Category Archives: recipes

Pumpkin Crumble Cake

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Greetings, dear readers!  In honor of Autumn, and the commencement of the “all things pumpkin” season, I’m sharing a recipe for a pumpkin cake today.  No, this is not a cake in the traditional sense of the word – it’s kind of a mixture of a pumpkin pie and a crumble topping.  However, it’s yummy no matter what it’s called.

I found this recipe on livelaughrowe.com, and it’s called Pumpkin Dump Cake on Ms. Rowe’s site. However, that name didn’t sound super appetizing to me, so I’ve renamed this treat Pumpkin Crumble Cake.  It’s easy to make and is scrumptious, and is a great way to embrace the fall season.

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Pumpkin Crumble Cake
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Ingredients

29 oz. can pumpkin
1 cup sugar
12 oz. can evaporated milk
3 eggs
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp salt
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup melted butter (next time I make this I’m going to try it with 1 cup instead)

 Instructions

1. Combine pumpkin, sugar, evaporated milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and salt
2. Beat well and pour into a greased 9″ x 13″ pan
3. Sprinkle cake mix over top, followed by the pecans
4. Pour melted butter over top
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes

Notes

Per livelaughrowe.com: Keep a close eye, burns easily or cover with foil after 30 minutes.
I followed her advice and covered the pan with foil after 30 minutes.  I baked the cake for 50 minutes total.

Serving Suggestions
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Okay, so I know the photo below looks a bit like stuffing, but it’s actually the Pumpkin Crumble Cake. Given that the pumpkin part on the bottom stays pretty soft, I figured that being able to plate a nice, tidy, clean-edged piece for a photo wasn’t going to happen.  So, I made a happy mound of pumkin-y, cakey, nutty goodness on the plate, and snapped away.  This is a great way to mix the flavors an textures anyway, and wouldn’t a bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream be spectacular on the top?  I think so, too.  :]

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Happy Autumn, and Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe

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Holy moly, these are good!  I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and had to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did.  Not only are these bars totally scrumptious, they’re quick and easy to make as well.  I love that combination in recipes.  :]

So far I’ve only made them with pecans, as called for in the recipe, but I’ll be making them with almonds next time.  And hmm, I wonder how they’d taste with some coconut in the mix – yummy, I’m sure!

Graham Cracker Toffee Bars Recipe
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Ingredients

  • Graham crackers (24 squares)
  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • optional 1 teaspoon of vanilla (I forgot to put this in – will have to try it next time)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, then lay down the graham crackers so they cover the entire cookie sheet. I used a 16″ x 12″ baking sheet and was able to fit four graham cracker squares across on each row.
  3. Melt butter using medium high heat. Add the brown sugar.
  4. Stir brown sugar into butter until melted. Bring to slight rolling boil.
  5. Cook and stir for two minutes. Add the chopped pecans.
  6. Pour mixture over graham crackers.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Cut while still warm.

Toffee_Bars2

This is what the pan of bars looked like when they were pulled from the oven – nice and bubbly.

If you give this recipe a try I hope you find it as easy and delicious as I did. Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Recipe: Ree’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

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It’s been a while since I posted my last recipe, so I thought I’d do a little baking and share the photos of what I made. I’d never made a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake before, and decided to give Ree Drummond’s recipe a try. Ree, also known as the Pioneer Woman, is a whiz in the kitchen.  I was sure her version of this cake would be yummy and it was!  This is the first cake I’ve ever made in a cast iron skillet, and was glad to be able to put my Lodge 12″ skillet to work.

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Ree Drummond’s Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
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Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 20-ounce can sliced pineapple,
2 tablespoons juice reserved
1 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
Maraschino cherries, stemmed (optional)

(Melody’s note: I used 1/4 stick more butter in place of the 1/4 cup shortening)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Make the cake batter: Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, 1/2 stick butter, the shortening, milk, eggs, vanilla and 2 tablespoons pineapple juice in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until well combined. (There will still be a few small lumps in the batter.) Set aside.

