Delicious Banana Bread with Pecans & Coconut, Vanilla & a Hint of Rum

Sorry but I am in an unexplained funk.  Forcing myself to get busy but quite unmotivated without any understanding of why. Today I was able to force myself to process about 10 pounds of fresh tomatoes from the garden and get them into the freezer if for no other reason than I can't stand waste!  Then I got myself to bake Banana Bread.  Again only because I cannot stand to see anything go to waste and there were 5 bananas longing for something to become.  Happily I have three large and beautiful loaves of the the most delicious bread.  One to eat and two for the freezer.  Double wrapping in plastic wrap then into a freezer bag keeps it beautifully for another day.  This is a recipe I adapted from a Martha Stewart Baking Book I checked out from the library a couple of years ago.  It is indeed delicious if you like the ingredients listed.  If you hate coconut though you should probably pass! This recipe yields 3 large loaves.  One for now and two for the freezer or to share.  Great recipe for gift giving.

My new challenge today has been to list items on E-Bay for sale for my husband.  Happily I already have a bid and 13 views and it has only been a couple of hours.  Maybe the challenge of keeping track of something new will snap me back to my normal routine of busy productive days.

Ingredients for the Best Banana Bread:

6 C. flour
2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
6 large eggs
4 C. sugar
2 2//3 C. vegetable oil
2 T. vanilla
2 T. dark rum
1 t. nutmeg
3 C. masked ripe bananas (5-6)
2 C. shredded coconut
2 C. pecan bits
1 C. buttermilk
1/4 C. demerara sugar
nonstick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare 3 large loaf pans with nonstick baking spray and set them aside.  Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Use the paddle attachment to a stand mixer and beat the eggs in a large bowl.  Add the sugar and oil and beat at medium low speed to combine.  Beat in the flour mixture.  Add the vanilla, rum, nutmeg, banana, coconut, pecans, and buttermilk and beat just to combine.

Pour the batter evenly into the pans smoothing the tops. 

Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the loaves for a delightful crisp topping.  Bake 60-70 minutes until a pick comes out clean when tested.  Cool 10 minutes and remove from pans. 

Cool completely on racks and store in plastic at room temperature for up to a week, or double wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.  Yield 3 large loaves.


Mom's BBQ Sandwiches

This is a tangy BBQ, not overly sweet with the zest of the vinegar and the warmth of clove.
When we were growing up at home Mother made these BBQ sandwiches out of whatever leftover roast meat we had, roast pork or roast beef.  It is real comfort food to my sisters and brother and me.
We all love it.  I can tell you though there is too much ground clove in the recipe to suit my husband so I cut it back to 1/2 t. now when I make it for us.  I am giving the recipe though exactly as Mother gave it to me.  It is terrific served open face on buns or bread.

This is a wonderful use for leftover roast with the bonus of being perfect to throw into a slow cooker in the morning and enjoy the wonderful perfume of it as it simmers or the greeting of it's essence when you return home from a days work.

Ingredients for Mother's BBQ:

1 medium onion diced
1/4 C. celery diced
1 T. vinegar
1 t. sugar
1 C. ketchup
1 t. ground cloves
2 T. prepared mustard
2 C. water
dash of Worchershire Sauce
salt and pepper to taste
4-5 C. diced or shredded cook roast

Simmer all of the above ingredients together atop the stove or combine in a slow cooker and simmer until the flavors have melded and the meat is tender.  Serve hot on buns.  Yield 8-10 servings. 

This is one of those, "it just gets better the longer it simmers" recipes.  I like to serve with macaroni and cheese and slaw or green salad.  Big comfort food to our family.

Again if in doubt cut the cloves back to 1/4 or 1/2 t. and taste before adding the amount called for in this zesty potion.


Surgerical Proceedure Success this Week

Tuesday the 18 was the long (at least it seemed so) awaited day for my husband Brian's "ablation" procedure.  This is a specialty of Dr. Bedi of the Deaconess Heart Group.

We were told it would take between 4-6 hours normally and was completed in 3 1/2 so we were relieved and happy at the conclusion when we were told he did great and things were fine.

Molly's Master
He is a little grumpy, normal for a Cosby or probably any male having had to have gone through this.  But he is good otherwise.  It is my opinion it is mostly due to the wearing off of all of the medications.

