Monday, October 31, 2011

Easy Coffee Cake

I may have mentioned this before but in case I haven’t, here it is…. I enjoy and prefer baking from scratch. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when I was a child, even though my mom was a good cook, she usually baked with mixes…cake, brownie and even used a box mix for her pie crust. I rarely had a baked good that was made from scratch. I’ll get more into that subject in a future post. Even though I prefer baking from scratch, I am not completely against using shortcuts from time to time, especially when I come across recipes that use mixes as an ingredient and that look and taste good, not to mention are so easy to prepare. I have a few of those kinds of recipes that I’ve already posted about and here is one more.

I can’t remember when or where I found this recipe, but it’s another one that I used to make often and then eventually, after a while, I guess got bored with so stopped. It was very popular at work and it was easy enough to make that I could even prepare it in the morning, put it in one of those Pyrex carriers and it would be nice and warm by the time I and my co-workers arrived at the office. Because it’s so easy to make, It’s a great recipe to make on Christmas morning…..a nice warm coffee cake to have with a cup of coffee, tea or glass of milk….yum!
Easy Coffee Cake
Print Recipe

1 cake mix (spice, caramel or yellow)
1 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted

1. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Pour into a 9x13 inch cake pan. After 15 minutes in the oven at the temperature stated on box, remove cake and sprinkle on a mixture of the chopped nuts, sugar and cinnamon. Then pour melted butter over all. Continue baking until done, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Serve warm

3. May be frozen

I've made this using a yellow cake mix and a spice cake mix, which are both good, but I prefer the caramel. The problem with using the caramel mix is that it isn't easy to find, the only place I'm able to locate it is at Meijer.

One cake mix, whatever ingredients that are needed to prepare the cake mix (the Duncan Hines caramel mix uses, water, oil and eggs), nuts, sugar, cinnamon and butter. When I first started making this, the Duncan Hines Caramel mix was easy to find....not so easy now. As I stated in the recipe notes, I'm only able to find it at Meijer.

Prepare mix, according to package directions and pour into a 9x13 pan that has been coated with butter/oil and flour. I use either Baker's Secret or Pam for baking. Love the ease of just spraying it on in the pan.

Place in preheated oven (temperature that is listed in the cake mix directions) bake for 15 minutes and remove.

Combine nuts, sugar and cinnamon. I usually do this while the cake is baking.

Sprinkle mixture on cake.

Pour melted butter over cake.

Return cake to oven and bake and additional 15-20 minutes or until cake is done.

Hmmm, looks like someone was doing a little tasting while I had my back turned.

This was as good as I remembered. It smelled so good…the aroma of the caramel cake and cinnamon was wonderful. Apparently it was too much for Michael to stand since, as you can see from the previous photo, he tasted it as soon as it came out of the oven.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tangy Meatballs

I’ve been stuck in a cooking rut. I’ve been making the same old same old for the past several months, so due to boredom, I recently started reviewing some of my favorite recipes that I haven’t made in years.  I decided it was time to make a few of them again, not only because I really like them and haven’t had them in a long time, or since Michael and I have only been together for close to three years, he’s never tasted them, but also because I’ve got one of those recipe programs where I’m now storing my recipes, along with photos of the completed dish and my older recipes look so sad without a photo.

The following recipe is another one I found in Taste of Home magazine, as a matter of fact, the same issue that included the Apple Walnut Cake recipe that I wrote about in my last post. When I first found it, I made it a lot….. Back in those days between work potlucks, family reunions and other parties I attended, I felt like I was making this all the time. It was always a hit whenever I took it somewhere. I remember one time when I helped my cousin Jayne prepare food for an open house she was having when she and her partner, Tom, moved into their first house, I made five batches of this recipe and we kept the meatballs warm in one of those large aluminum chafing dishes. Jayne’s brother-in-law Dick and one of the men she worked with practically camped out in front of the chafing dish eating the meatballs…they just wouldn’t stop. Every time I made these, I would get a similar reaction from other people.....

This is a great recipe for potlucks because it’s easy to make a head of time and can be kept warm in a slow cooker.  If you don’t want to make your own meatballs, you can substitute frozen but trust me, the homemade ones are much better!

Tangy Meatballs
Print Recipe
2 eggs
2 cups quick cooking or rolled oats
1 can evaporated milk, (12 ounces)
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 lbs lean ground beef
2 cups ketchup
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped onion
1-2 tsp liquid smoke (I use 1 teaspoon)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add oats, milk, onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add the ground beef; mix well.

Shape into 1½ inch balls. Place in two 9x13 inch baking pans. Bake uncovered at 375 for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and drain.

Place all of the meatballs in one of the pans.

In a saucepan, bring all sauce ingredients to a boil. Pour over meatballs.

Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until meatballs are done.

Yield: 4 dozen

Using a fork or whisk, beat eggs.

Add oats, milk and onion to the eggs.

Add pepper, garlic powder and salt.


Add ground beef to mixture and mix well.

Shape into 1½ inch balls. Place in two 9x13 inch baking pans. Bake uncovered at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and drain. Place all of the meatballs in one of the pans.

