goes somewhat like this.... My mother fed an army.  Everything was in large pans and in large quantities, except her cornbread.  She too, used a black, well seasoned cast-iron skillet pan.  Now, she used two of them, cause of course, one pan of cornbread would not have fed our large family.   She never had a recipe (as with most of her cooking) and when I was in my early 20s, I searched and searched for a recipe similar to hers.  After much trial and error (and  recipe page that looks the part), this is pretty close...Until I started doing this post, I had never heard of toasting the cornmeal first.  Now that I am going to try.  See, we all keep learning from each other.  Its what I so love about all of this!

1-1/4 c cornmeal - I like to use a combination of white and yellow cornmeal.
1 c all-purpose flour (bread flour works especially well)
1/4 c sugar
1 T baking powder
1 T baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 large eggs
1-1/2 c buttermilk
3 T butter, melted
1/3 c vegetable oil

Heat oven to 425 degrees.   Mix dry ingredients together (cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt).   Set aside.  In smaller bowl, beat eggs.  To the eggs add the buttermilk and mix, then add the melted butter (which has been slightly cooled).   Mix well.  Add wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until well-combined.  Put oil in bottom of heavy well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and place in the heated oven for about 5-10 minutes, until the oil is smoking hot.   Once the pan is hot, remove and add batter to the hot pan.  Return to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until crispy brown on the sides and golden brown on the top.  Again, remove from the oven and serve warm with butter and/or a local honey!  Enjoy.


Tomorrow - Corn Chowder to go with that cornbread and some delicious apple recipes!



As you may have noticed, we have not had a recipe posted in over a week.  We are so sorry about that.  Life has gotten quite busy and complicated.  I am in the middle of coding the website for Plucky Housewives, which we hope to have up in the next few months and an unexpected relocation.   We will be moving our home base to Columbia Missouri in a few short weeks and its taking away time from pretty much everything.   I will try and get a recipe and anecdote posted at least every other day or so, but if I don't, bear with us.  

We want to thank all of our readers for visiting us.

Hawley and Jenni


Hootenanny Pancakes

I would love to be able to tell you that my sweet ol Appalachian granny from West Virginia made this wonderful dish, but that would be lying.  I have no Appalachian grandma.  But we can pretend, right?  I have yet to really determine their origins.  Most of what I am finding is that they are German - but then again, I could claim my wonderful German grandma used to make these.... shoot, can't do that either, unless any of my cousins will back me up???   Anyhow, I made these wonderful things for the first time this morning.   They are sort of a yorkshire pudding but sweet instead of savory.   They were just delicious!  I thought that they would go well for when all the kids are home and we have a house full of company.  Easy to mix up, 20 or so minutes in the oven.  You can be making bacon/sausage and setting a table while it cooks.  Cheap, easy and oh so good.  My kind of food!  SIDE NOTE:  The traditional recipe does not have cinnamon and sugar in it.  Those are my additions that I found made it even more yummy!

Hootenanny Pancakes

1 c milk
1 c flour
6 eggs
1 T cinnamon
1 T sugar
dash of salt
1/2 stick of melted butter

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Generously butter a 9 x 13 pan.

Whisk your eggs in a medium bowl.  To the egg mix, add flour milk, cinnamon, sugar and salt.  Mix until well combined, leaving no lumps.

Pour the mix into your prepared pan, then gently pour the melted butter over your batter.  DO NOT MIX.

Put into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  The Hottenanny will rise well above the pan.  Do not open the door until you are ready to remove.

Remove from the oven, cut and serve immediately.  Serve with maple syrup, powdered sugar and fruit, or whatever your heart desires over these scrumptious pancakes.



Arlene's Chicken and Rice Casserole - well sort of...

