Butter Pecan Praline Cake!

This "Butter Pecan Praline Cake" is a really moist cake and even though it starts with a cake mix and...heaven forbid, 'canned frosting'...it's absolutely delicious!   Now if you are a cake mix snob, when means you are definitely a canned frosting snob also, this recipe might not be for you! 
 For those of you who have no idea what a 'cake mix snob' is, it's those people who send me comments on recipes that use a cake mix that say things like,  "I cannot believe you use a cake mix for this cake" or "My mama makes this from scratch, never with a cake mix"  or "We would NEVER make a cake with a cake mix"!   I take all of this with a grain of salt, because I know it's just a lot of folks wanting to talk!  If you follow this blog much at all, you know most of the cakes are from scratch and for some of the great southern classics that is how it should be.  However, there are some great recipes for cakes and other desserts that start with an actual cake mix, so never be ashamed of that! 
If you make this cake and serve it to guests or take it to a potluck or family dinner, I guarantee, no one will ever say, "I bet that's a cake mix"!  This cake tastes just that good!!!  Here is what you will need for this wonderful cake:
1 box butter pecan cake mix
2 (16 oz.) cans coconut pecan frosting, divided
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cake mix, 1 can of frosting, eggs, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, water, pecans, and 1 tsp. of the vanilla together until well blended. 
Spray a 10 cup Bundt pan liberally with nonstick baking spray.  Use the type that contains flour.  I like Baker's Joy and use it almost exclusively for baking.   If you don't have the baking spray, use shortening and flour to liberally grease the pan all over.   I am stressing this step, because this cake is very moist and has a tendency to stick if you do not grease and flour your pan well. 
This is the cake mix and frosting I used, if you are not familiar with it!

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and place in the preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes.  Test with a pick inserted in the center.  If it comes out clean, it's done.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes before inverting onto a cake plate.
You can serve the cake plain, right out of the pan as is, or why not kick it up a notch or two!  Place the other can of frosting after opening it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or just until warm.  Be sure to remove all of the foil that is on top of the can or you will have fireworks in the microwave.  Don't even ask how I know this...lol!   Stir the other teaspoon of vanilla into the frosting and then spoon it evenly over the cake. 
Slice and serve while the frosting is still warm and it's wonderful!  This cake just gets more moist as it sits if you keep it covered tightly!

My Favorite Pumpkin Recipes!

Today is National Pumpkin Day, so it's only fitting that I feature some of my favorite pumpkin recipes!   Pumpkin is an ingredient that some love and some just do not care for, but many of these recipes will make even your biggest pumpkin hater learn to love it! 

Baking with pumpkin so that it's really tasty has several keys to it.  First of all, you need to season pumpkin well, but not over do it at the same time.  That sounds very contradictory, right?  What I mean is go a little heavier on the cinnamon and a little lighter on things like nutmeg and ginger or better yet, use pumpkin pie spice instead.  Pumpkin pie spice is your friend, because it is a combination of all of those stronger spices in just the right blend so they don't just choke you to death when you try to eat it. 

Don't get me wrong, I love a hint of cloves, a touch of ginger, quite a bit of cinnamon, a pinch of allspice and a very little bit of nutmeg.   In case I haven't mentioned it, I do not like nutmeg much at all.  There is just something about it that doesn't taste good to me if it is used alone or too much.  However, if you balance it with a lot of cinnamon and a bit of other  seasonings it becomes something good.  So, invest in that little can of pumpkin pie spice and use it when a recipe calls for nutmeg and ginger and such.   Be sure to use only fresh pumpkin pie spice.  If it doesn't still smell very fragrant, throw it out.  I would say a new one each Fall is in order.  The other thing about cooking with pumpkin is not to over do the pumpkin in a recipe, a little goes a long way.

Click the link under each picture for the recipes:



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!!!

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! 

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!

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! 

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!

Pizza Noodle Bake!