Ooops, I did it again, I forgot to take some pictures, but I have faith in you and know you can do this by reading the instructions and without the accompanying photos.

In a saucepan add ketchup, brown sugar, onion, garlic powder and liquid smoke. Bring sauce ingredients to a boil and pour over the pan of meatballs.

If you've never used liquid smoke and not sure where to find it, it is usually located in the isle where the hot sauce, worchestershire sauce and BBQ sauce is located.

Return to the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until meatballs are done.

Mmmmm….when you make these meatballs, your home will smell so good that you won’t be able to stand it. They have a nice, sweet barbeque flavor and, I have to confess, it is easy to eat more of them than you should.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Apple Walnut Cake

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the temperatures of early to mid-fall, sometimes the days are warm and other days are cool and crisp, well suited for wearing a sweatshirt, sweater or light weight jacket. The colors are gorgeous….the leaves on the trees begin to turn red, yellow, gold and orange and the mums and some bushes add to the beauty of the season. I like the feel and even the way the air smells and after the long hot days of summer, that make me feel limp and lethargic, I feel energetic and reborn in the fall.

One of my most favorite things about autumn is the produce that is in season, especially apples. I know you can get apples all year round, but in my opinion, the best apples are the ones that are only available in the fall….Jonathan, Winesap, Honeycrisp, Cortland, etc. They are so good and are great to just grab and eat or even better, to use in baking.
One day while out running errands, Michael and I stopped by a local farm stand where they had a nice selection of apples so I purchased some Jonathan, Cortland and Honeycrisp. I thought about using some to make a pie but since I had just made a cherry pie, decided to make a cake instead. As I was going through some of my recipes, I came across one that I hadn’t made in years. It’s a delicious cake and when I first discovered the recipe, I used to make it often but as newer recipes made their way into my files; this one was pushed aside and forgotten.
I’m a long time subscriber to Taste of Home magazine….I’ve been getting it since it was first published back in the 90’s and have all, except the first magazine, in my collection. This recipe happens to come from the second magazine that Taste of Home published.
Apple Walnut Cake
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 cups chopped, unpeeled apples (4 or 5 apples)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract

1. In a mixing bowl, beat sugar and eggs.
2. Add oil and vanilla; mix well.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg; gradually add to sugar mixture, mixing well.
4. Stir in apples and walnuts.
5. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 inch pan.
6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-55 minutes or until cake testes done.
7. Let cool.
1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
2. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you get to desired sweetness and thickness.
3. Frost cooled cake

Mix sugar and eggs. You can use an electric mixer, but I find that mixing with a whisk works just fine.

Add oil and vanilla; mix well.

Pre ground nutmeg doesn’t stay fresh very long, so I buy the whole nutmeg and using a hand grater (rasp), grate it myself. Not only is the nutmeg fresher but it smells heavenly.

Vietnamese cinnamon is my favorite…has a stronger flavor. As many of you know, I’m a big Penzey’s fan so buy most of my herbs and spices from them; never fear, you don’t have to purchase this cinnamon online, you can find Vietnamese cinnamon at the supermarket.

Clockwise from top: cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and baking soda.

Add to flour and mix with a whisk.

Gradually add flour to sugar mixture.

I apologize for my lack of pictures at this point. As I mentioned earlier, it’s been a long time since I’ve made this cake so, as I was combining the flour with the sugar mixture, the batter became quite thick, more like a cookie dough than a batter. I was getting concerned, thinking I had left something out of the recipe so stopped to read the list of ingredients. When I saw that I hadn’t made a mistake, I proceeded where I left off and forgot to photograph the batter before adding the apples and walnuts. So, if your batter looks like cookie dough, don’t worry, it’s supposed to look that way. Trust me; it will work out just fine.

Chopped apples. Chop the apples in smaller pieces if you want but I like them this size. Don't worry about the peels, that concerned me the first time I made this. After the cake is baked, you won't even know they are there. I love that I didn't have to peel the apples, that's my least favorite thing about baking with them, just be sure to wash them well before chopping.

Chopped walnuts.

Combine batter, apples and walnuts.

Pour into greased and floured pan. The batter is so thick, you have to spread the batter, it doesn't really pour.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until cake tests done. Allow cake to cool before frosting.

I had just put the cake on a cooling rack and was ready to walk away when I turned back around and noticed Michael, with spoon in hand, ready to dig into the cake. I said, “Don’t touch it, don’t you dare touch that cake. I still have to frost and photograph it.” The look on his sad face was priceless. I stood there until I saw him walk away before I left the kitchen. 

 Combine 8 oz. cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter.

This cake had a cream cheese frosting recipe but it called for 2 3 oz. packages of cream cheese. I don’t know about you, but I usually have cream cheese on hand but it’s the 8 oz. packages, not the 3 oz. So I used a recipe that called for 8 oz. of cream cheese.

 Mix in vanilla and powdered sugar.

 Ready to frost the cooled cake.

The cake tasted as good as I remember. The apples release their juice while baking making this a moist and tasty cake. Reminds me a lot of carrot cake, only made with apples.