Dad and Grandpa
We are all so happy to have gotten through this and thank you all for the good thoughts and prayers.

We are so very grateful for the Grace of God and his healing,  all of the staff and doctors at the Deaconess Heart Hospital, and Dr. Bedi.

Today  September 21st is our 39th wedding anniversary and I am very grateful to have him here.


Apple, Apple Pizza

Sliced apples shingled onto a layer of apple butter atop a tender crust.
This really turned out nicely and both of us really likes it.  It is less trouble and less volume than a whole pie or a tart.  Just right for the 2 of us and you can eat it like a piece of pizza!  The pastry browned up beautifully.  It was all, just right!

I saw someone on Martha Stewart talking about an Apple Pizza but they made applesauce for it.  I have my homemade Apple Butter and thought that an even better idea!! But in all truth they were my inspiration. 

Ingredients for Apple, Apple Pizza:

Pastry of your choice for one 9" crust
1/3 C. apple butter
4-5 cooking apples cored, peeled, and sliced
2 T. melted butter
1/2 C. powdered sugar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Roll chilled pastry into a rectangle and trim to about 7" or 8" x 9" or 10" and dock. (Prick all over with a fork.)  Roll the rectangle up on your rolling pin and unroll on the parchment.  Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the apples and slice them into lemon juice and toss them well to prevent browning.

Spread a thin layer of the apple butter over the chilled pastry.  Arrange the apple slices like shingles to form an attractive pattern.  Brush with the melted butter. 

Mix the powdered sugar and cinnamon and place the mixture a tablespoon at a time in a small sieve and sprinkle across the apples until they are covered well.

Bake for 45 -50 minutes until well browned.  Yield 6 slices.  Serve plain or with cream.

Braised Pork Loin Roast and Drying Tomatoes

Warm thick slices of moist and flavorful pork make great sandwiches.
Today I want to roast some tomatoes at 300 degrees until they are partially dry because I think they would be delicious on sandwiches.  I also want to braise a loin roast to have for supper then reinvent for Pork BBQ sandwiches later in the week.  I can do double duty as both can be done at the same temperature and at the same time.

Pork Loin  Ingredients:
3 1/2 -4 pound tied loin roast
1 T. butter
1 T. safflower oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. molasses
1/4 C. ketchup
1/4 C. cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Season the meat generously on all sides.  Melt the butter and safflower oil in the bottom of a dutch oven and sear the roast on all sides.

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and pour atop the roast.  Add enough water to come about two thirds up the roast.  Cover and roast and place in the oven.  Turn the roast every hour or so and cook to desired temperature.  Should braise for 3 hours or so.  Remove from the pan and allow to sit for fifteen minutes or so before slicing.  Tonight I am making hot roast pork loin sandwiches and home fries for Brian's supper.

Later for sandwiches shred the pork and reduce the liquid before adding your favorite BBQ sauce and the meat back and simmering.  Serve on buns or rye bread with onions and dill pickles.

Oven Dried Tomatoes:

Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Slice washed tomatoes about 1/4" thick and place on parchment paper.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with a few droplets of olive oil.   Roast until the desired dryness is achieved, about 2-3 hours at 300 degrees F.  Cool and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.  These are not dry enough to leave at room temperature. 


End of the Garden Vegetable Beef Soup, by Request

Delicious, spicy, sweet, and so good for you soup.
This morning our middle son Mike called with a special request.  Katie our 13 year old Granddaughter awoke with a temperature and he thought that her  Grandma's soup was just what was needed.  He asked if I had everything I needed to make it and I assured him I did,  knowing that last evening I had just about finished off the better part of the garden picking a 5 pound box of green beans, onions, tomatoes, and peppers.

Diced and shredded fresh vegetables from the garden.
My mind flashed to the package of meaty beef shanks I had bought and frozen for just such a time.  Then there are the frozen containers I have put back full of "dibby-dabs" of leftover corn I cut from the cob, peas, and assorted vegetables.  I keep barley in the freezer as well as brown rice and cheese rinds I drop in pots of soup to add wonderful flavor them.  So I answered, "Yes, I've got it covered Mike."  A few minutes ago I texted him (Yes, can you believe it!  I text?) to say it is done and ready for pick up anytime.