Melt the remaining 1/2 stick butter in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; swirl to thoroughly coat the skillet. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter, making sure it’s evenly distributed-you want the entire surface of the butter to be covered in brown sugar. Do not stir. As soon as the sugar dissolves, remove from the heat and layer the pineapple slices over the top. If desired, place maraschino cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices.

Pour the batter evenly over the pineapple slices and gently spread to even out the top. Bake the cake 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake, then put a plate upside down on top of the skillet. Carefully invert the skillet so the cake is turned onto the plate. It should come out pretty easily; if bits of cake stick to the skillet, use a small knife to patch it together. Let cool slightly before cutting into wedges. It’s best served warm.

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cut-cake

I hope you enjoy making and eating this yummy cake as much as I did. Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Banana Nut Bread Recipe

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I’m very particular about my bananas – I don’t like them too ripe.  Too many brown spots and I’ll pass, thank you!  However, ripe bananas are perfect for making banana bread, or banana nut bread.  My mom used to make banana nut bread pretty often when I was young, and it’s a yummy treat.  Today I’m sharing my Banana Nut Bread recipe, which can easily be made without the nuts.

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Banana Nut Bread Recipe
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Ingredients
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1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup mashed, ripe banana (approximately 2 bananas)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and then add the milk. Beat until smooth after each addition.  Add flour mixture and the banana alternately to creamed mixture, beating until smooth after each addition.  Add the walnuts, and stir until well mixed.

Turn the batter into a lightly greased 8″ x 4″ x 2″ loaf pan.  Bake for 60 – 65 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan; cool completely before slicing – if you can wait that long to have a slice!  Note: Your bread’s crust should probably be a bit lighter of a brown.  I missed my timer going off because I was shooting blog photos outside.  ;]

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Blog’s 3rd Birthday!

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Yep, it’s true.  My blog is now three years old! I launched my blog in August of 2010, and have been blogging away ever since.  I’ve really enjoyed creating art and craft projects to share with you.  I’ve also enjoyed baking up recipes to entice you with, and am happy to have shared some of my other interests and adventures with you as well.

From trips to hole-in-the-wall restaurants to far-flung locales like Peru and Ireland, I’ve posted some of my images and experiences getting out and about in the world.  What fun!

I’ve also posted about my furry baby bunnies, Cypress and Pinto, and have shared my goofy pet mom pictures of them taken at holidays like Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.

I’ve tried to make giveaways bountiful, because winning free things is so much fun!  Many of you have won goodies over the past three years, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them.

Now What?
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As I embark on my 4th year of blogging, I’d love to know: what would you like to see more of?

Fine art?  (Photography, collage, drawing, assemblage, etc.)
Crafts? (Card making, jewelry, gifts, tags, etc.)
Recipes? Do you prefer savory recipes, desserts, or both?
Giveaways? What are your favorite types? (Gift cards, books, art supplies, etc.)
Photo haikus?
Travel?
Ethnic markets?

I value your input, dear readers, and would appreciate you leaving a comment sharing some of the things you’d like to continue to see , and/or things you’d like me to consider adding or beefing up.

Onward!
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I’m looking forward to more shared creativity and fun. Thanks for following my blog!  I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. If you’d like to “give my blog a birthday gift”, please consider making a donation to my Art Supply Drive to benefit at-risk children.  Details here.  Thanks!  :]

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Savannah’s Starlight Cookie Bar Recipe

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As you may know, I published a collection of short stories earlier this year.  One of the stories in my book makes mention of a cookie bar recipe.  This particular story is set back in the 1800’s in New England.  The story’s main character is Savannah Forrester.  During the course of the story she develops a cookie bar recipe – one that she bakes for runaway slaves as they make their way through a local “station” of the Underground Railroad.  They’re running for their lives, and Savannah decides to sweeten their perilous journey with her baked goods.