My mother, dear Arlene, made this chicken and rice casserole often, and I mean often.  I swear we had it once a week, at least.   It wasn't until I was a single parent that I really understood why it was such a staple.  It was easy, it fed a lot of people (and there were a lot of us) and it tasted pretty good.   It was one of her signature dishes - well signature casseroles.  She even included it a family cookbook put together many years ago by my cousin Todd.   However, the recipe in the family cookbook, just never was right.   Something was off.   Night before last, my daughter called and wanted me to remind her how to make the casserole.  I rattled off the process and thought, ya know, I need to work this all out, cause it just doesn't work that way and here I am perpetuating a not so very good recipe.  Last night, I went to work on figuring out what the issue was with this recipe and what I could do to make it really good.

Mind you, this is a casserole.  It is easy and it can feed a lot of people.  The recipe below is an adaptation from the original and it is in a smaller quantity.  You can double it easily!  In the original recipe, there was Lipton Onion Soup Mix.   I eliminated that ingredient.  Kept most of the other "make it easy" ingredients and then added a few for taste.  Let us know what you think.

Chicken and Rice Casserole

4 chicken thighs or breasts (I use thighs with bone and skin)
1-1/2 c uncooked rice (short grain or sticky rice works the best)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 c half and half (can use milk)
salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder
Lawry's seasoning salt
Fresh cracked pepper
4 T melted butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix the soups, milk, uncooked rice, salt and pepper and 2T of melted butter.  Blend thoroughly.   Pour into baking casserole or baking pan.   Clean and pat dry the chicken thighs.  Place on top of rice mixture.  Brush with remaining melted butter.  Season with seasoning salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Cover casserole with lid or tight fitting sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Place in oven and cook for 2 hours.  Leave the lid/aluminum foil alone!   It needs the 2 hours to absorb the liquid into the rice, so that your rice will be tender and soft.



Swedish Meatballs with homemade smashed potatoes

Yesterday was one of those days. No, this week has been one of those weeks, where I just haven't had time or energy to cook. I have lots of ideas, lots of recipes out, but I am not even in the mood to go to the grocery store, let alone cook. That being said, I decided to pull some meats out of the freezer.  I had handy a recent delivery of pork products from my favorite local organic farm.  I had grabbed some of his homemade italian sausage and some ground pork.   I let it thaw and in the meantime, was trying to figure out what I should do with it.  I wasn't interested in anything Italian.  We have had too much of that lately.   I had these great farmers market mushrooms I needed to use up as well and then the idea came.  Meatballs - but then I didn't want Italian.  How about Swedish meatballs.  They have that nice creamy mushroom sauce/gravy.   It all clicked.  Now remember, I am still not in the mood to really cook a gravy from scratch.   So now what, Cream of Mushroom soup.  So tacky, I know, but go with me on this one.... it really worked out and it was really good.

Swedish Meatballs - the quick and easy kind

1 lb bulk italian sausage
1 lb ground pork (can use ground beef as well)
1/2 onion finely chopped
5 slices of white bread crumbled
1 egg
3 T Brown sauce (you can use worcestershire sauce, but I like the thickness of the brown sauce)
1 T salt
1/2 t pepper
1 T garlic powder

Mix all of the above ingredients in a bowl.  Form into balls, about 2 inches in diameter.   Heat frying pan until hot.  Add 1 T olive oil.  When oil is hot, add meatballs (only put in enough meatballs to cover the bottom and leave room for turning.  Brown in batches).  Turn the meatballs as they brown, so all sides are browned nicely.  Do not worry about cooking the meatball all the way through at this point.  Remove from pan and drain on paper towel.   Brown the rest of the meatballs, in batches, removing from the pan when complete.  Remove any excess oil/grease from the pan, keeping all the yummy bits that are still there.  Don't remove too much, as you will sauté some mushrooms next and need a bit of the fat for that process.

