Friday, December 23, 2011

Eggless Eggnog--Just Call This "Nog"

Today's recipe is an oldie but a goodie--an eggless version of one of my favorite holiday indulgences--eggnog--one that I just call "nog"!

I love, love, love, a good quality eggnog--and trust me, all brands that you buy are not created equally. The trouble with eggnog, though, is that it's pricey, loaded with calories, and full of all of those good things we try to stay away from--fat and sugar. This version is not only delicious, but less expensive, healthier, and can be modified even further to fit many types of dietary restrictions.

  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • 1 pkg instant French vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
Stir pudding mix, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, and cinnamon into about a cup of milk until well dissolved. Add the remaining milk, stirring well, and refrigerate until well chilled. Stir before serving, as the spices tend to float up.

The only thing missing from this eggless nog is the thickness of "real" eggnog, which can be somewhat remedied by stirring a dollop of whipped topping into each serving.

Have a wonderful holiday!

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gifts From the Kitchen--Microwave Fudge, Part 2

Yesterday I shared a recipe for easy microwave fudge; dark and rich, it's made from easily available items that most of us stock in our holiday pantry.

Today's recipe is just as quick and easy, made from even more basic and readily available ingredients, but it's a whole different taste and texture--more like the old fashioned cooked sugar fudge of my childhood--and has to be my absolute favorite holiday indulgence.

  • 1 box confectioners sugar (approximately 3 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 c milk
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter
Put everything in a microwave safe bowl. Don't stir or mix or do anything to it. (Hint: you might want to sift the powdered sugar, just to get the lumps out and make it easier to mix)

Microwave for two minutes, then get it out and start stirring. You'll think it isn't going to work, but just keep stirring. At one point, everything was blended except for a few stubborn lumps of sugar, so I stuck it back in for another minute, then stirred again. A lot. At this point you can add nuts if you'd like. I decided to leave this batch plain.

Pour into a prepared (greased) pan--or better yet, line with foil and spray with cooking spray. Let cool--I stuck mine in the fridge and just left it for a couple of hours.

Turn out onto a cutting board, peel back the foil, and cut.

This is the best fudge I've made I've ever made. It's not smooth and creamy, it's firmer, sort of dry-ish and crumbly, just like the old fashioned sugar fudge of my cravings.

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gifts From the Kitchen--Easy Microwave Fudge, Part 1

Number three in my installment of gifts from the kitchen is a variation of an old stand-by--rich chocolate-y fudge.

This particular recipe is by far one of the easiest recipes for quick fudge that I've ever run across. The basic fudge has only three ingredients, but it lends itself to any number of variations.

  • 1 12 oz pkg chocolate chips
  • 1 can sweetened , condensed milk
  • 1 t vanilla
Grease a 9 x 9 pan--I lined my with foil and sprayed with cooking spray--you could probably use parchment paper, as well.

Combine chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave safe bowl.

Microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring after every minute, or until chocolate is melted and the milk is incorporated (this picture is after 1 minute) I stirred again at 2 minutes and cooked it an additional 30 seconds just for good measure. Add vanilla and stir well. At this point, I decided on an add-in and stirred in about 1/3 cup of chopped pecans. (Next time I'd probably go with 1/2 cup).

Pour into your prepared pan and chill for about two hours.

Turn out onto a cutting board, peel back the foil if you used it, and it's ready to cut.

This made a thin, dark, rich tasting fudge. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, but I think it would be good with milk-chocolate chips, as well as peanut butter or butterscotch flavored chips as well--which has me thinking about a layered version--peanut butter and chocolate or any number of other combinations.

I packed some of it in this cute little mini-lunch box tin that I bought in the seasonal decorations at Dollar Tree.

Besides the ease of this recipe, I liked the fact that the ingredients are items you can keep on hand for anytime, not just during the holidays. Chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk may not be something you keep on hand in a really basic pantry, but I think most of us have them on hand or readily available, at least.

Why not stock up while they're on sale everywhere and surprise your family with this luscious bite of rich chocolate later in the winter, when they aren't expecting it? Maybe you can make your own goodies for Valentine's Day, too, instead of buying "store-bought" candy.

Tomorrow I'll have another easy microwave fudge, but one that makes one that's totally different in taste and texture.

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

This post is linked to:

Tuesdays at the Table at All the Small Stuff

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gifts from the Kitchen--Quick and Easy Coconut Macaroons

For my second installment in the Gifts from the Kitchen series, I'm including a cookie that's an easy, delicious addition to any gift box or goodie bag. These are not those horrible hard ridge squares that passed for coconut macaroons in my childhood. Chewy in the middle, crunchy around the edges, they're like a taste of sweet lightness with every bite.