"Dibby-dabs" I have frozen for soup.
Ingredients for "End of the Garden Vegetable Beef Soup" Soup:

2 meaty beef shanks, about 2 pounds
3 onions, one diced the other two halved
1 head of garlic
1/2 of a bunch of celery, use the top 4-5" with the leaves in the beef stock and dice the rest
10  small to medium carrots, wash and break 3-4 for the stock, peel and slice the rest
1/2 head of small to medium cabbage shredded
2 turnips peeled and diced
5 medium potatoes peeled and diced
2 hot peppers leave whole
1 yellow or red bell pepper seeded and diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. black pepper corns
2 t. kosher salt
2 C. peas
3 C. green beans
3 C. corn
8-10 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and quartered
1/4 C. barley
1/4 C. brown rice
8 C. beef stock, granulated beef stock, or bullion cubes with water to mix
any other vegetables or beans you like or have on hand
any hard cheese rinds you may have saved (rinds from Parmesan cheese is ideal)

Meaty Beef Shanks Simmering with Seasonings and Vegetables Form the Stock.
The Stock:

Place the beef shanks, 2 halved onions, head of garlic, celery tops, broken carrots, hot peppers, bay leaves, black pepper corns, and salt in a large stock pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a medium simmer and cover.  Cook for 2-3 hours or until the meat is fork tender.  Remove the meat and set aside to cool.  Strain the broth and either pitch the spent vegetables and seasoning or puree them in a processor for thickening.  I usually pitch them.

The Soup:

Return the broth to the large kettle and add all of the remaining ingredients.  Pick the cooled meat to remove any fat or gristle and shred it into bite sized portions.  If you need additional liquid add water.  Taste for seasoning and add salt pepper and fortify as needed with beef bullion.  I often add a tablespoon of sugar and additional hot sauce until if tastes just the way we like it. Bring to a boil then simmer over low heat until all of the vegetables are tender and the flavors are melded.  Serve steaming hot with crisp crackers. 

Um-Um Good.
This soup just gets better as it sits and my husband often comments it is better days later when I serve it again.  You can also freeze or share with family and friends because I am certain the yield is at least 6 quarts as stated.

Note this could also be made in a slow cooker by just assembling everything and leaving it to cook all of the day.


Maple Pecan Yummies (A Frosted Drop Cookie)

A day seldom goes by that I don't visit a blog called  and I have enjoyed it each and every time!  This cookie recipe was adapted from them and is now in my stack of favorite cookies recipes.  It makes a soft but chewy maple flavored cookie chocked full of nuts with maple frosting crowned with a whole pecan.  You could of course omit the nuts or use another type of nut but this suits me to a T.  Hum, maple walnut sounds good too!

Ingredients for Maple Pecan Yummies:

1/2 C. soft butter
1/2 C. packed dark brown sugar
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 C. pure maple syrup (the real stuff)
1 large egg yolk
1/2 t. pure vanilla
2 C. flour
1/2 C. chopped pecans or nuts of your choice (optional)

Ingredients for Maple Frosting:

3 T. soft butter
1/4 C. heavy cream
1/2 t. maple extract
2 C. powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare pans with parchment, silpat mats, or lightly grease cookie sheets and set aside.

Beat the soft butter in a mixing bowl with an electric beater for about a half of a minute then add the sugar, soda, and salt.  Beat until combines scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Add syrup, egg, and vanilla and beat well.  Slowly add in the flour until mixed then fold in the nuts.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2" apart on the prepared pans and bake 8-10 minutes.  Cool completely before frosting. 

Frosting:  Combine all of the ingredients in a deep mixing bowl.  Beat until smooth and frost the cookies.  Add a pecan half to the center of each and let sit until the frosting hardens a bit.  Yield 3 dozen cookies.

Note:  I was short frosting for the last 5 cookies but had some leftover vanilla frosting in the refrigerator.  I added a few drops of the maple extract and stirred well and it worked great.
So, you could just add maple flavor to canned vanilla frosting and it would work just fine. It is good to have options.


Grape Jelly, The Old Fashioned Way, Cooked and Canned at Home for the BIGGEST Flavor.