1 carton fresh mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1 T butter
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 c half and half or heavy cream (do NOT use skim, 1% or 2% milk - it thins out the sauce too much)
2 t cumin
2 t smoky paprika
salt and papper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix the soup, cream, cumin, paprika, salt and pepper.  Whisk thoroughly, until a creamy texture is achieved.  In the same frying pan that the meatballs were browned in,  heat remaining oil in pan and add butter.  When melted, add the sliced mushrooms.  Saute until nicely brown.  Add the meatballs back to the pan.  Cover the entire mixture with the sauce, spreading it out evenly over all the meatballs.  Turn burner down to low and cover the pan.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes.   Serve over homemade smashed potatoes or a nice wide Amish egg noodle.  


Muskmelons - A Sundae and a cold summer soup

My mother grew a plethora of muskmelons.  The smaller ones she would bring home and slice then in half, clean out the seeds and scoop vanilla ice cream into the center.  Sometimes it was homemade ice cream.  She would drizzle homemade hot fudge sauce or a homemade strawberry rhubarb sauce on top. It was incredibly yummy.   Try it sometime, its so simple!

Here is a fantastic recipe for muskmelon soup.  Go with it for a moment, okay?  It's of course, a chilled soup.  I promise, you won't be disappointed.

1 muskmelon, peeled, seeded and cubed.
2-1/2 c orange juice, fresh squeezed if you can.  (Clementines are GREAT).  Is not, use the NO PULP variety.
1 T fresh lime juice.
2 t honey (we like Liquid Gold Honey)
1/4 t ground cinnamon

1.  Place the prepared muskmelon and 1 c of the OJ into a bowl.  Using a hand blender, process until smooth.  You can use a regular blender or a food processor).  If you used a blender or food processor, transfer to a large bowl.

2.  Once blended, add to the mix the remaining OJ, lime juice and cinnamon.  Stir until mixed thoroughly.

3.  Transfer to an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, to chill and allow flavors to blend.



Citrus Glazed Grilled Chicken

3 T Orange/Pineapple Marmalade
2 T Honey
3 T pineapple juice
2 T olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic - minced
6-8 chicken thighs (I used bone in skin on, but you can do skinless/boneless too.  Just takes less time to cook)
Kosher salt and fresh pepper - to taste

In a small bowl, combine the marmalade, honey, juice, olive oil and garlic.  Whisk until well incorporated. 

Prepare your grill before you fire it up, by spraying the grill with Grilling Pam.  Make sure your grill is nice and hot.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper.  Place seasoned chicken on grill, skin side up.  Baste the skin with the glaze.  Grill the chicken for about 4 minutes, until nice grill marks are present and skin is golden brown.  Continue to baste during the 4 minutes.  When ready, turn the chicken and grill again for an addition 4-8 minutes, basting the other side with the glaze.  

When chicken is done, remove from grill and pour the remaining glaze over the chicken.   


Magic Squares

Yummy Magic Squares - often called 7-layer bars.
First put out by Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

I first discovered these treats when I was living in Rockland County New York and working as a nanny.  A nanny friend of mine made them for a party.  I was surprised I had never had anything like them, considering all of the sweets my mother baked throughout my 23 years, thus far.

These 7 layer squares are what they are - seven layers of sugary goodness.  You can substitute crushed oreo cookie crumbs for the graham cracker crumbs; you can change out the butterscotch chips for peanut butter chips or white chocolate chips; walnuts for the pecans or a variety of nuts; but really, it is what it is and it is very very yummy!

Magic Squares:

1/2 c melted butter
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (can use vanilla wafer crumbs or Oreo cookie crumbs)

Melt butter.  Add crumbs to melted butter and mix thoroughly.  Pat the mix into a 9 x 13 baking pan sprayed with Pam.

1 6 oz pkg chocolate chips (can be semi-sweet or milk chocolate)
1 6 oz pkg butterscotch chips (can substitute white chocolate, peanut butter, etc)
1-1/2 c flaked coconut
1 c chopped pecans (walnuts can be substituted)

On top of crumb mix in pan layer the following, in this order:  Chips, coconut, pecans.

Now open a 14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk and drizzle over the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until top is bubbly and golden brown.
COOL completely.  Chill if desired.  Cut into bars.  Serve.  Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week or frozen (once cut into bars).  Allow to thaw completely before serving.