Ya'll know that "quick and easy" is my middle name when it comes to recipes--I had no idea that coconut macaroons were so easy to make, but for some reason I felt so impressed myself when I first made them a couple of years ago.


  • 1 14 oz pkg sweetened flake coconut

  • 2/3 c sugar

  • 6 T flour

  • 1/4 t salt

  • 4 egg whites

  • 1 t almond extract (I used vanilla)

The recipe I used stated to mix everything together in a bowl--it works better to get all of the ingredients evenly distribued and incorporated if you mix the last five ingredients first, then add in the coconut.

Placing heaping spoonfuls on your prepared cookie sheets. The hardest part was trying the mounds all close to the same size. (This will be easier if you have a cookie scoop.)

Bake at 325 degrees for 17-20 minutes.

This is not really a batter, it has the texture of a wet pile of coconut--but it smells wonderful. And tastes pretty good, even uncooked. Warning--it's extremely sticky, even after you lick your fingers. Don't ask me how I know this.

At this point, they smell so very heavenly. Remove from the baking sheet to a rack to cool.

The first time I made these, I followed the original recipe recommendation to grease and flour the cookie sheets. Can you see how the flour on the baking sheet starts to brown? When you take the cookies off, the spatula leaves big strokes of messed up flour. So you have to wash the cookie sheet before you can re-use it, but instead of greasing and flouring it again...

...come to your senses and use parchment paper instead.

This recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies.

They're just enough different from the usual cookies and candy that we all make at this time of the year to be a welcome change!

What goodies are you baking this holiday season?

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

This post linked to:

Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Recipe Swap at the Gocery Cart Challenge

Sweet Tooth Friday at Alli'n Son

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts From the Kitchen--Jar Mixes

A couple of years ago, I made several different homemade "jar mixes" to give as Christmas and "just because" gifts. I had forgotten how much fun I had making these until I was rimiscing over some old holiday posts. So as the first in my series on gifts from the kitchen (some oldies-but-goodies as well as a few new ones), I'm starting with this post on jar mixes.

These examples are made with common ingredients and go together with a minimum of fuss and muss, but they can be a simple or as complicated as you'd like to make them, and can be put together at the last minute or well-thought out in advance.

One of the reasons I loved these jar mixes is because right now everyone is getting inundated with goodies at every party and get-together--but these ready-made mixes make a pretty gift, and can be put away and brought back out to be appreciated one cold winter night when those New Years diet resolutions have worn off and the ready-made goodies everyone got at Christmas or Hanukkah are a dim memory.

All you need are the recipe ingredients and some quart jars with lids--wide mouth work better, but as you'll see, the smaller mouthed ones can work, as well. I got two of my recipes from Heart 4 Home's Gifts in a Jar, and used my own brownie recipe for the other. You can do this with just about any recipe, as long as the total volume doesn't exceed the size of your jar--in this case, a quart.

I gathered everything together this weekend for some major baking and "mixing" I had planned, and spread it all out with arm's length. Luckily I had a canning funnel to help fill the jars, but if you don't have one of these handy, you might want to make a loose funnel out of waxed paper for easy of filling with less spilling.

I started off planning to take pictures at each stage, but soon learned that handling "powdery" ingredients like flour and cocoa, and taking pictures don't really mix, so this is the only "during" picture that I ended up with.

The main thing to remember is that the ingredients need to be added with the finer textured ingredients at the bottom, the chunkier stuff at the top--if you start with chocolate chips and then pour flour over the top, for instance, the flour will sift down in between the chunks and mess your layers up.

Step number two is to try to smooth each layer and pack it as tightly as you can. I used a spice bottle for that--guess what, you can't tamp down flour or cocoa very well, the bottle sinks(!) Recipes with oatmeal pack well--add the flour, then the oatmeal, then tamp it down to your heart's content!

Next add the sugars, and last the chunky stuff.

Don't these look pretty? These are for Homemade Brownies, Cranberry Hootycreeks, and Cowboy Cookies.

I added circles of Christmas fabric cut with pinking shears, tied with ribbon and garnished with a berry spray. My last step will be printing out the recipe directions (add butter, eggs, bake at 350, etc ) on some card stock, cutting with the pinking shears, and tying to the jars with the ribbon.

Change the fabric, or leave it off and tie the recipe card on with some raffia or other decorative ribbon, pair a couple of them with a kitchen gadget or two and a pretty dishtowel, and you have a perfect gift for a kitchen shower or housewarming party.