Beautiful Blue-Black Concord Grapes for Jelly or Jam
I am so excited!!  I just found Concord Grapes!  I have tried to buy them every fall for at least the last three years and not gotten any.  So when I saw these at of all places WalMart I bought 4 boxes and hoped for the best.  I may go back tomorrow and check for more!!!

To Prepare the Juice:

I checked my pectin box and the Ball Blue Book and both called for 3-3 1/2 pounds of grapes.  These were sold by the dry quart measure but I am guessing close to or just under a pound apiece.  so with 4 I purchased there should be just enough for a recipe yielding 8 cups of delicious grape jelly.

First the grapes need to be washed then removed from the stems and crushed and placed into a large heavy bottomed kettle.   Add 1 1/2 Cups of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook gently until the fruit has softened, about 10 minutes for soft fruit such as grapes.

Place three layers of cheese cloth in a large mixing bowl with the edges extending well outside of the bowl.  Pour carefully the grape juice and pulp into the center of the fabric.  Gather the overlapping fabric together to form a sack and tie securely with butcher twine.  I use the handle from my upper kitchen cabinets and secure the bag to it and relocate the bowl directly beneath to catch the juice as it drains from the pulp.  Let this hang undisturbed until no juice is dripping.  If you are tempted to squeeze the bag it is permissible but your jelly will NOT be clear.  I do not squeeze it at all.

To Prepare the Jars:

Wash and sterilize the jars and lids to  have enough for 8-9 cups of jelly.  Keep the lids and bands in simmering water until you are ready to use them.  Stack the clean sterile jars in the rack of the cold packer and hook the rack across the rim of the pan and bring the water to a boil beneath the jars to keep them hot.  Keep another kettle of water simmering in case you need to add additional water to the bath to process.  The boiling water will need to cover the filled jars by at least 1" .

To Make Grape Jelly:

Once the juice is ready measure it.  Place 5 C. pure grape juice into  a large pan.  You may add up to 1/2 C. water if needed to make up any shortage of liquid.  Add the pectin and 1/2 teaspoon of butter to keep the foam to a minimum.  Using another medium sized bowl measure 7 C. of sugar and set aside for now.

Bring the juice to a full rolling boil (one you cannot stir down) while stirring.  Add the sugar all at once to the juice stirring until dissolved over high heat.  Bring back to a full boil stirring constantly.  Boil for exactly 1 minute.   Remove from the heat.  Skim off any foam if necessary.  Ladle hot jelly into hot jars leaving 1/4" head space.  Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and adjust the two piece caps firmly.  Process 5 minutes in boiling water canner.

Remove the rack from the bath and hook over the edge of the bottom pan and leave for 5 minutes.  Then lift the rack and cans out and onto a folded layer of towel.  Remove each jar carefully onto a tea towel and leave undisturbed for at least 24 hours.  Store in a dark cool place for 1 year.   I yielded 9 and 1/2 cups of jelly.

I find that jelly made this way is so much more flavorful and fragrant than purchased varieties.  I suspect they water down the juice to produce more but then I don't know that for sure.  It is just my opinion. 


Chocolate Raspberry French Silk Bars, These Are Unbelievable.

I have been away for a few days and as usual I have made a delicious discovery on my journey and was fortunate enough to have been given the recipe to share with you.  The recipe was from a Feb. 2010 issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

I have adapted it a bit for ease as I found the recipe confusing as it was given.  It is a bit labor intensive and you do dirty up a few dished but the end result it well worth it.  I would tell you if it were not so.  These smooth creamy bars absolutely melt in your mouth with a velvet chocolate raspberry intensity I find hard to describe properly.  You just have to try them!

Ingredients for Chocolate Raspberry French Silk Bars:

The Crumb Crust:

2 C. finely crushed chocolate cookies (about 38 cookies)
1/4 C. flour
2 T. sugar
1/2  C. melted butter

The Filling:

1 C. whipping cream
1/2 C. chopped semi sweet chocolate or chips (3 ounces)
1/2 C. chopped bitter sweet chocolate or chips (3 ounces)
1/3 C. sugar
1/3 C. butter
2 egg yolks beaten
3 T. Creme De Cacao  or whipping cream
1/2 C. raspberry preserves or seedless jam
fresh raspberries for garnish, optional

Raspberry Ganache:

1 C. chopped semi sweet chocolate
1/3 C. whipping cream
1 T. seedless raspberry jam

DIRECTIONS;  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and line a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan with foil.  Extend the foil over all of the edges of the pan well and fold over.  Set aside.