The particular story I’m referencing is And Some for the Road, and this month I’m sharing “her” recipe – Savannah’s.  (The story begins on page 130, for those who have a copy of the book and are curious.  The cookie bars are mentioned specifically for the first time on page 137)  Here is the altered photo illustration of “Savannah”, just for fun.  I attached the handwritten cookie bar recipe to the vintage photo with red twine….

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And now, on to the recipe!

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Savannah’s Starlight Cookie Bars Recipe
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Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips OR 1 – 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).  Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs, milk, vanilla and cinnamon; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Stir in oats, chocolate chips (or raisins) and nuts; mix well.  Press dough into the bottom of a greased 13″x9″ pan and bake for approximately 35 – 50 minutes.  Baking time will depend on whether you like your cookies softer or firmer.

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I hope you enjoy Savannah’s Starlight Cookie Bars.  Happy baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Scrumptious Salads

ILLUSION BOAT NECKLINE OPEN BACK SHORT KNEE LENGTH TULLE BRIDESMAID DRESS
Summer is nearly here, and that means “salad season” for some of us.  Salad is often seen as a healthy food, but depending on what is IN and ON your salad, that may not be the case.  For example, a salad of iceberg lettuce covered with pre-made dressing can be virtually worthless nutritionally.  Not only is iceberg low on the “nutrient Richter scale”, many dressings are loaded with bad fats and sugar.  Another pitfall?  Not getting full enough from a salad – particularly if you’re eating it as an entree.  And finally, there’s the humdrum factor.  Another salad?  Bor-ring.
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I’ve been eating a number of salads lately (as part of my Rebuilding – From the Inside Out) and have been pretty pleased with how nutritious, filling, and varied they’ve been.  I thought I’d share some salad tips, along with a few lunchtime snapshots – in case you’re interested in adding more salads to your diet or need to get out of a salad rut.*

Tips for Snappier Salads
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1. Include a variety of veggies.  I often start with packaged mixed greens, and then add to it.  I often use radishes, carrots, celery, cucumber, and green onions in my salads.
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salmon_salad
(Ingredients: mixed greens, carrots, radishes, celery, hardboiled egg, fresh cooked salmon, cucumber, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
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2. Forgo pre-made salad dressings and use oil and/or citrus juice for a healthier option.  I like using avocado oil or an olive oil/lemon juice dressing.  I also use orange juice to dress salads with fruit in them, and plain lemon or lime juice works well on a variety of salads. It takes a bit of getting used to, if you’re used to bottled dressing, but isn’t a big deal once you commit.
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3. Add some protein to your salad – this will help keep you full longer.  You can include nuts, fish (canned, wild-caught salmon is a great option), hardboiled eggs, cheese, and more!
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salmon_salad2
(Ingredients: mixed greens, radishes, canned salmon, grated parmesan, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
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4. Don’t be afraid to mix veggies and fruit in a salad.  For example, blueberries, strawberries, and clementine sections are great in salads.

strawberry_salad
(Ingredients: mixed greens, strawberries, white cheddar, walnuts, orange juice dressing)


5. Try new things!  
Changing things up will keep you from falling into a rut, and that is always a good thing.  I plan on working some almonds into salads soon, and will look for things that are in season at the farmers market for some added oomph. :]

Do you have favorite ingredients you like to use in your salads?  Do you make your own dressings?  Please share!  I’m interested in trying new things, and I’ll bet others here at my blog are, too.  Thanks!
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Warm regards,
Melody
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*Ingredients in salad at the very top: mixed greens, cucumber, celery, radishes, carrot, nitrate-free bacon, avocado oil dressing, pepper)
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Orange Cranberry Muffins Recipe

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I opted to make muffins for this month’s recipe, and these Orange Cranberry muffins are tangy, fresh and sweet!  Inspired by a muffin I really enjoyed at Panera some time ago, I found this recipe on foodnetwork.com.  I particularly like that the recipe calls for dried cranberries, as it can be difficult to find fresh or frozen cranberries if it’s not fall or winter.  These muffins are yummy on their own, but would also be tasty with butter or fresh whipped cream.

