Jar opener

Last summer we had the pleasure of visiting the quaintest little house you ever did see. It was nestled in the mountains of Pennsylvania right on a lake. The woman of the house was born and raised in Germany. Everything about the inside and outside of her house says “Germany!” We had such a lovely time.

Here, ShaSha is showing off the salamander that she caught:
While we were at this house on the most perfect of all days, I picked up a clever little trick. (Please don’t tell me I’m the last person on earth to learn this!)

Do you have one of these in your home?You know, the cheapest little bottle opener thing that you can probably get for less than a dollar? Well, I knew it was supposed to open bottles (and even wine corks apparently), but I never realized you could use them to open jars.

Do you see in this following picture, how I placed the pointy side under the bottom ridge of the lid?
The flat side leans against the jar to be opened. Push down until you hear a pop. Now that the vacuum seal is popped you can easily twist the cap off.

Note: After I started writing this post I “researched” bottle openers. Come to find out, the cheap little one I have isn’t so easy to come across in the real world! Have no fear, take what you do have, put the pointy end under the rim and fiddle with it until you see which way works best with your particular opener.

This is linked to Tammy’s kitchen tip Tuesdays.

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Carrot Muffins

Muffins are one of my best friends. I love how easy they are to put together and I love how they provide breakfast and the day’s snacks all in one go.

I made these Carrot muffins so my husband would eat breakfast in the mornings. I call him a “fargo”. His commute is over 45 minutes each way. As a matter of fact, his commute is TWO HOURS each way!!! He tells me he doesn’t have time to eat breakfast. True, he probably doesn’t have time to eat at home, but that doesn’t mean he can’t take a couple of tasty muffins with him!

Carrot Muffins

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1  1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups finely grated carrots
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil *see Note
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 celcius). Grease 2 muffin tins or line with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and carrots. In a separate large bowl beat together eggs, sugar, oil and butter. Add the wet mix to the dry and mix thoroughly without overmixing.

Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way. Bake in preheated oven for 21-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. These muffins freeze nicely.

Makes 20-22 muffins.

*Note: applesauce may be substituted for either the butter or oil.

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Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes

Don’t you love yummy simple desserts that you can eat on a paper towel? I know I do! These kandy kakes are something I grew up with in Philly. I had to buy them from the store though, so I was ecstatic when I found the recipe in a church cookbook. Its a fairly basic dense yellow cake with peanut butter and chocolate on top.

This is my husband’s favorite treat. We don’t have it often enough! I made this sheet and it was gone within 24 hours! How bad does that sound?!

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven you spread a layer of peanut butter on top and put it in the fridge:

Wait until the peanut butter doesn’t slide everywhere and then spread chocolate on top.

I cut mine pretty big and probably got over 30 pieces out of it. If you want them to last longer, you can cut them smaller.

 

Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp melted butter

Toppings: peanut butter and chocolate icing or melted chocolate

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl whisk together eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and melted butter. Mix thoroughly.

Add dry ingredients to wet and combine. Do not over mix. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread batter in greased jelly pan roll. Bake for 20 minutes.

As soon as you remove cake from the oven, spread peanut butter over entire cake. Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. You can melt Hershey’s chocolate bars, chocolate chips or use up some leftover chocolate frosting to spread on top of peanut butter layer. You do not need a thick layer, thin will do.

Slice into 30 or more pieces. Refrigerate leftovers.

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Not enough loaf pans?

When I started baking bread I lacked one important item. I had (and still only have) one loaf pan. I was not about to bake one loaf at a time and I didn’t want big round loaves for sandwich bread. I also didn’t want to run to the store and purchase more. So instead I used my MacGyver skills and came up with a solution.

I started using my 9″ square baking dish. It houses 2 loaves perfectly.

I haven’t tried doing 3 loaves in a 9×13, but I’m going to guess that the middle one wouldn’t get cooked at the same rate, so it may not be a super wise idea.

Have you come up with any tricky ways to do things in the kitchen? I’d love to hear!

I’m linking this up to Tammy’s Kitchen tip Tuesday.

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Pass the cheese, please.

Last week we had some friends come over for dinner. I gave them Cuban food to eat and they gave me homemade cheese and orange tomatoes from their garden. That gift is more precious than gold to me.

They own a mini-farm. They have chickens, ducks, goats and a big, bountiful garden. The goats give milk and from the milk my friend made cheese. She gave us two big quarters of her cheese. One of them is seasoned with Italian spices and the other is flavored with red pepper flakes.

Let me tell you… as much as I love my brie and pepper jack, I can’t eat them by themselves. I need crackers, grapes or something. This lovely homemade cheese, however, I have been eating by the slice. Its soooo good. My kids love it, too. The spicy cheese is almost gone!

Isn’t friendship sweet? What kind of precious treasures have you given or received in the past?

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Classic Sweet Tea

As summer comes to a close I’ve been enjoying a glass or two of sweet tea. Is there any time of year when a nice cold glass of sweet tea isn’t welcome?

For years, the thought of making sweet tea scared me. Silly, isn’t it?! I grew up in a poor neighborhood of Philadelphia, not in the south. So, I thought making sweet tea involved a long process and special equipment. I’m glad I’ve finally been enlightened with the ease of making it!

I start with a mug of strong tea. I make mine by adding a pinch of baking soda to the mug, adding boiling water and a tea bag. Let it sit for longer than normal. This allows the tea to get super strong. You could just as easily add two tea bags and brew for the normal length of time.

The baking soda cuts down on the bitterness that comes from brewing tea for too long. Add sweetener and then pour into a glass full of ice. Yum!