Cranberry Hootycreeks


  • 1 c plus 2 T self-rising flour

  • 1/2 c oatmeal

  • 1/3 c packed brown sugar

  • 1/3 c sugar

  • 1/2 c dried cranberries

  • 1/2 c white chocolate chips

  • 1/2 c chopped pecans

Layer in the order listed.

Recipe instructions:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl beat together 1/2 c softened butter, 1 egg and t teaspoon of vanilla. Add the entire contents of the jar, and mix together until well blended. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto greased or parchment paper lined baking sheets.

  2. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until the edges start to brown

  3. Cool on baking sheet or wire rack

  4. Makes 18 cookies

Easy Homemade Brownies


  • 1 c flour

  • 1/2 c cocoa

  • 2 c sugar

Layer ingredients in the order listed ( I messed this up by putting the sugar first--when I tried to tamp the cocoa, it started mixing with the sugar. Oops0

Recipe Instructions:

  1. Pour entire contents of jar into a mixing bowl

  2. Add 1 stick (1/2 c) of butter or margarine, melted; stir slightly; then add 4 eggs and 1 t vanilla

  3. Pour into greased or cooking sprayed 9 x 13 pan.

  4. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes

  5. Makes about 20 brownies

Cowboy Cookies


  • 1 1/3 c self-rising flour

  • 1 1/3 c oatmeal

  • 1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar

  • 1/2 c sugar

  • 1/2 c chopped nuts

  • 1 c chocolate chips

Layer ingredients in order listed--tamp well after the oatmeal layer, and after the brown sugar layer. I made this one first, and did not "pack" everything tight enough, so the first one only held about 1/2 c of chocolate chips. I made another and figured out the best layers to tamp down and everything fit much better.

Recipe Instructions:

  1. Empty entire contents of jar into a large mixing bowl, and thoroughly blend everything with your hands or a mixing spoon. Add 1 stick (1/2 c) of butter or margarine, melted; 1 slightly beaten egg, and 1 t vanilla. Mix until completely blended. This may require your hands! Shape into balls the size of walnuts, and place on greased or parchment lined cooking sheets.

  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 11-13 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

  3. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet, then remove cookies to racks to finish cooling.

  4. Makes about 30 cookies

I had a lot of fun making these--now that I've gotten the hang of it, I may be doing more of these. Be sure to check out the jar mix "recipes" at Heart 4 Home, or do an internet search for "jar mixes", there are tons of different recipes and sites out there with lots of ideas, from sweet to savory.

What pre-made mixes or jar mixes have you made, or would you like to receive?

Until next time, good cooking, and good gifting!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Recipe Round-Up

If you are looking for some last minute additions to your Thanksgiving Day meal, be sure to check out this recipe round-up at the Family Balance Sheet. She has graciously included my pumpkin pie cake in her listing.

Head on over and check some of these links out! I can't wait to try some of them myself!

Meanwhile, here are a couple more of my own favorites:

Cranberry Relish--not your usual cranberry sauce

Sweet Potato Souffle--not your typical marshmallow topping, this casserole is covered with a yummy pecan praline topping

Pumpkin Pie--completely traditional, with a made-from-scratch crust

And for something totally out of left field--how about this Navy Bean Pie--not only will no one be able to guess what's in it, they'll rave for the recipe, too--it not only tastes good, it smells out-of-this-world.

Until next time--good cooking, and good eating!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Favorites, 2011--Pumpkin Pie Cake

I can't believe it's already November--the countdown to the holidays has begun, and I don't know where the year has gone. One of my favorite holidays is coming up on us quickly--I am keeping my fingers crossed that my son and I will be able to join my husband in Colorado for Thanksgiving. If we do, I probably won't be doing a lot of cooking, since it'll be just the three of us, but I want to share some of my tried-and-true recipes that are great for Thanksgiving or any long, dark, fall or winter evening. It's quick and easy to make, as always, and tastes (and smells!) like the perfect fall dessert.


  • 1 29oz can of pumpkin (or two 15 oz cans)

  • 1 12oz can evaporated milk

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 c sugar

  • 4 t pumpkin pie spice

  • 1/2 t salt

  • 1 yellow cake mix

  • 1 c chopped nuts (I used pecans, you could use walnuts, too)

  • 2 sticks of butter, melted

In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Pour into a greased or Pam-sprayed 9 x 13 pan.

Sprinkle the entire box of cake mix on top

Cover with chopped nuts

(I think I used more than 1 cup--I just eyeballed it until I thought it looked right--I like lots of nuts)

Drizzle with 1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. I baked this for 60 minutes, then covered it with foil and baked for another 6 or 7 minutes, then turned off the oven and left it for another 5-7 minutes or so. I think I should have covered it with foil a little sooner, but that's due to a peculiarity of my oven.