Make the crumb crust by combining all of the ingredients and mixing until well blended.  Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the foil lined pan and extend the crumbs up slightly around the edges.  Press lightly to firm them.  Bake for about 10 minutes until set.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile make the filling:  Using a heavy medium saucepan combine whipping cream, chocolates, sugar, and butter.  Cook over low heat about 10 minutes or until all is melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat.  VERY gradually stir in half of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks stirring the whole while as you do so.  Add all of the combined egg yolk mixture back into the remaining chocolate in the pan.  Cook and stir over medium low heat for about 5 minutes until slightly thickened and bubbly.

Remove from the heat. (Mixture may appear slightly curdled.)  Stir in the Creme De Cacao or cream.  Place the saucepan in a bowl of ice water.  Let it stand to cool stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes until the mixture hardens and is hard to stir.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

Spread the first amount of raspberry preserves over the cooled crumb crust.  Beat the chocolate filling mixture with an electric mixer on medium high speed for 2-3 minutes until it becomes light and fluffy.  Spread the beaten filling over the preserves evenly, cover and chill for 1-2 hours until firm. 

Prepare the ganache:   In a large glass measuring cup combine the chocolate, cream, and last amount of jam.  Microwave on high heat for 1 minute at 100% power.  Stir and heat again in 30 second increments stirring each time until melted.  Let this stand and cool at room temperature for 1 hour until slightly thickened.  Spoon the raspberry ganache over the top evenly,  spreading gently as you go.  Chill -1-2 hours or more until firm. 

Using the edges of the foil lift off the uncut bars from the pan.  Cut into bars.  Garnish with fresh raspberries if desired.  Keep refrigerated until immediately before serving.   Yield 32 bars that absolutely melt in your mouth!

MEAL IN A BASKET, Pasta Soup Mix and Aunt Betty's 1-2-3 Cake in a Mug Mix for a Gift Box

A lot of you may recall my Godson Jacob was in a terrible accident about 200 days ago and remains in a coma although he is much improved and slowly is progressing.  We watch and pray as we see him "emerge" a tiny bit at a time.  He is now home and my sister works days and my brother-in-law works nights and they now provide 24 hour a day care for him with medications and every 4 hours, 24-7.   Friends and family are helping with meals and because I am 4 hours away I thought this might be a nice fill in to pack up and send to them.

I do not know where I got this.  I have it hand written with my recipes and think it is a great soup starter and lends itself to adding any additional meat or vegetables you might like to add.

I am including in my "CARE PACKAGE" a batch of Aunt Betty's !-2-3 Cake mix in a Mug.  This should work nicely.

Ingredients for Pasta Soup Mix:

2 T. dried basil
1 t. Herbs De Provence
1/2 t. celery salt
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 C. dried onion bits
1/3 C. beef bouillon granules
3 1/2 C. tri-color pasta
1 quart glass jar

Fill the bottom of the jar with the seasonings as listed then add the pasta on top to fill the jar.  Attach or enclose these directions to complete the recipe:  (I also included a can of crushed tomatoes in my basket.)

Bring 8 C. of water and 2 C. crushed or diced tomatoes to a boil in a large kettle.   Add the soup mix from the jar and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes until the pasta is tender.
For a heartier meal add any cooked poultry or meat on hand to the soup.   (Or brown and drain ground beef or sausage.)  You may also add additional cooked vegetables on hand as desired.  Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.

A jar of home canned tomatoes, purchased or fresh tomatoes from your garden would make a lovely presentation.  I added a batch of Aunt Betty's 1-2-3 Cake in a Mug mix for any sweet tooth!  A bit of scrap fabric to decorate the jar, a paper market basket and red tissue paper helped fill the basket.  I stopped at the market on the way and added a few pieces of fresh fruit to finish off my package.  (I tried fitting in 2 big mugs which would have been fun to serve the soup and/or the cake from but they were too large to fit in my basket, but it might work for you.)

