Sunday, December 14, 2014


A few years ago, my husband pestered me into calling his sister for his mom's recipe for Hermits. Carol was happy to comply, but apparently she couldn't read her own was a disaster! I had wanted to surprise his mom with one of her favorite Holiday cookies, since she wasn't able to bake anymore and had misplaced her copy of the recipe.

Fast forward to last Saturday morning. Both Carol and my mother-in-law are no longer with us, and Pete and I (feeling a bit nostalgic, I suppose) were bemoaning the fact that I never got a copy of the recipe. Later that morning, something compelled me to go upstairs and into the bedroom that was my mother-in-law's. We pretty much use it as a big closet now...I rarely go in there....but there I was checking to see if I could find one of my sweaters. I didn't see my sweater, but I did notice an old wicker basket Pete's mom used to keep various odds and ends...half empty nail polishes and such. I opened the lid and, lo and behold, folded into a square, there it was. The Hermit recipe. Coincidence? Maybe. I prefer to think that she is still looking out for us.

Just a list of ingredients...but I knew what it was. It was nice to see her handwriting.

I researched these cookies (trying to find a comparable recipe) and found many variations. It's an older American cookie, found in cookbooks from the mid to late 1800's. On the East coast, Hermits are most often made into a bar. These cookies are a simple, not too sweet, drop cookie with spices, raisins, and chopped walnuts. They actually taste better a few days after they are made.



An American cookie found in cookbooks dating back to 1880, the Hermit comes in many variations. This version, a simple spicy drop cookie, tastes even better a few days after it is made.


  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Place the raisins in a small bowl. Boil one cup of water and pour over the raisins. Soak for one hour. Drain completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.; line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the brown sugar. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the milk and the vanilla.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just mixed. Fold in the drained raisins and the walnuts.
  6. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies just begin to brown. Cool completely. Makes 36 cookies
Yield: 36 cookies
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 12 mins.
Total time: 22 mins.

Wrap 'em up and give them as a gift...or just eat them yourself.

What is your favorite Holiday cookie?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blackberry Buttermilk Popovers

I'm just back from my third (and final!) try for the big bucks at the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off...Holy Cow what an amazing event! No win this time for my Lemon-Poppy Seed Pull Apart Bread, but the whole experience was so over-the-top exciting that I still need to float back to reality.

One thing that I have learned from my experience with the Pillsbury Bake-Off is that most home cooks are looking for something that's not only delicious, but easy to make. Working convenience foods into a recipe and putting a homemade touch on it is a perfectly fine way to make this happen. Did you know, however, that you can make something easy and delicious and from scratch? I'm here to prove it to you with these beautiful popovers!

A few simple ingredients and ...voila!...a beautiful thing!

Blackberry Buttermilk Popovers

2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 pinch sea salt
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh blackberries
1-2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a non-stick, 6 cavity popover pan (or muffin tin) with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Whisk in the buttermilk, granulated sugar, and salt. Slowly whisk in the flour, stirring until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest.

Divide the batter into the popover pan. Add 3-4 blackberries into each well. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden. Cut a small slit into each popover for steam to escape. Dust well with powdered sugar and serve warm with butter and honey, if desired.

Don't have a popover pan? Use a muffin pan.

 Go ahead and sub raspberries or blueberries for the blackberries...

Now the only question is Breakfast or Dessert?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cream-Filled Cupcake Cake


So today was my husband's birthday. What to make? Well, he loves layer cake. And he loves my cream-filled cupcakes. I think it calls for a mash-up, don't you?

I have a confession to make: I'm kind of terrible at cake decorating. When my husband tells me he wants a layer cake, I cringe. So, I had to think of something easy. Easy and chocolate-y, of course. Since I had some buttercream in the freezer, left from making cupcakes last week, it was a no-brainer to thaw it out. Then I took my favorite chocolate cake recipe, baked it into three layers, spread the buttercream in between the layers, and topped it off with some chocolate ganache. So easy it's ridiculous.

It's crazy, but the easy thing about this is the frosting. It's a chocolate ganache, made with dark chocolate chips and heavy cream and when it's first mixed together it's pourable. Seriously. Pourable. You can just let it drip down the sides.

Let's start with the cake, though. The beautiful cake. Dare I say the best cake ever? Okay...the best cake ever. Made with dark cocoa, buttermilk, and a hint of coffee to bring out even more chocolate-y flavor. 

Cream-Filled Cupcake Cake


1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark cocoa
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F; grease and flour 3 (8 or 9-inch) cake pans.

Combine egg, oil and buttermilk. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Combine the egg mixture and the flour mixture, mixing well. Slowly mix in hot coffee. Divide the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans. 


4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In small saucepan, whisk the flour and the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook until thick and bubbly, whisking the entire time. Place thickened mixture in a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cool completely. 

Combine the butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat for several minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the cooled flour mixture and beat for an additional 5 minutes, or until the frosting is smooth with no gritty sugar. Stir in the vanilla.