If you serve this hot, it's a "scoop" dessert. Once cold, you can either scoop a portion or cut it into squares. This would be excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or even a dollop of whipped cream, but it's delicious just by itself.

This post is linked to:

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace

Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

What's Cooking Wednesday at the King's Court IV

Delicious Dishes at It's a Blog Party

Meatless Mondays at My Sweet and Savory

Bake with Bizzy at Bizzy Bakes

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sugar Free Sunday--Butterscotch Yum-Yum

This has been one of the worst years for heat and drought across the Gulf Coast south that I can remember. (And trust me, my memory goes back a long time. Really long.) But the weather has finally moderated enough for me to do some cooking again. Not much, I admit, but a little. And at the same time, my son and I have decided to go back sugar-free, at least most of the time. We just feel better when we do. But because we just started, we're struggling to change our eating habits, and I'm struggling to remember to change my grocery-buying habits, as well.

I decided to go back through some to sugar-free (and otherwise) goodies that I've made in the past, and revisit them, seeing where I can make improvements to tastes and texture.

This recipe, while sugar-free (or can be made regular) is a purely convenience goodie--fairly quick to make, not homemade at all, except in the sense that it's "made at home"! But so, so, good when you're craving something sweet and creamy.

Layer 1: The original recipe calls for a basic "press in" crust:

  • 1/4 c (1/2 stick) butter, softened

  • 1/2 c flour

  • 1/3 c chopped nuts

  • 1 T sugar or Splenda (optional)
Toss together the flour and sugar or Splenda; cut in the butter, then add the chopped nuts. Press into the bottom of an 8 x 8 pan. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until set and just slightly brown around the edges. Set aside to cool. Quick and easy option: If you happen to have a roll-up, refrigerated pie crust floating around in the back of your fridge, you can use it instead. Unroll, fit to your pan, and cut off the excess. Sprinkle a few chopped nuts on the crust and press into the dough. Add a sprinkle of sugar or Splenda if you want. Then bake just like the homemade press in crust. Works for me.

Layer 2: While the crust is cooling, mix together in a medium bowl

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened

  • 1 c sugar or Splenda

  • 1 t vanilla

  • 1 c whipped topping (I used sugar free)
Mix everything together until well blended. Spread on cooled crust.

Layer 3: This is where you can get creative with the flavor

  • 1 small pkg instant pudding (I used sugar free butterscotch)

  • 1 1/2 c milk
Whisk together until blended and the mixture starts to thicken. Pour over the cream cheese layer and smooth the edges.

Layer 4: Add a layer of whipped topping (again, I used the sugar-free)

Cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. I usually cut this into squares, but sometimes I don't let it set up long enough, so I just sort of scoop it out onto the plate. (see the top picture) Then I have to eat along the edge to straighten it out. Funny how that happens, huh?

This gets two thumbs up from the sugar-free-ers in my household, including me! As a matter of fact, this flavor has become our favorite, so I make a special trip to a particular grocery store to find the butterscotch sugar-free pudding mix. One of the draw-backs of living in a small town with small grocery stores--not much variety at some of them sometimes.

If you're not a sugar-free-er, just use regular pudding and whipped topping, and sugar instead of Splenda. It's a good basic recipe that can be adapted with any flavor of pudding, or even fruit topping.

Until next time, good cooking and good eating!

This post linked to:

My Meatless Mondays at My Sweet and Savory
Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Giveaway Winner--Fiber One 80 Calories Cereal Fitness Pack

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2011-09-28 18:32:11 UTC

Number 6 on the spreadsheet is:

Lynne B

Congratulations, Lynne! I'll be sending you and email to get your mailing information.

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Review and Giveaway--Fiber One 80 Calories Cereal

This giveaway is now closed. The winner will be announced on the next post, and will be notified via email.

As a member of MyBlogSpark, I recently had an opportunity to review a General Mills cereal, Fiber One 80 Calories. The flavor that I received was Honey Squares. Now, I have to admit, that although I do a lot of sugar free recipes from time to time, I'm not usually a big fan of most foods that advertise themselves as being low in calories. Too often that seem to equate with low in taste, as well. This cereal, though, was a welcome surprise. It was really and truly delicious. So much so that I would honestly buy this myself and eat it. As a matter of fact, we finished this box off so fast that I didn't have a chance to take pictures of the cereal itself, it was gone in two days. And for a food blogger, even one as infrequent as I've been lately, not to take pictures of their food--well, you know it went fast.