To make Aunt Betty's 1-2-3 Cake mix purchase any Angel Food Cake Mix (I like Duncan Hinds mixes the best,) and another cake mix of any flavor you like and mix them together in a large plastic bag to combine.  Place 3 tablespoons of the combined mix in a large mug and add 2 tablespoons of water.  Stir until just combined, do not over mix.  Microwave one minute on high then serve warm.  Many have noted they add choc chips, frosting, whipped toppings and more and love this relatively low calorie treat.

 I first gave this recipe in November 2011.  There are many many comments and additional variations given by readers.   If you would like to view them type "Aunt Betty's 1-2-3 Cake" in the finder box in the lower right margin of the blogs first page.


Freezing Green Beans from the Garden

At home Mother and we three girls canned green beans.  I have since certainly canned my share of green beans!  But, in the last few years I have come to remember that my Grandma Neukam would cook up a big "mess"(as she called them) of string beans and then freeze the leftovers for a future meal or for soups and stews.   After purchasing frozen green beans on sale at the grocery I found it was all in how I cooked them as to how they would be received at the dinner table by our family.

I started thinking it would be wise to just freeze assorted sizes of packages of green beans as I picked them for assorted uses instead of the whole big "rig-a-morrow" of canning.

This season I have been doing just that by picking the beans, washing and breaking them, then blanching for 3 full minutes in boiling water*, plunging the beans into ice water, then draining once more.  Finally I package them in assorted sizes of  heavy duty freezer bags and tuck them away into the deep freeze.

* I add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water to help the color and I time the 3 full minutes after the water has resumed a rolling boil.

There are those who prefer it one way or another but for me, this is working out just fine.

To cook the beans as a side dish I fry 3-4 strips of diced bacon until crisp and add 1/2 of a diced onion cooking 4 minutes or so.   Then I add the frozen or thawed green beans to the hot skillet and stir fry 3-4 more minutes in the hot bacon fat.  Next, add about chicken stock to the pan to about a half inch depth, season well, reduce the heat, cover and let simmer about 20 minutes. 

To use in soups or stews just drop the frozen beans into the cooking liquid at the same time you are adding the other vegetables and cook as you normally would.

Much faster and easier than canning! Enjoy!


Chocolate Icebox Pie

This is a pie recipe I saw on the King Arthur website and have adapted for this evenings dessert.  We love chocolate and this is a light and airy version that is cool and refreshing.   It goes well I think with the two main courses today, spaghetti with meat sauce and spaghetti with shrimp and pesto.

We have family members who don't care for regular spaghetti and meat sauce and some who would never eat shrimp so it works out especially well for those of us who love both!

Ingredients for Chocolate Icebox Pie:

The Crust:

1 1/4 C. crushed graham crackers or chocolate wafers
1/4 C. sugar

1/4 t. cinnamon
5 T. melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 9" pie plate and set it aside.

Combine all of the ingredients well and pat into the pie plate.  Place in the freezer for 15 minutes then bake for 8-10 minutes.  Do not over brown.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

The Filling:

1/3 C. hot water  (or coffee)
2 T. Dark Cocoa
1 T. vanilla
1/2 T. espresso powder  (omit if using coffee)
1 1/3 C. bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 C. heavy cream
1 T. sugar
pinch of salt

Combine the hot water and espresso powder or coffee, the cocoa, and vanilla then stir until dissolved in a small cup.  Set aside.

Microwave the chocolate for 1 minute and stir.  Microwave an additional 30 seconds and stir again.  Continue at 15-20 second intervals and stirring until the chocolate is completely smooth.  Let this cool.

After the chocolate has cooled whip the cream with the sugar and salt until stiff peaks form. 

Stir the cocoa mixture into the chocolate until well combined.

Using a whisk by hand, fold the chocolate mixture into the cream until no white streaks remain.

Spread the filling evenly into the cooled crust and refrigerate.

This pie can stand alone as it is or you may wish to top with whipped cream.

The Topping:

1 C. heavy cream
2 T. powdered sugar

Whip the cream and sugar together until soft peaks form then refrigerate.  Top each slice with a dollop of cream as you serve the pie.

This pie should be refrigerated for at least 1 hour before serving.  Yield one 9" pie,  8-10 servings.

