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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes!

This time of year just calls for recipes using pumpkin...pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads, pumpkin muffins or cupcakes.  I was in the mood for pancakes and just happened to have some pumpkin left from some other pumpkin creation I had recently made and I decided to make these "Pumpkin Spice Pancakes"!   All I can say is "WOW", I am so glad I did!!!  This was the absolute best pumpkin recipe I think I have eaten this Fall so far!  Maybe I was just in the mood for it, but the results were better than even I imagined they would be.  Here is what you will need:
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sugar
1  1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 Tbs. vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla
Maple syrup
whipped cream
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar.  Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the milk, beaten eggs, oil, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Stir together just until well blended.   If the batter is too thick add just a little more milk.  Let the batter sit for about 15 - 20 minutes before using it.  It will rise and thicken up a little and it makes the pancakes fluffier. 
Heat vegetable or canola oil on a griddle or a large skillet with a flat bottom.  The oil should sizzle when it's hot enough.  I use an ice cream scoop and place two full scoops for each pancake.  When bubbles form on the top of each pancake, carefully flip them over and brown on the other side.  Make sure to leave them in long enough to cook the middle of the pancake.  Because of the pumpkin these tend to be a little denser than a plain pancake and take just a few more minutes to cook through.  Remove to a serving plate.
These are perfect with warm maple syrup...
...and if you want to go really decadent with it, add a dollop of whipped cream!  Yummy!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Ramen Pepper Steak Soup!

There is not a lot I like about the weather turning cooler, because as some of you know I am a lover of Spring and Summer and wish we had that weather year round.  However, I do like some of the foods we tend to cook more when the weather cools and soup is one of those foods.  We love soup in our family and tend to make some type of soup at least once a week, sometimes more.  We have our old favorites, but I like to experiment and try some new things also.   I came up with this "Ramen Pepper Steak Soup", because I had two of those huge boxes of Ramen noodles in both chicken and beef flavors and was trying to think of ways to use them.
Here is what you will need for this:
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter 
1  1/2 to 2 pounds top round or sirloin steak
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 medium size sweet onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper diced
3 stalks celery, sliced thin
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced (optional)
2 (10.5 oz.) cans beef consommé or beef broth
2 pkgs. beef flavored Ramen Noodles
6 cups water
1/2 tsp. ginger
2 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce
pinch of red pepper (optional)
1 (8 oz.) can of sliced water chestnuts (optional)
Place the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat.  Slice the steak in thin strips as you would for Pepper Steak or Stroganoff.   Place in the hot oil.  Sprinkle the steak with the pepper and seasoned salt.   Saute until it is just starting to brown. 
Add the garlic, onion, green and red pepper, celery and mushrooms, if you are using them.   The mushrooms are really good in this, but I know a lot of people do not care for them, so omit them if that is the case and it's still really good.   Saute the vegetables and meat just until the vegetables are starting to soften some.  Don't overcook, because this will simmer more.  Add the two cans of consomm√© or beef broth and the seasoning packets from the Ramen noodles plus two cups of the water.   Turn heat to low and simmer for 1 hour covered.  Stir occasionally.
After it simmers for an hour and the meat is tender add the rest of the water, 4 cups, the Ramen noodles, the ginger, Teriyaki sauce and a pinch of red pepper, if you like a little touch of heat.  Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and just cook until the noodles are done, about 5-6 minutes. 
This is really good served with egg rolls or spring rolls! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hot Ham and Cheese Crescents!