According to the information I received, this cereal is not only delicious, but healthy as well. With 40 percent of the Daily Value of fiber in one 80 calorie serving, Fiber One 80 Calories cereal can help curb your hunger, which can help you stick to a weight loss or healthy eating plan. It always helps to have a breakfast option that can help you feel satisfied without giving up taste!

As part of this review opportunity, General Mills and MyBlogSpark are offering a prize package to one lucky reader just like the one pictured above, comprised of a box of Fiber One 80 Calorie cereal, a sensor pedometer with USB connector to chart walking progress, and a neoprene iPod/smartphone holder with armstrap to help you stay in touch or walk to a beat when you're getting your walk on!

To enter, all you need to do is fill out the form with your name and email address. Just for fun, tell me on the next line if you're a walker already, or if you hope that this prize will inspire you to become a walker.

This is a quickie giveaway, it will only run from now until Tuesday, September 27th at noon, Central time. Winner will be chosen at random. Giveaway is now closed.

(This prize, as well as a duplicate review package, was provided to me free of charge by General Mills and MyBlogSpark, however, the opinion stated is that of my own.)

Until next time, good (un)cooking, and good eating!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Summertime, and the Living's Not Easy

Its been such a long, hot summer for us here in SW Louisiana, I confess that my kitchen has been mostly closed. My husband has been working out of state, my son & I are the only two around the house, so most days it's been easier to scrounge something than make a real meal. We've eaten out more than we should have; eaten a lot of cold cereal and made a lot of sandwiches--followed by Popsicles that melt if you take too long to eat them.

I have done a few things, though, from my it's-too-hot-to-cook-but-we-gotta-EAT repertoire.

Stove-top Barbecue Chicken is always a favorite-I usually serve it over rice--I love the BBQ 'gravy' that it makes.

And believe it or not, I make a lot a soup, even during the summer--anything that I can do in one pot on one burner on top of the stove suits me just fine...

from Taco Soup...

to Chicken Corn Chowder

Occasionally, I even brave turning on the oven, as long as it's something that doesn't take long to bake, like this White Chicken Pizza, made with jarred Alfredo Sauce and ready-made pizza dough,

or Stuffed Bread, made with pizza dough and meat-and-cheese (and even veggie) filling of your choice.

My hubby is home this week, which always means more cooking on my part, so I'm hoping to have a couple of new recipe posts up later this week.

Meanwhile, how was your summertime cooking this year?

Until next time, good cooking and good eating!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Giveaway Winner---Cascade Complete

There were a total of 93 entries in this giveaway, and thanks to Proctor & Gamble and MyBlogSpot, 5 winners!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:

53 20 59 14 15
Timestamp: 2011-07-27 21:23:22 UTC

And these correspond to:

Terri L.
Michelle H.
Sandy M.
Kendra G.

Each of these winners will be notified by email, and your prize will be mailed to as soon as I receive your mailing information. Each winner who emails me back a quick review after they try the product will be eligble to win an additional $15 Walmart gift card.

Thanks to everyone who entered, I will have another giveaway within a couple of weeks, please be sure to come back!

Until next time, good cooking, good eating, and good cleaning up afterwards!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Penne Rigota with Sausage and Marinara Sauce

Just in case you haven't noticed, I've been AWOL around here lately. I've been really busy with a new ministry position, I've had computer and internet issues, it;'s hard to cook for just one or two people, and besides, it's just been too hot to cook lately, anyway. They are, alas, just excuses. I sure manage to wrangle up something to eat, I just haven't done anything inspired lately.

So, I thought I'd share one of those quick, I'm the only one home for dinner, it's too hot to turn on the oven, I don't have much in the house anyway, but I gotta have something to eat, semi-homemade kind of meals.

Step one, put some pasta on to cook. Any kind will do. I used penne rigata.

Step two, find some meat of some kind, hopefully one that won't take that long to cook. I chose sausage, because it was what I had on hand and thawed. Slice it up and sort of fry it out or (my first choice) cover it with a little water and par-boil for a couple of minutes. It heats everything up and cooks out the excess grease. Drain the excess water and/or grease.

Step three. Pour on a jar of sauce. In this case, spaghetti sauce, and bring to a simmer. Cover and let cook for a few minutes. Add additional seasoning to taste.

Drain the pasta, pour on the sauce, add some cheese, and voila! Pasta supper for one, with enough leftovers to eat tomorrow.


I love to use frozen chicken fajita strips with Alfredo sauce to make a quick chicken Alfredo.

This works with pretty much any kind of pasta, including leftover!

Do you have a basic semi-homemade go-to meal for those "I don't wanta cook but I'm hungry" times?

Until next time, good (semi-) cooking, and good eating!