Strawberry Shortcakes

– johanna | May 18th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

I put my cooking skills to the test Mother’s Day weekend baking desserts for a Garden Party and Auction event. My day was going to be jammed packed with ferrying kids back and forth to school, volunteering at said school, setting up for the auction, shopping, and baking not only for the auction but a karate camp fundraiser. Ayeesh! Fortunately for me my daughter’s teacher did not need my help in the classroom and the babysitter cancelled changing my schedule from set up Friday night to clean up Saturday afternoon. I was able to finish most of my baking in the morning on Friday freeing me up to play a little Mindcraft with the kids. I even had some time to watch a friend’s daughter so she could take her son to the ER.

Part of my baking assignment was Strawberry Shortcakes. I was a bit concerned because biscuits are not my strong suit. The cheesecake recipe was easypeasy. So I threw all my focus into getting the biscuits just right. We made them small and thin because they were part of a sample dessert plate. To make the biscuits thicker do not roll the dough so thin and use a larger cutter. I found the size to be perfect though. With the custard, strawberries and whipped cream it was very rich and filling.

The trick is not over baking them the slightest. You do not want them to brown at all so remove them from the oven at the just barely done stage. Every oven varies. I found that mine were perfect at 10 minutes as opposed to the recommended 12 minutes. Baking the biscuits this way makes them wonderfully moist. In fact they will stay fresh for about 3 to 4 days. If they brown they will become stale and crumbly by the next day, or even hours later.

My kids were munching on them like they were cookies. I imagine you could top them with icing or frosting and call them a sugar cookie, just not as sweet.

Source: Turlock Nursery School
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened but still cool
3 ounces cream cheese, softened but still cool
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter and cream cheese with a pastry cutter until mixture is crumbly. Mix in heavy cream with a fork until dough is moist. Use your hands to press the dough into a ball.

Roll dough out, on a floured surface, to a 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/2-inch circular biscuit cutter. Place rounds on prepared cookie sheet- 4 rows by 4 columns. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Shortcakes should be pale in color but firm. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

To Serve:
Slice shortcakes in half through the middle. Place a dollop of custard on one half. Add a tablespoon of sliced strawberries. Top with other half of biscuit, a teaspoon whipped cream (optional) and a sliced strawberry.

To store:
Place biscuits in a zip-lock bag. Squeeze out excess air as much as possible. Store at room temperature.

Makes 17-20 biscuits

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No Bake Boiled Cookies

– johanna | April 13th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

Photo: Property of Allrecipes

No Bake Cookies are a standard in practically every Grandmother’s recipe box. Rich chocolate mixed with gooey peanut butter and chewy oats.

Do not let the no bake part fool you into thinking this is a quick cookie to make. No bake means just that, no baking required. Consequently, the batter must be heated to a boil, then dropped by spoonfuls onto waxed paper to cool. It is best to wait until they have cooled a couple of hours before eating.

Source: Allrecipes
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a saucepan over medium heat bring sugar, cocoa, butter, milk, and salt to a rapid rolling boil. Continue to boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add oats, peanut butter, and vanilla; mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper to cool.

Helpful Tips:
— Under boiling the cookies they will not set properly.
— Over boiling produces dry crumbly cookies.

— Extra-chocolaty Cookies: Top cookies with chocolate chips.
— Easter Nests: Spoon batter into greased muffin pan. Cool. Remove from pan. Fill with shredded coconut and jelly beans.

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Chocolate Sauce

– johanna | February 14th, 2012

Filed under: RECIPES - Breakfast, RECIPES - Treats

David claims that this chocolate sauce is the best chocolate sauce ever. I must agree it is pretty awesome. A great homemade chocolate sauce recipe is a must in every woman’s arsenal of romanitc Valentine’s Day recipes. The main dish is just the bait. A delectable chocolate sauce, however, is the hook, line and sinker. It can communicate I Love You! with just one bite.

This chocolate sauce is absolutely amazing when paired with strawberry cream cheese and crapes. Drizzle chocolate sauce over ice cream, cheesecake, or chocolate torte.

Source: David Lebovitz
About 2 1/2 cups

1 cup (250 ml) water
1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
1/2 cup (160 g) light corn syrup, agave nectar, or glucose
3/4 cup (75 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces (55 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup (or agave or glucose), and cocoa powder.

2. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it’s just begun to simmer and boil, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted.

Serving: You should let the Chocolate Sauce stand for a few hours before serving, which will give it time to thicken a bit.

Storage: Store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.

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Gluten Free Breakfast Cookies

– johanna | December 9th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

When I saw this recipe for gluten-free breakfast cookies, I was excited because it only calls for one type of flour and the results were amazing. Switching to a gluten-free diet is very difficult, it is not just replacing a cup of wheat flour with coconut flour, there is an entire new baking formula to go by. Even then, the results can be less than satisfactory.  Those who suffer from celiacs disease and gluten sensitivity deserve to have that perfect crunch of bread or moist light muffin, it is one of those simple pleasures many of us take for granted.

With Celiacs disease, the gluten attacks the lining of the intestines; once gluten is removed from the diet, the symtoms of the disease go away. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley (there is some debate as to oats being included in the mix). Those with a sensitivity to gluten may feel run down, bloated, and risk developing other types of autoimmune diseases. However, you need not have Crohns disease or Celiacs disease to experience a sensitivity to gluten.

Today, the gluten content in wheat is 90% more than 70,  or even 100, years ago. Many doctors are advising patients with unknown chronic illnesses to lay off the gluten until their system recovers. Some individuals discover that they feel healthier and have more energy once the gluten is removed from their diet. All in all, I would not rush out and start buying gluten-free products, as it seems to be the craze now-a-days. Moderation is the key in all things.

Often times gluten-free recipes can be somewhat overwhelming with all the unfamiliar products. With recipes like this one, we can easily incorporate more grains into our diet. And, your gluten-free friends will be so shocked. Just remember to use uncontaminated baking equipment.

Source: Comfy Belly
2 1/2 cups of almond meal or almond flour (any nut flour will work really)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or 1/2 cup of coconut oil or vegetable shortening, melted)
1/2 cup of honey (or other sweetener)
1 egg
1 tablespoon of vanilla
2 cups of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, chocolate (in any variation)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Stir in the 2 cups of desired nuts and fruits.

Stir in the melted butter, honey, egg, vanilla. Blending well.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on greased cookie sheets. Space them about 1 inch apart.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 25. Store in a sealed container.

– For a crunchier cookie, leave them in the oven at 200 degrees F for another 15 minutes or so, or in a dehydrator on a fairly low temperature for about 2 hours.
– Fall spice blend: 1 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg and ground cloves. Add with dry ingredients.

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Fall Spice Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Cookies

– johanna | November 25th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

Last month I was trying to think of a kid friendly snack to make for our pumpkin decorating party. I also had an entire bunch of bananas sitting untouched in the fruit basket. Not a normal phenomenon in this house. Fortunately for me I was able to produce two loaves of banana nut bread and our favorite fall banana cookies. I love this recipe because it is packed with chocolate and nuts and just the perfect hint of fall spices.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart Banana Cookie

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Stir the baking soda into the mashed bananas and let sit for 2 minutes.

Combine the flour, salt, spices, pecans and chocolate chips.

Cream the butter and sugars (on medium speed) until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until well combined. Fold in the mashed banana banana in 2 additions, alternating with flour mixture, ending with the flour, folding until just combined.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Bake until edges are golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

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Peach Crisp

– johanna | October 21st, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

Upon their arrival, early American settlers had to make do with what they had. Common ingredients used back in England were in short supply or non existant in the new world. The colonists learned to use variations of fruits and meats available to them in traditional English recipes such as crisps, cobblers, Betty, grunts, and the like.

Crisps and cobblers were thought of as common food. They were reserved for the family. One would never serve a crisp to company. Pioneers traveling across the country ate cobblers for both breakfast and dinner. They were easier to make given the limited resources on the trail.

Crisps are just as popular today as they were in Medieval Europe. They are available at many restaurants and back yard barbecues. Crisps are often served with a dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.

5 large ripe peaches, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
8 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 chopped pecans
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To peel the peaches bring a stock pot filled with water to a boil. Cut a small X on the bottom of each peach. Add peaches to the boiling water and simmer for 30-60 seconds. Remove peaches from the pot and place in a bowl of ice water. Allow peaches to cool slightly. The skins should slip right off.

Toss peaches with lemon juice and zest. Stir in flour, sugar, vanilla and salt. Divide evenly among ramekins or place in a 8X8 pan.