Zucchini stuffed with italian sausage, mushrooms and onions
I went to the farmer's market yesterday afternoon and picked up some local veggies.  I was getting low and was craving the garden-fresh taste of good vegetables.  I saw some zucchini that were perfect and grabbed six of them, along with some very colorful cherry tomatoes (even purple ones, which were quite tasty) and walla walla onions.   I had gotten a delivery of some more italian sausage from my Ruegsegger Farms and was staring at this, wondering what I was going to do with it.  I remembered that a friend had sent me a stuffed zucchini recipe of hers and thought, lets give it a try.   Try we did and it was fabulous.  There is just the two of us now and I still haven't learned the trick to downsize my cooking for two, so I always seem to have plenty.  At least Tom gets a great lunch the next day!  Because there were extras (I made 6 boats - 3 zucchini's halved).  I caught him walking around later in the evening with one of the leftover ones; he just picked it up and was eating it.  Guess it was that good.  

Here is the recipe, revamped of course, enhanced, but nothing is ever set in stone.  Flip a few things around and try to make it your own!

Stuffed Zucchini
(serves 4-6)

4-5 zucchini (make them medium size, not too skinny and not the big fat ones either - just a nice, average sized zucchini)
1 c panko breadcrumbs (can use fresh bread crumbs.  I had a loaf of challah lying around and put a few slices in the food processor and used that.  Worked perfectly)
1 to 1-1/2 lbs bulk Italian sausage
1/4 c finely chopped onion
1/2 c diced mushrooms
1 T butter or olive oil
1 c Parmesan cheese
1 T Worcestershire sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste.

the zucchini boats
Wash and prepare zucchini, by cutting off the stem and splitting lengthwise, in half.  Scoop out the flesh of the zucchini, creating a boat.  Place the scooped flesh into a mixing bowl.   Place the zucchini halves on a baking pan (I use a jelly roll pan) that is sprayed with Pam.  Drizzle olive oil over the zucchini halves and sprinkle the boats with salt and pepper.

Using a medium-sized sauté pan, sauté onions in butter/olive oil, until transparent and soft.  Add to mixing bowl with zucchini flesh.  Sauté chopped mushrooms in same pan and when soft, add to bowl as well.   Brown Italian sausage in same pan, until just slightly brown and crumbled.  Add to bowl.  In bowl mix veggies and sausage well.  Add breadcrumbs, cheese, worcestershire, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Scoop stuffing into zucchini boats.  Sprinkle tops with a little bit of parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes, until zucchini is soft.  

Can be served with a salad for a full meal or cut into quarters and serve as a side dish!



Amy's Tacos with homemade flour tortillas

My oldest child Amy is a fantastic cook.  Everything she cooks is really good.    She married into a family that goes to Lake Powell every summer.  They have a tribe of many mouths to feed.  This is a recipe that she makes ahead (cuts up the veggies, puts them into ziplock bags) so that al she has to do is heat it up!  She made this for our family because we have a tribe to feed as well (when we all get together there are 26 of us)!!  - Hawley

Amy's Tacos

1-1/2 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Fry these ingredients together.  Drain fat.   To this mix add:

1 T chili powder or taco seasoning
1 t cumin
Mix well in the pan.  Then add to the mix: 

1 can tomato soup
1 can refried beans
ketchup to taste (abt 2T)
Worcestershire sauce to taste (abt 1T)
Basil (optional)
Simmer for one hour. 

Shredded cheese of your choosing
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomato 
Sliced avocado
Sour cream
Taco sauce (red or green) or salsa
Black Olives

When ready to assemble, have lettuce, tomato, sour cream, avocado and taco sauce ready to go.  
Cook tortilla (flour or corn).  Fold in half and put cheddar cheese in bottom of tortilla.  Place several spoonfuls of the meat mix on top and put in a pan.  Heat oven to 250 degrees and keep warm, letting the cheese melt.  Then call for dinner!