1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream

Place the chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until it just comes to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for one minute. Use a spatula or a wooden spoon to stir the chocolate and the cream until smooth and shiny.


First, set aside about 1/4 cup of the buttercream for the squiggle on the top of the cake. Place one cooled cake layer, top-side down, on cake plate. Spread with half of the remaining buttercream. Add the next layer, again top-side down, and spread with the remaining buttercream. Add the final layer top-side up. Spoon the ganache over the top of the cake. Use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate over the cake, allowing it to spill down the sides. Chill the cake for a few minutes to set the chocolate. In the meantime, spoon the reserved buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip. Pipe a squiggle over the top of the cake. Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve.

It's not a cream-filled cupcake without the squiggle.....

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lemon Poppy-Seed Pull-Apart Bread #Pillsbury #BakeOff


So, here's the thing. This is a fabulous recipe. Seriously. Flaky biscuits are dipped in butter, rolled in lemon-sugar and poppy seed, baked until the lemon-sugar is wonderfully caramelized, and topped with an incredible lemony cream cheese glaze. Not only that---it's easy! We are talking seven ingredient- only 20 minutes prep time-easy.

The most amazing thing about this recipe? It's a contender for the $1 Million grand prize in the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off that will take place in Nashville, TN on November 3, 2014. If you've read my blog before, you know that this will be my third and final try at the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Shock and awe, right? More than that, I am humbled by the recipes this one will be competing with. That said, this is my favorite entry to date. See for yourself.

I was excited to see Watkins™ Poppy Seed on the list of  eligible adds such a nice little nutty crunch to things.

I used the buttermilk Grands! biscuits...but the original works, too. It's the flaky layers that make a great pull-apart....

The seven ingredients begin with a can of Pillsbury™ Grands!™ Flaky Layers refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (8 biscuits)....there isn't a complicated yeasty dough to made, raised, and measured.  The biscuits are separated to make 16 smaller biscuits. Each biscuit is then brushed with melted butter, dredged in a mixture of lemon zest, sugar, and poppy seed and carefully placed in a loaf pan that has been lined with parchment paper.

Parchment paper makes it easy to lift the loaf out of the pan.

The baked loaf is allowed to cool for just a few minutes before it is glazed with a mixture of butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and lemon juice. It's best served warm, but on the off chance there are leftovers, it is fine served at room temperature too. In fact, in order to prevent myself from eating a whole loaf in one sitting, I found that it also freezes well and the slices warm up quickly in the microwave or in a toaster oven.

This bread has it all...sweet, salty, tart, creamy, nutty, is truly addicting!

Is it worth $1 Million? My fingers are crossed that it is!

Are you ready for the recipe? You can find it right here on Pillsbury's website. If you try it, let me know how you like it. In the meantime, I'll be preparing to have the time of my life at the 47th Pillsbury Bake-Off!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Milk and Honey Poppy Seed Muffins #Improv

After totally neglecting the Improv challenge for the last few months, I am happy to say that I'm back in the saddle!  For those not in the know, the Improv challenge is a fun way for us to play with our food. Each month our fabulous new leader, Lesa from Edesia's Notebook, provides us with two ingredients with which to make marvelous creations. This month our theme is Milk and Honey...such a tasty combo! Interested in participating? Go ahead and visit Edesia's don't even need a blog.

How fitting is it that my husband brought home a carton of Almond Milk with a Hint of Honey?!

 I honestly didn't know what I was going to make until I started gathering my ingredients. Of course there was honey, but I also grabbed a bottle of poppy seed and some frosted flakes. Muffins were in the works!

Milk and Honey Poppy Seed Muffins

Milk and Honey Poppy Seed Muffins


  • 1 cup milk or almond milk
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup crushed frosted flakes


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine the milk, eggs, coconut oil, extracts, and honey. Stir in the poppy seed and allow to soak for 30 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the milk mixture and stir until just moistened (batter will be lumpy). Spoon batter into cupcake liners. Sprinkle the frosted flakes over the muffin tops.
  4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly touched.
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 45 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 20 mins.
Total time: 65 mins.

The cornflakes give the muffins a little crunch....

Perfect for breakfast!

Or dessert...

Check out what everyone else has made with Milk and Honey!

***CORRECTION made from original post ---should be 1 egg, not 2!****

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hot and Sweet Refrigerator Pickles's been two months since my last post! I'm not quite sure how that happened, but hasn't the summer gone by really quickly this year? It's hard to believe it's September.  There are still a few reminders of summer with the most visible being a huge box of zucchini and cucumbers sitting in the corner of my kitchen......

The challenge is what to do with all of this good stuff but since I have procrastinated for two years on a post about refrigerator pickles, that is where I will begin.

Let's begin by saying that I don't can food...never have and probably never will. But, this is different. It's easy. And it's tasty. And since I learned how to do it, I will do it every year.