This "Pizza Noodle Bake" is a really easy and budget friendly casserole that feeds a crowd and even your picky eaters will love!  Add a salad and maybe some bread and dinner is served!  I think we all need a few 'go to' recipes like this when we just want something homemade, but do not have hours of time to be in the kitchen!  Here is what you will need:
1 (10 oz.) bag of wide egg noodles, cooked al dente and drained 
1 -  1 1/2 pounds ground chuck or ground beef
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
2 (15 oz.) cans or jars of pizza sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 can mushroom pieces, drained (optional)
8 oz. sliced pepperoni
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
8 oz. shredded Mozzarella cheese
Cook the noodles according to the package directions minus a minute or two.  Brown the ground chuck or beef in a skillet along with the onion and green pepper.  Drain any excess grease.  Add pizza sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, basil and garlic powder.   Stir to combine.  Add the mushroom pieces if you are using them.  If your family doesn't like mushrooms, leave them out!
Drain the noodles and layer half of them in a 9"x13" baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.   Layer half of the meat and sauce, half of the pepperoni and half of the cheeses. 
Repeat all of the layers one more time, ending in cheese. 
Cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes or just until the top is starting to brown.
Serve with a salad and garlic bread or bread sticks and dinner is served!  Kids and men love this one!  Even your pickiest eaters will love it!
If you are cooking for two or lighter eaters,  put this in two 9"x9" baking dishes and bake one and freeze the other one for a night when you don't have time to cook!   To bake the frozen casserole, remove from the freezer about 30 minutes to an hour before baking.  Leave covered with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 15 minutes!  It will be just as good as the first one was!

Cherry Almond Cobbler!

My husband's favorite dessert is cherry anything...cobbler, pie, anything cherry.  When his mother was still with us, she always made him a cherry cobbler for his birthday instead of a birthday cake, by his request.   He just had a birthday, so this "Cherry Almond Cobbler" was his birthday treat!  While I am sure it was not as good as his mother's and we all wish she could still be here to make it for him, he did say it passed the test in yumminess!   This is super easy to make and the hint of almond flavor really goes well with the cherries!  Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup self rising flour
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. almond flavoring
2 (21 oz.) cans cherry pie filling
1 cup sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a 9"x13" baking pan, melt the butter. In a bowl mix the sugar, milk, flour, vanilla and almond flavoring.   Pour that evenly over the butter.  DO NOT STIR or MIX.
Spoon the cherry pie filling evenly over the batter.  DO NOT STIR.  Sprinkle the top with the sliced almonds.  Place in the preheated 350 degree oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until brown. 
Serve slightly warm with ice cream or whipped cream!  It's so yummy!

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes!

This is a really simple recipe, but the combination of ingredients makes it so tasty!  These are good with almost any main course...pork, chicken, or beef!   I grow most of my own herbs and I usually always have tons of rosemary so I like to incorporate it in as many dishes as I can.  I think it just adds the best flavor!   If you don't have fresh rosemary available, you can use dried, just use less.  Here is what you will need for this recipe:

5 cups of quartered or halved small red or Yukon yellow potatoes, skins left on
1 pkg. onion soup mix
1/4 cup olive or canola oil
1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped or 2 tsp. dried
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. Parsley

Wash the potatoes and depending on how big they are, quarter them or halve them. Leave the skins on.  Place them in a zip lock bag with 1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil, 1 package onion soup mix and the chopped rosemary.  Make sure the bag is zipped and shake the mixture with the potatoes.  Place in a baking dish in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes, turning them over once at 20 minutes. 
 When they come out of the oven sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and Parsley!




Lemon Bread!

This time of year, when the temperatures start to come down enough to turn the oven back on, I get in the mood for baking again!  As I have said before, I love lemony desserts...pies, cookies, cakes and now this "Lemon Bread"!   Breads are nice for those who don't want a ton of sugar, but just want something with a little sweet taste.  This "Lemon Bread" has just a hint of lemon flavor and is not overly sweet!   It's perfect for breakfast or with a good cup of coffee or a tall glass of cold milk as an after school snack for the children!    Here is what you will need for this delicious bread:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or shortening
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon flavoring (if you don't have lemon flavoring, add another tsp. lemon zest)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup confectioner's sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl cream together the sugar and the butter or shortening.   Mix in the eggs and milk.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.   Add this to the wet ingredients along with the lemon zest, lemon flavoring and vanilla flavoring.  Beat just until well combined.  Fold in the pecans.
Spray a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan with nonstick baking spray.   Pour the batter in the pan and place in the preheated oven.   Bake for 55 minutes to an hour. 
Mix the confectioners sugar with the 3 Tbs. lemon juice and  pour over the bread  as soon as it's out of the oven and while it's still in the pan.   Allow the bread to cool in the pan for about 30 minutes. 
Remove the bread from the pan and slice. You might need to run a sharp knife around the edges of the loaf pan to loosen it.   This is good served slightly warm!
This is good served plain, with a little butter or even better, some whipped cream cheese!