Homemade Tortillas

4 c flour
1/8 t baking powder
1/2  c shortening

Work this mix with your hands, until well mixed. 

1-1/2 t salt
1 cup water. 

Drizzle in slowly until soft dough is formed.  Form into ball.    Let rest 20 minutes.   Cut ball into 12 pieces.  Grease hands.  Roll pieces into balls (about the size of a large golf ball).  Either smash with hands or use a tortilla press to flatten into a very thin circle.  Fry (use flat-iron grill) until one side is browned.  Turn over and brown other side.  Serve warm.



Grandma Geiger's Chocolate Chip Recipes

My daughter called me today.  Once again, it was for a recipe and one I had not included in their cookbooks.  That always happens!  So as I was typing out the recipe to send to her smart phone, I thought, "what the heck?"  Why have I not put this recipe on the blog.   So, here it is....

Its an heirloom.  She kept a cookie jar full of these at all times, for whenever any of her grandchildren came over.   It was collected by my cousin Todd years ago, when they sat grandma down and picked her brain for all of her recipes.   Ill post her bread recipe next week.  You'll enjoy it, with the handful of this and a spoonful of that....heirloom it is!  This one she wrote down and the original is now mounted and framed and on my cousin's wall.   Pretty special.  Its a tad different from your traditional tollhouse recipe, but it is oh so good.

Grandma Geiger's Chocolate Chip Cookies

¾ c white sugar
¾ c firmly packed brown sugar
½ t salt
2 sticks margarine
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 t soda
2 t vanilla
1- 6 oz bag of chocolate chips
2-1/2 c flour

Cream sugar, salt and margarine.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Add flour and soda.  Mix thoroughly.  Add chocolate chips.  Mix. 

Drop by spoons full on cookie sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees.  

Check out the Family Favorites

Our new page - Family Favorites has a recipe listed.  Joy's Casserole.  Check it out and enjoy!


Grilled Lamb Chops, right from the farm

I love summer, because I love to grill.  I have pretty much tried everything on the grill, from the traditional burgers, brats, chicken to roasted veggies and even my roasted Roma tomato sauce.

Today, its lamb chops.  We get our lamb from a great local farm, Ruegsegger Farms.  Their meats are fabulous and we have enjoyed helping to support our local farmers.    The lamb chops are lightly rubbed with olive oil and seasonings and grilled, nothing too complicated and simple flavors, so as to not mask the flavor of the lamb! I like to serve the lamb with either a spaetzle or a gnocchi, and a good salad with a glass of ice cold home made lemonade.  I hope you like it!

Grilled Lamb Chops

4 Lamb chops, about 1 inch thick
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste.
Fresh rosemary (optional)
Fresh thyme (optional)
Garlic puree or minced garlic (optional)

Little drizzle the chops (both sides) with the olive oil.  Sprinkle your salt and pepper over both sides.  If you wish, mix the salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme and minced garlic together.  Rub over the chops (both sides).

Before firing up your grill, prepare your rack with cooking spray (I use Grilling Pam).  This helps the chops to not stick.  Over a hot grill, place the chops, center heat.   Cook for approximately 5 minutes per side; however, this will vary, depending on your grill and the thickness of the chops, so keep a close eye on them.   Turn and leave on the other side for the same length of time.  Remove from the grill and let rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to gather  back into the meat.   Serve warm.

Greek Egg-Lemon Soup (Avgolemono)

Avgolemono Soup
(Greek Egg-Lemon Soup)
8 cups chicken stock 
(use your own homemade or you can buy good chicken stock (not broth) over the counter at your local grocery store.  I make my own, cause I like the added flavors)
1-1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
6 egg yolks (room temperature)
16 oz heavy cream (room temperature)
5 Meyer lemons, juiced 
(should be about 1/4 c of lemon juice, but it all will vary according to your taste)
salt and cracked black pepper to taste

In a large soup pan, bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Add the orzo and cook about 8-9 minutes, until tender.  