Hot and Sweet Pickles (adapted from Kate in the Kitchen)

1 cup white vinegar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 T Kosher salt
1 t. celery seed
1 t. mustard seed
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2-3 jalapeno peppers, sliced
5-6 medium cucumbers, sliced

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, celery seed, and mustard seed in a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. In the mean time, layer 2 quart jars with the onion, peppers, and cucumber slices, packing well (the pickles will shrink). Pour the hot brine over the cucumbers and screw the tops on the jars. Cool slightly, then shake to distribute, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Do you like it hot? Add a few more peppers. Garlicky? Throw a few garlic cloves in there.

We love them on burgers (beef or veggie), but they are also good right out of the jar....

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burgers

I don't know about you, but I'm still recuperating from the July 4th weekend...I've got quite the food hangover. The weather was perfect here...just right for grilling. Doesn't food just taste better on the grill? I actually had a little help with my burgers this weekend. Red Gold Tomatoes sent me a little grilling package to liven them up! Am I lucky or what?!

Look at this cute little six pack of diced tomatoes...and I scored an apron and some recipes, too!

Red Gold Tomatoes just kicked off their Summer Grillin' Party part II. What does this mean for you? Just head on over to their Facebook Page and enter for a chance to win a Big Green Egg (!) or one of 4000 aprons that will be given away!

Of course, that's not all. Red Gold was nice enough to offer one of my readers a grilling kit just like the one pictured above, complete with an apron and a slew of great recipes. I'll give you the details in just a bit. First, I'd like to share this awesome recipe for Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burgers. 

This is easy peasy...brush on a little pesto and stuff 'em with some diced tasty!

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burger

Red Gold Tomatoes

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Burger

Fresh veggies fill this wonderful meatless burger. Made with Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil.


  • 4 Portobello mushroom caps, stem and gills removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon prepared pesto
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 small yellow bell pepper to taste
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Oil, drained very well
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 4 slices provolone cheese
  • 4 whole wheat buns


  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Combine olive oil, pesto, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Brush each mushroom cap with the oil mixture.
  2. Grill mushroom caps, rounded side up, for about 4 minutes. While cooking, combine bell pepper, 2/3 of the Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil, and spinach in a mixing bowl. turn mushrooms over and fill with tomato mixture. Cover and grill for 3 more minutes. Place a piece of cheese on each mushroom, covering tomatoes, and grill 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  3. Place a whole wheat bun that has been spread with Garlic Aioli--1/4 cup light mayonnaise and 1/3 cup Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Olive Oil, drained.
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Total time: 20 mins.

For the carnivores in the group, I made some Spicy Tomato Burgers. I ate both versions....

For the Spicy Tomato Burgers, simply mix a well-drained can of Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles with one pound of ground beef.

And now for the giveaway! Simply leave a comment telling me which of the Red Gold Burger recipes is your favorite. You can find the recipes right here: Burger Recipes. Then register your email address with the Rafflecopter widget (no one else will see it). I'll have Rafflecopter randomly choose a winner on Sunday, July 13th  Tuesday, July 15th. Contest will end on Monday, July 14th at 11:59 PM CST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was given some product, recipes, and an apron. All opinions are my own.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Sugar Cream Cake aka Gooey Butter Cake

Just in time for July 4th.....

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of dining at Bonge's Tavern in Perkinsville, Indiana. It was an awesome meal followed by an awesome dessert---a dessert I had never heard of before--- Sugar Cream Cake topped with a warm blueberry sauce. Oh. My. I have been wanting to reproduce that cake ever since. I do procrastinate however, so it wasn't until this week that I actually Googled the words "sugar cream cake".  The resulting recipe is a mash-up of my Google search. I have no idea if it even comes close to the recipe Bonge's Tavern has on their menu. But dang it's good. 

I made a special trip to the grocery store before work just to get blueberries, because that's how I had to be red, white, and blue......

It didn't take long for someone to point out to me that my "Sugar Cream Cake" looked strikingly similar to a Gooey Butter Cake. Sure enough, the recipes are nearly identical, but for the name. In St. Louis it's Gooey Butter Cake. In Perkinsville Indiana, it's Sugar Cream Cake. The most perplexing thing? I've never made either one of them before. Serious oversight on my part.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..."

Sugar Cream Cake

Sugar Cream Cake

Slightly crisp around the edges, with a gooey center that's almost pudding-like, this Sugar Cream Cake is perfect for any celebration!


  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs, divided
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.; grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the cake mix, butter, and 2 of the eggs. Batter will be thick. Spread on the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Beat together the remaining eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Spread over the top of the crust.
  4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Cool completely. Serve with topping of your choice.
Yield: 24
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 00 hrs. 40 mins.
Total time: 50 mins.

The fresh fruit and real whipped cream compliment the gooey sweetness....imagine what else you could top this with...plain, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, cranberries for the winter months, grilled pineapple for a tropical twist...the possibilities are endless!

Happy Independence Day, America!