3 minute Sweet tea

  • 1 tea bag of choice
  • 1 pinch of baking soda
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp sugar
  • 16 oz glass filled with ice

Place 1 pinch of baking soda and 1 tea bag in 8 oz mug. Pour boiling water on top. Allow to steep for 5-6 minutes. Remove tea bag. Add sugar. Pour over ice and enjoy!

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Product Review: Log Cabin All Natural Syrup

Maple syrup is da’ bomb. Know what I’m sayin’? We LOVE maple syrup in our house. It’s basically the only thing I’ll serve with pancakes, waffles, french toast, etc. However, as much as I love it, it does happen to cost a pretty penny. We don’t have too many pretty pennies laying around these days, so on occasion I will buy Log Cabin All Natural Syrup instead.

Looking at the ingredients on syrup bottles is one of the things that gets my blood boiling in the cereal aisle. I try to avoid all artificial preservatives, but the one I despise the most is sodium benzoate. Karate kid reacts badly to it. He lacks self control and gets hyperactive beyond reason. Every normal syrup that I’ve checked has sodium benzoate in it. Log Cabin All Natural does not. Look at the few ingredients it carries:

It gives me such relief when companies offer products like this. My bottle is 22 oz and it cost me less than 6 bucks.

My family still primarily uses pure maple syrup, but when we seem to go through too much too quickly, I start relying on Log Cabin All Natural Syrup.

What do you use to top your pancakes?

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Blueberry Pancakes

ShaSha wanted to help me make pancakes for breakfast on her birthday. I decided to go with this blueberry pancake recipe I have adapted from a Marlboro cookbook my mom gave me. They’re very moist and gobble-able.

Blueberry Pancakes

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt (*see note)
  • 1 cup milk
  • about 1 1/2 cups blueberries (I used frozen)

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in extra large bowl. In a separate large bowl beat together eggs, yogurt and milk thoroughly. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Let rest for 5 minutes.

While batter is resting turn griddle on to just below 350 degrees F and spray with oil. Using a 1/3 cup scoop, pour batter onto griddle. Sprinkle blueberries on each pancake. When the edges start to bubble and brown slightly, flip them over. It should take less than 5 minutes for each griddle full of pancakes.

Serve warm with butter and maple syrup.

Makes about 20 pancakes.

*note: if you only have plain yogurt, simply add 2 tbs of sugar to the batter.

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Birthday Girl!

This past weekend we celebrated ShaSha’s 8th birthday. She shares a birthday with my brother. I am so glad he and his family were able to spend the weekend with us. Its always fun to have everyone together!

Friday evening we had a family cake. ShaSha’s favorite dessert is tiramisu. She’ll tell you that in a heartbeat. She will also tell you how much she doesn’t like icing. My brother will tell you how much he loves coffee… little did I know that he has decided not to consume caffeine anymore!

So, anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, I made tiramisu cake. It does use a cake mix as its base, but at least its one without any colors. The icing and filling are absolutely delicious! So soft and tiramisu-like! We aren’t drinkers, so I substituted all of the liquer with extra strong coffee. Everyone licked their plates clean!

Tiramisu Layer Cake

Saturday we had an official party for Tabitha. She had some school friends over and we attempted a pirate theme. The kids had fun and everyone loved this watermelon shark my sister-in-law carved for us.

Watermelon Shark

Instead of a cake I decided to make these most delicious pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. They may not look as festive as a traditional cake, but all of the kids gobbled them up. We even had a few leftover for breakfast the next morning! If you have a can of pumpkin in your pantry, I urge you to try these. This is the 3rd or 4th time I’ve made them and I am never disappointed.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

We had a good time with pockets of yummy food. How did you spend your weekend?

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Butter Biscuits

Today is Wednesday. I haven’t been grocery shopping in over a week. I have no meat in the house and I’m not in the mood for beans. We ran out of bread already and I don’t have hours to wait for a new loaf. We even ran out of rice! What’s a girl to do for dinner?

For my needed carb, I settled on biscuits. The rest of the meal was simple enough: scrambled eggs and peas. I didn’t even have to coax the kids into eating their meals. ShaSha kept raving about how good the biscuits were.

Putting the biscuits together shouldn’t take any more than 15 minutes. Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and swirl them together with your clean, dry hands.

Next dice up the butter. Add it to your bowl. It should look something like this:

Now, I don’t own a pastry knife, but I’ve found that my hands do a perfectly good job of crumbling. They don’t even make my hands too messy:

We’re allowed to start using utensils now! Add a cup of milk and stir until combined. If its too sticky don’t be afraid to add a sprinkling of flour. If its too dry add a spoonful of milk.

When you’re done you should have a soft dough. Knead it for a couple of minutes on a lightly floured surface.

Today I didn’t even bother getting out the rolling pin or my biscuit cutter. I flattened my dough to about 3/4 to 1″ thickness. I rubbed some flour on the edge of this small juice cup and I went to town!

They came out about this thick:

I didn’t turn the oven on until after the biscuits were on the pizza pan. I let the dough rest for around 20 minutes while the oven preheated.

These biscuits were delicious with a pat of butter on them. They split right down the middle when you pull them apart. Let me know what you think of them!

Butter Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 cup milk

In a large bowl mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and mustard powder. Roughly chop butter and add to flour mix. Cut mixture until it looks like coarse crumbs. Slowly add milk. Stir until a soft dough forms. (Add sprinkles of flour if its too sticky or a teaspoon of milk it its too dry).

Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead for two minutes. Flatten the dough with the palms of your hands to about 3/4 of an inch. Cut out 3 to 4 inch circles with a glass top or biscuit cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Turn oven on to 425 degrees F (220 C). Allow the dough to rest on the cookie sheets while the oven is preheating (about 20 minutes). When they go into the oven bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes 10 biscuits

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