While orzo is cooking, in a medium bowl, slightly beat the egg yolks and add cream, whisking until mixed together.  When pasta has cooked, turn off the heat.  Remove 3 c of the broth from the soup pot.  One cup at a time, SLOWLY whisk the stock into the egg/cream mixture to temper the mixture.  (This ensures that when you add the egg/cream mix to the stock, it wont curdle the cream and scramble the egg).   When all three cups have been whisked in, add the entire mix back to the soup pot.  Add your lemon juice.  Bring the mixture heat up close to a boil, BUT DO NOT BOIL.  Taste and add salt, pepper and lemon juice to your liking.  

For this recipe I added more lemon juice and about a 1/2 t of salt and fresh cracked pepper.  I also added about 1 t of fresh dill.   

If you made your own stock and you have chicken left over, add chunks of chicken to the soup for a heartier soup.  


Carson Gulley's Fudge Bottom Pie

When trolling a Facebook group this week about growing up in Madison, a discussion was started about Carson Gulley's Black Bottom Pie.   I had long forgotten about this decadent dessert and was quickly transported back to days sitting in the union, having wandered down with friends just for an excuse to have some of this pie.   I was surprised to see that a large number of people were involved in this "discussion".   I had no idea it had become so iconic.  So I set out to do a little research myself.

I discovered that there is quite a legend as to the origins of the pie and its attribution to Carson Gulley (head chef of UW Madison's residence halls for over 20 years).   A great article was written by Michael Penn on The Life of a Pie and the life of Mr. Gulley.  Follow the link and you can read all about it.  

Something more than just the story of the pie hit me as I was devouring this article.   Julie Vincent, Memorial Union's assistant director of food and retail services makes an astute observation about why this pie, unlike so many other remarkable desserts, continues to receive such notoriety.   She attributes it to "nostalgia".

"The foods we love often represent the traditions we grew up with or the things we grew accustomed to at a particular point in our lives."

I get all tingly when I hear that someone else gets what the food really is all about.   Memories, traditions and love.

So, in honor of dear Carson Gulley and all the others at the UW-Madison Union, Residence Halls, past and present, I present to you what might be a close approximation of that fine dessert.

For more Carson Gulley recipes, the UW Madison Library  has the Carson Gulley Cookbook Collection online.  Browse through and enjoy!

Carson Gulley Fudge Bottom Pie

1 c graham cracker crumbs
¼ c powdered sugar
1/3 c melted butter

Mix crust ingredients.  Press into pie tin and back 5 min at 350 degrees.

2 c milk
1 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
4 eggs, separated
1 T gelatin, softened in ¼ c cold water
1-1/4 oz baking chocolate
¼ t cream of tartar

Heat milk in a double boiler.  Blend cornstarch and half of the sugar together.  Add enough of the hot milk to moisten well, then add to the balance of the hot milk and continue cooking in double boiler.  Beat egg yolks.  Pour some of the hot milk mixture over them, beating well and then add them to the hot milk mixture in the double boiler.  Cook, stirring constantly until thick and smooth.  Add softened gelatin.  Blend well and set mixture aside to cool.

Melt chocolate over hot water.  Take 1 c of the hot custard mix and still it into the melted chocolate and set aside to cool.  When it becomes cool, but not stiff, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar.  When they are stiff enough to bold peaks, add the remaining half-cup of sugar gradually and continue beating until will blended.  Fold beaten egg whites into the cooled vanilla custard mixture.  Now pour the cooled chocolate custard mixture into a graham cracker pie shell.  Pour the custard-egg white mixture over it and refrigerate several hours or over night.  Top with whipped cream and grated sweet chocolate before serving. 


A Dixie Banana Pudding Trifle - my "Chopped" moment...