Caramel Apples & My Granddaughters

Mike our middle son just called and said they would love to come for candy apples and did I have the stuff to make them?  You cannot imagine how happy it makes me when my children and grandchildren want to come here to make something!  The sense of peace to be able to say with no hesitation, "Sure I have everything we will need, come ahead."

Saturday with no warning became such a day!  Mike offered to go by the store to pick up anything additionally we might need.  Then soon he and Emily, followed shortly by Katie, were here twirling shinny red apples on Popsicle sticks through warm oozing caramel.

Soon a dozen treats stood hoping for a cooler season to welcome fall as the rains of the tired hurricane, whimpered thorough southern Indiana. 

Ingredients for Caramel Apples:

12 small to medium juicy crisp apples washed and dried (Today we used Johnathan's.)
2 pounds of caramel ( I order 5 pound blocks from King Arthur Flour company during the cool months and keep on hand or use Kraft Caramel bits.)
12 sticks
2 C. crushed pretzels
2 C. mini chocolate chips

The most fool proof method I have found for this is to use one of the small 1 quart crock pots commonly used these days for hot dips.  Just chunk up the caramel into uniform pieces, cover and turn on.  Occasionally stir well.  I find it takes 45 minutes or so but the caramel is perfectly melted and is much safer for youngsters to handle than a hot pan at the stove. 

Wash, dry well, and insert the sticks into the stem end securely of each apple.  Set them aside on sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper.  If you have neither butter well a cookie sheet.

Meanwhile place the pretzels in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin or a can.  Place the toppings you choose into flat shallow containers like soup bowls or pie dishes.

Now for the fun!!  Twirl the apples in the warm caramel to coat.  You may tip the container a bit when the caramel gets low to coat well.  Using a flat edge scrape the excess from the bottom of each apple before rolling it in a topping.  Then sit the finished treat aside on the paper or buttered pan to cool and harden.

If the caramel slides down from the top of the apple around the stick, simply use a small spoon to ladle a bit more caramel in place.

My but these look good enough to eat!!  Plan to let them sit overnight to harden back up unless you have room to refrigerate them.


Ten Minutes & Dinners Done! Chicken and Vegetables Alfredo.

Some days I just do not want to cook, don't want the mess.  Some days I just don't want to go out and I sure don't want carry out.  What to do?  The solution it seems is look at what I have and make something from the resources at hand.  Friday night was just such a night.  The trick is to not have it seem like what you are serving or for that matter what you are eating is thrown together even thought that is just the case.

I am not usually a big proponent of packaged anything.  The exceptions are few but I do like Knorr Alfredo Sauce Mix and usually have a package or two laid back.  This coupled with cooking spaghetti or your favorite pasta can be your road to success. 

Ingredients for my 10 minute dinner, based on what I found in the refrigerator:

8 ounces spaghetti or other pasta
1 package Knorr Alfredo sauce mix
1 3/4 C. milk
1 T. butter
1 leftover grilled chicken breast
1/4 C. broccoli, previously blanched
1 1/2 C. sugar snap peas, previously blanched
1 1/2 C. cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste as desired

Heat the pasta water and cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Meanwhile prepare the cheese sauce using the milk and butter and reduce to the lowest heat to keep warm.  Place the chicken, broccoli and peas on a microwave safe plate and cover with a very damp paper towel.  Warm up on medium or medium low heat until warmed throughout.  This took about 6-8 minutes.

When it is time to drain the pasta add the tomatoes to the boiling pan then drain them with the pasta.  This will heat them perfectly.  Arrange the warm pasta, vegetables and chicken in a large serving dish and pour the cheese sauce over all.  Yield 3-4 servings.

Note:  I often blanch vegetables to keep them longer when I sense it needs to be done.  That is how I came to have the broccoli and sugar snap peas blanched.  Blanching means to plunge into boiling water then to remove them after a minute or two and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking, resulting in bright color and a tender crisp product.  Blanching can be part of the process of freezing a vegetable or fruit.  Earlier in the week I blanched string beans for freezing and then did the same with the broccoli and snap peas using the same boiling water.  You just want to use the water for the darkest colored vegetables last.  I also drain them well before putting them away either in the freezer or the refrigerator.  With prices set to skyrocket it pays to use everything you have at hand as well as you can.