These bundles of cheesy goodness are delicious for lunch or a quick supper or to go with soup or a salad!  They are also good for a casual party or for game day snacking! We even eat them leftover for breakfast!  They are so easy, I almost didn't even post them, but we all need an easy recipe every now and then and sometimes those are the ones everybody goes crazy for!  Here is what you will need for these:
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1Tbs. dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard (could use yellow mustard)
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls ( I used Pillsbury Grands Crescent Rolls, but regular works fine also)
1 cup finely chopped cooked ham
1 /2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbs. poppy seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, dry ranch dressing mix, and mustard.  Open the crescent rolls and separate into triangles.  Spread each  one with about a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with chopped ham and a little of each of the cheeses.   Roll up starting at the widest end into a crescent!  Place on a cookie sheet or pizza pan that has been sprayed lightly with nonstick spray.  Sprinkle each one with poppy seeds, if you are using them.  These are mainly for looks and if you don't have them, they taste just as good without
Place in a 375 degree oven on the center rack for about 10 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. 
Remove with a spatula and serve immediately!
These are actually good reheated the next day for breakfast or lunch also!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies!

I love making sugar cookies for the holidays!  It's something my son and I did together when he was  a little boy!  We had many great discussions over our sugar cookie projects!   I will never forget one year when we made some ornaments for our 'country Christmas tree' that looked like sugar cookies, but they weren't edible, they got hard as a rock and you put tons of cinnamon in them so when you hung them on the tree they gave off this great cinnamon aroma.   You put a hole in top of them before you baked them and then put a ribbon through it. 
At the same time we were also making a batch of edible sugar cookies.  We had them all out on the counter and table to cool and my brother-in-law stopped by the house.   He reached for one of the 'hard as a rock' ornaments and took a big bite of it before I noticed him.  My son's eyes got as big as saucers and he said, "Mama he is eating the Christmas tree ornaments!!!"    I was just glad he didn't break a tooth!   We all had fun over that one! 
The key to good rolled sugar cookies that you can cut out, is getting a dough that is stiff enough to hold up and be able to cut, but still remains soft and cakelike after it's baked.  This is one of the best recipes I have tried for this.  It did take some experimentation to get it this way though.  Here is what you will need:
1  1/2 cups butter, softened
2  1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring
5  1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth.  Beat in the eggs.  Add in the vanilla and almond flavoring.  You can substitute a tsp. of lemon flavoring for the almond for a bit different flavor.  They are both really good.  Gradually mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt.   Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. 
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Work with 1/4 of the dough at a time.  Place the rest in the fridge to stay cold while you roll and cut what you have out.   Sprinkle flour on a sheet of wax paper and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick.   Cut the dough in with cookie cutter you have dipped in flour.  This helps the dough release.   This dough is a little sticky and it gets stickier as it warms up so you have to move fast.  If it feels sticky, spread it with a little flour on the surface.   Place the cut cookies on a cookie sheet cover with ungreased parchment paper about 1 inch apart.  
When all of the cookies are cut, place in the oven for 6-8 minutes.  These cookies do puff up a little, but as they cool they will come back down some.  This is what gives them their soft cakelike texture.  When they are just starting to brown, remove cookie sheet and allow cookies to cool completely. 
You can decorate with sprinkles or colored sugar which is applied before baking or an icing which can be colored to suit the season.  Here is what you need for the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring
Stir together until smoother and with a pastry brush, paint it on the cookies as a glaze.  You can add food coloring for whatever color you desire.   It looks shiny like this and sort of sets up as it dries! 
These are delicious and fun cookies to make for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day or Easter..really any holiday you want to make cookies for! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Chess Squares!

These "Pumpkin Spice Chess Squares"  taste just like Fall should taste!  They have just a bit of pumpkin and a hint of spice that makes them so yummy!   This is an adaptation of the original recipe for what we have always called Chess Squares and have been making for years.  That basic recipe can be adapted in various ways to create so many great flavors!  This would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu!   Here is what you will need:
1 (15.25 oz.) yellow or butter cake mix
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
1 egg
1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1  (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
3 cups confectioner's sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the butter, cake mix and egg together and press it into the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish you have sprayed with nonstick baking spray.
Beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and pumpkin pie spice.  Gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar until well combined. Pour over the crust.  Place in the preheated 350 degree oven for 40 -45 minutes!
The top will just be starting to crack a little. It might still look a little jiggly, but as it cools it will firm up.  Allow to cool completely before serving. 
Slice in squares and serve with a dollop of whipped cream!