A "Dixie" pudding/trifle

I have to tell the story behind this one.  I needed to make a dessert for a funeral lunch of a dear friend.  It had been an exhausting weekend and start to the week and my grandiose plans of some fabulous and intricate yummy dessert were left behind because of shear exhaustion.  I looked through the freezer and cupboards and found the following:  A 1/2 sheet cake in the freezer (Florida Citrus flavor) that I originally baked for a going away party the previous weekend. Lemon curd, Coconut curd, Vanilla pudding, Cool Whip,
Chocolate sprinkles,  and a couple of bunches of bananas ready to turn (who was not eating the bananas???)

I wondered what could I do and mulled it over for a few days.  When Wednesday morning came, I woke up and had this idea.  Its a banana pudding/trifle kinda thing.  I can't see to find the right "name" for it.    I put it together, chilled it for several hours, told a few friends the story and had them try it to see if it worked (I know, a little lame, right?) What convinced me it was a success was when we saw people grabbing paper cups and scooping some in the cups to take home with them.   There was just enough left (I made this very large disposable aluminum lasagna/roasting pan size) to scoop out and take home to try with Tom.  I do have to say, it is quite tasty AND it is easy to make, so Enjoy!

By the way - glad you were all patient in waiting for a new post.  Its been quite the last few weeks.

Banana pudding trifle?  Any ideas what to call it? 

1 unfrosted, already baked cake.  Preferably vanilla or citrus flavored.  I used a "Florida" cake I had on hand that was not frosted.
1 package (large)of instant vanilla pudding
3 cups whole milk
1 large carton of cool whip (you can use the equivalent of freshly whipped whipping cream if you are going to serve it within a few hours)
4-5 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 jar of Trader Joes (or your favorite brand) lemon curd
1 jar of Coconut curd
Real chocolate sprinkles

1).  In a mixing bowl, add the vanilla and milk.  Whisk with a wire whip.  To the mix, fold in the thawed cool whip (Or whipped cream).  Set in fridge until ready to use.
2).  Slice the cake in long strips, about 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick.
3). In a deep dish baking pan (I use a lasagna pan), line the bottom of the pan with the cake strips, only one layer, laying them on their side so the cake is exposed and the top/bottom of the cake is touching the other pieces.
4).  Spread the lemon curd on top of the cake, covering it entirely.
5).  On top of the lemon curd layer, lay out the sliced bananas in one layer.
6).  On top of the banana layer, pour half of the whipped cream/pudding mix.  Spread evenly.

Repeat items 3 through 6.   Sprinkle the final pudding/cream layer with chocolate sprinkles.

Chill in Fridge for at least 2 hours.

I scooped out the dessert with a large spoon, into bowls, like you would banana pudding.

We were discussing the variations you could do with this recipe - different fruits, different curds, instead of curd a raspberry, blueberry or strawberry sauce; different pudding, etc.   Its a "use your imagination" and whats in your pantry kind of recipe.

Enjoy.  Tell us how you made it your own!

PRINTABLE VERSION OF A Dixie Banana Pudding Trifle...


Gnocchi (to go with those Grilled Lamb Chops)

I love anything potato.  I did not have an Italian grandma who taught me how to make these (I sure wish I did).  I ate them once, fell in love with them.  Im German and Irish, like I wouldn't love anything with so much potato????

I discovered that they are not as difficult as they seem and they are just so good.  Its also that making fresh dough thing.  There is something very therapeutic about it.  


4 large Idaho Baking Potatoes
2 Eggs
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1-1/2 Flour

Wash and pierce the potatoes with a fork.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until tender and done.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle.  Cut the potatoes lengthwise, in half.  Scoop out the flesh.  (Set the skins aside and make some Smokey Potato Skins).  Do not cool the potatoes too long.  You want to work with the potatoes while they are still warm.  It helps in making a light and pillowy gnocchi.  

Place the potato flesh in the center of a mixing board or mat, so they are all in a large mound.  Make a well in the center of the mound.  In the well add the eggs, salt and pepper.  Now, this is where it is really good to mix these "old-school".  Make sure your hands are clean (and your jewelry removed!).  Taken your hand and with a swirling motion, beginning to mix the egg mixture into the potatoes, scooping up some potatoes from the side as you move around the circle.  Sprinkle the mound with flour as you work, to help bind the mix into a light dough.  It should only take about 3-4 minutes to mix everything together, including the flour into the potato mix.  The key here is to NOT over-mix.  The less you mix, the warmer the potatoes, the lighter and pillowy the gnocchi will be.  