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Orange Cranberry Muffins Recipe
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, plus more for preparing the muffin tin
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus up to 1 tablespoon for topping the muffins, if desired
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the cranberries and orange juice in a small saucepan, and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove berries from the heat, and set aside to cool and plump.

Lightly brush a 12-muffin tin with butter. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with an electric hand-held mixer in a large bowl, cream the butter, orange zest, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Fold the flour in 3 parts into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk in 2 parts, until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Do not over mix. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin tin and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Cool muffins in the pan on a rack. Serve warm.

Yield: 12 muffins

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Note: I liked the dried cranberries, but will probably try fresh cranberries next time.  Please keep in mind that you’ll want to increase the measurement of cranberries if they’re fresh, since fresh berries take up more room in the measuring cup than dried…

Happy Baking!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Black-Eyed Pea Salad (aka Wilcox Caviar)

wilcox_caviar
I’m posting this recipe now, in late December, for those of you who ring in the New Year by eating Black-Eyed Peas.  A Southern thing, I know this practice extends to other regions, too.  Though I think of this as kind of a summery salad because there’s no cooking involved, and the ingredients are light and fresh, this side dish – which can also be eaten as a dip, on baked potatoes, or on salad greens – is a yummy addition to the menu no matter the season.  Big thanks to my friend, Barb L., for sharing this recipe with me!

FYI: I cut this recipe in half, since it’s just me and hubby, so the photos below include the half-size portions of ingredients and a single serving of salad.  :]  However, the ingredients list includes the amounts for a full-size batch.

Black-Eyed Pea Salad (aka Wilcox Salad)

salad_ingredients
Ingredients
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4 cans white shoe peg corn, drained (or use a mixture of white and yellow corn, like I did)
2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
3 avocados, diced
1-2 bunches small green onions, diced
leaves from one bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (I used white)

before_stirring

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well.  Chill overnight.  If you prefer, you can omit the avocado when making the salad, and can add it to the bowl when you give the salad a final stir before serving. That’s what I opted to do when making the batch I photographed…

black-eyed_pea_salad
Do you eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day?  Or do you eat other goodies to celebrate?  Please post a comment and share.

I’m wishing you all the best in 2013, dear readers!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Holiday Favorites – My December “To Do” List!

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There are certain things that I enjoying doing each year when December rolls around.  They’re things that I must do or experience in order for the Christmas season to be its best – at least for me.  I know everyone celebrates different things and/or in different ways, and I really love that celebrating is unique to each individual or family.  Tradition, culture and personalities play such a big part, don’t you think?

Here are some of My Holiday Favorites – things that I love to partake in each year, if I can:

  • Watching the movie “Elf” starring Will Ferrell.  Buddy the Elf is so innocent, gleeful, and funny.  I love it!
  • Decorating for the holidays
  • Making – and eating – Magic Cookie Bars!  I could literally eat a whole pan myself, they’re SO good. :]
  • Listening to the Soundtrack from The Nutcracker
  • Eating Dryer’s Peppermint Ice Cream.  Yum!
  • Doing something to help those in need, like donating food to a food bank
  • Listening to the song “Feliz Navidad”, performed by José Feliciano.  I listen to it several times during the month – it fills me with joy!
  • Baking sugar cookies.  When I was little my family used to make the kind of sugar cookies that you have to roll out and cut with cookie cutters, which was fun, but these days I go with a sugar cookie recipe that’s easier to make and is simply scrumptious.

What’s on your holiday “Must Do” list?  Please comment and share…

Warm regards,
Melody

p.s. Yep, that little girl in the blue dress in the photo up top was me – over 35 year ago. It was my one and only picture with Santa as a child. :]

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