Michael was very happy….he grabbed his trusty spoon as soon as I finished snapping photos.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Quesadillla Casserole

Are you like me, always on the lookout for new recipes, gadgets and other products to use in cooking and baking, or am I just weird that way? I've found some good and some bad. Some of my best finds have been by accident, like the one I’m going to tell you about.
One day while in Meijer, I was wandering through my favorite isle, the baking section. I was looking at the spices when I noticed a product that I had never seen before. It’s made by McCormick and is called Recipe Inspirations and is a card that includes the recipe and all the spices that are needed to prepare the dish. I thought this was a great idea……I could try a new recipe without having to buy a lot of spices that I may never use again. If you’re like me, there has been many a time when you’ve found a recipe that you want to try and have had to purchase one or two jars of a spice that you don’t already have. Then, if you didn’t like that recipe, you’ve spent a lot of money for a spice that will probably just take up valuable cabinet space until it goes stale and you have to eventually toss it. Buying one of the Recipe Inspiration packets would eliminate that problem. Not only is it a good product for people who are seasoned cooks but is especially nice for new cooks, people who haven’t built up a supply of spices or even a collection of recipes….none of which is a problem for me. There were several packets to choose from so I picked one for Quesadilla Casserole and another for a pork chop recipe, which I’ll make in a few weeks.
A couple of weeks ago I needed to make dinner and couldn’t decide what I wanted to prepare…..other than  Slow Cooked Sticky Chicken, I hadn’t tried anything new in a while. I was looking through the cabinet when I spied the Recipe Inspirations packets that I had placed there and forgotten about. I decided, since I had some ground beef in the fridge, to try the Quesadilla Casserole and I’m glad I did. It was quick, easy and good and since I have a large selection of spices, I already have the ones needed to prepare this recipe again. Now I can’t wait to try the one for pork chops.
Quesadillla Casserole
Print Recipe

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (8 3/4 oz) whole kernel corn, undrained
1 can (4 1/2 oz.) chopped green chiles, undrained
6 flour tortillas (8-inch)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 teapoons chili powder
1 teapoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

1. Brown beef and onion in large skillet on medium-high heat; drain. Add tomato sauce, beans, corn and green chiles; mix well. Stir in all of the spices except red pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Add red pepper to taste, if desired.

2. Spread 1/2 cup of the beef mixture on bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Top with 3 of the tortillas, overlapping as needed. Layer with 1/2 of the remaining beef mixture and 1/2 of the cheese. Repeat with remaining tortillas, beef mixture and cheese.

3. Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Servings: 8
Oven Temperature: 350°F

I used a Four Cheese Mexican blend instead of cheddar.
Can substitute approx. 2-2 1/2 cups shredded chicken in place of ground beef. Saute onion in a little oil and then add chicken, continue following the rest of the procedures.

The Recipe Inspirations card.

Front of recipe card

Back of recipe card. Has the recipe including names of spices and amounts needed.

These are the little spice packets with the names and measurements printed on the back.

Brown ground beef and onion.

I have a confession to make…..I love kitchen gadgets! I love kitchen gadgets so much that whenever I see a new one, I usually purchase it. I know I have too many of them, some I use a lot and some, I’m embarrassed to say, have only been used once or twice and are now stored in the back of a cupboard or in a box. This is one of my favorites. In fact, I like it so much that not only do I have one at home, but bought one to keep at Michael’s apartment. It’s a strainer that I bought from Pampered Chef several years ago and use it to strain fat from ground beef and water for small amounts of pasta.

I’m a huge fan of Pampered Chef and like the products so much that many years ago, I was a consultant. Hmmm, now that I’m retired, maybe I should get back into this again.

Drain and add tomato sauce.

Add beans, corn and green chiles; mix well.

Stir in all of the spices except red pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Add red pepper to taste, if desired. I wasn’t sure about the red pepper. As I’ve said before, Michael and I don’t like a lot of heat in our food, we like a little but don’t like so much that we feel as though we could breathe fire. After tasting the sauce, I decided to add the red pepper to the ingredients and found that it wasn’t too hot at all.

Spread 1/2 cup of the beef mixture on bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Top with 3 of the tortillas, overlapping as needed.

 Layer with 1/2 of the remaining beef mixture.

I usually buy a block of cheddar cheese and grate it myself.  Not only is fresher and melts better but cheaper too, but I saw this Mexican blend and thought it would be perfect in this recipe and it was.

Cover with half of the cheese.

Repeat with remaining tortillas, beef mixture and cheese. Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes or until heated through.

The finished casserole. Let it rest about five minutes before serving. Michael hates the resting part of a dish, he's always ready to dig in as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Michael and I both really liked this recipe. I especially liked it because it was quick and easy…a great go to meal when you are hungry and rushed for time.

 About a week later I had some leftover roast chicken so decided to try using it in this recipe. I shredded about 2 to 2 1/2 cups and added it to the sauce.....we liked it even more than using the ground beef. Not only was it better but quicker to prepare as well.
Another new and successful recipe to add to my file.
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