Once the dough is combined, Knead the dough (like you would a bread dough) for a very few short minutes.  The dough will be sticky enough to stick to your hands.  Just scrape it off and work it back into the mix.   Form a nice soft ball.  

Now, wash your hands, making sure to dry them completely.  Lightly dust the mound of dough.   Divide the dough into two equal portions.   Set one piece aside.  Now cut the piece into three pieces.  

Making the gnocchi:  Taking a piece of the cut dough, roll the dough out with your hands (gently) into a long rope.  You may have to continue to lightly dust the dough, which is normal.  Just edit yourself and err on the side of too little flour, rather than too much. 

Once the dough is in a long rope (about 1/2 inch thick), cut the pieces of dough into about 1/2 to 1 inch pieces, making sure you have a consistent size.  Lightly flour the pieces and set aside.  

Now here is where I differ from most people.  I did not grow up with an italian grandma who showed me the tips and tricks of rolling the pieces of dough onto fork tines to make the pretty little indentations of a gnocchi.  I have tried and frankly, am just impatient, so I dont roll them.  I ask why? Cause they taste the same ?  If you have mastered this art or want to give it a go, youtube is a great place to watch and learn how to roll the gnocchi.  If not...

Heat a pot of lightly salted  water (about 6 quarts worth) to boiling, as you would if you were making any kind of pasta.  When the water is boiling, drop half of your gnocchi into the pot of water.   When they float to the top, they are done.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in a large skillet, with melted butter.  Wait until the water has come to a boil again, then drop the remaining gnocchi pieces into the water and do the same.  

I serve my gnocchi with browned butter and fresh sage.  I also make a blue cheese sauce and once cooked, drop them in the bleu cheese sauce.  You can also just heat up or prepare from scratch, your own marinara sauce and pour some of that over the fresh cooked gnocchi.  

Serve the above with a nice green salad and some homemade lemonade!  Enjoy your weekend!


Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie.

1-1/2 c crushed graham crackers
3 T sugar
5 T butter, melted

2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
8 large egg yolks
Zest of 2 lime
1 c key lime juice (approximately 20-30 key limes, depending on how juicy they are)

Few tips:  For the Key Lime juice, you have a couple of choices - you can squeeze fresh key limes or you can use bottled Key lime juice.  If you choose to use the bottled juice, pick one that is not "imitation".  You have plenty of options.  If your supermarket carries it, they will shelve it with the bottled lemon juices.  If not, Amazon.com has Nellie & Joe's by the bottle or by the pack.

I like a thicker pie, so this recipe makes a filling that when set is 1 to 1-1/2 inches.   If you like a thinner filling, reduce the filling recipe in half.

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2.  In a medium bowl, add crushed graham crackers and sugar.  Mix together thoroughly with a fork or a whisk.  Add melted butter and stir until all crumbs are moist.
3.  Pour mixture into a 9 inch pie tin.  Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
4.  Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until crumbs are light golden brown.  Don't over-bake.
5.  Cool completely on wire rack.
6.  While crust is cooling, in a medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks.  Mix until well combined and smooth.  Add lime zest and lime juice.  Mix completely.
7.  Once the pie crust is completely cool, pour the filling mix into the pie plate.   Place in preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.   The pie will have a custard appearance and a knife will come out clean.
8.  Remove pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool.  Cool the pie completely.  When cool, place in the refrigerator for approximately one hour or more.

You can either - Top with a meringue - just like you would a lemon pie (see Arlene's Lemon Meringue Pie) or you can whip up some real whip cream and serve.  Either way, it makes for a wonderfully citrus refreshing summer (or any time of the year) pie!