Combine all the topping ingredients in a food processor. Pulse about 30 seconds until combined. Or mix with fingers until the mixture is clumpy and crumbly. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time if needed.

Top each ramekin or 8X8 inch pan with topping. Don’t pack too tightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.

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Halloween Mystery Dinner

– johanna | October 18th, 2011

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Photo: by Bunny Cakes


Slug Butter beer

Black Quagmire Potion


Freshly Picked Graveyard Morsels

Skinned Vampire Fingers

Zombie Brains

Crispy Fried Bat Wings

Main Course:

Roasted Heart of Troll

Ogre Eyeball Sub


Snickers Cheesecake

Fruity Ghosts and Pumpkins

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Apple Harvest Festival

– johanna | October 11th, 2011

Filed under: CREATING MEMORIES, RECIPES - Beverage, RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Treats

Photo: Courtesy of Istock Photo

One of my favorite children’s books is, “The Blackberry Mouse” by Matthew Grimsdale. “The Blackberry Mouse” is a wonderful tale about a greedy young mouse who learns a valuable lesson about friendship. The story ends with Mouse and his neighborhood friends gathered together around the table enjoying a blackberry feast. There is blackberry jam, blackberry jelly, blackberry pies, lots and lots of blackberry tarts, and blackberry juice.

September marks the beginning of apple season. Mounds of succulent apples have already made their way to the market. The fall apple harvest reminds me of Mouse’s elaborate table laden with delectable blackberry goodies. There are so many wonderful edible creations to make with apples. What better way to celebrate the fall apple harvest than with an Apple Feast.

Many apple farms across California open their orchards to the public to celebrate the apple harvest. U-Pick It farms are ideal for an adventurous family outing. Although, the fun need not stop once the basket is filled. The real excitement begins at home making apple cider, apple jelly, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie, apple turnovers… However, fanfare such as this should never be enjoyed alone.

Mouse, in the story Blackberry Mouse, recognized that blackberries are nice but even better when you share them. Preserved goods such as jams and butters make perfect gifts for Christmas or to say “Thank You”. Tasty cakes, muffins and turnovers make the grand beginnings for a family apple festival.

Photo: Courtesy of

An Apple Festival can be a small intimate gathering with family and/or friends. Or a grand event involving the neighborhood or community. Fun activities and good food made with apples are a must to pull off a successful Apple Feast.

**For those with allergies to apples substitute pears.

Apple Festival Activities:
Apple Bobbing Fill a large container with water and apples. Bob for apples using only your mouth, no hands. Or attach apples to a string- participants must pull the apple from the string using only their mouth, no hands allowed.

Apple Toss Stand in two lines. Each person has a partner. Toss the apple to your partner. If they catch it you both take a step back. If you drop it you are out. Last couple standing wins.
Apple Darts Attach ‘red balloons’ to a board or wall. Participants throw darts to try to pop a balloon. If offering prizes place a ticket or several tickets in each balloon that can be exchanged for treats and prizes.
Apple Tasting- Display a variety of different types of apples. Place each variety on its own plate. Label. Keep a tally of who likes what best.

Apple Crafts:

Apple Treats:

1. Apple Butter 2. Fruit Leather 3. Applesauce 4. Apple Dip 5. Apple Cake 6. Apple Turnovers 7. Praline Apple Bread 8. Autumn Cheesecake 9. Caramel Apples (caramel sauce) 10. Apple Cider 11. Fried Apples Pies 12. Spiked Apple Cake 13. Apple Zeppole 14. Apple Cider Doughnuts 15. Apple shaped cupcakes 16. Apple Pie-rate Ship 17. Apple Crisp 18. Fried Apple Fritters 19. Apple Spiced Punch 20. Apple Muffins 21. Apple Scones, Walnut Apple Scones 22. Apple Dumplings 23. Almond Apple Strudel Bars 24. Apple Pie 25. Candied Apples 26. Apple Strudel Bars 27. Creamy Apple Chicken Chili 28. Pork Chops with Apple Chutney

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Old Fashioned Homestead Cornbread

– johanna | September 16th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Snacks, RECIPES - Treats

Cornbread as we know it today is a modern interpretation to the flat cakes of the 17th century. Corn, or Maize, was once a form of wild grass called Teosinte used by the ancient peoples of Central America 6000 to 10,000 years ago. The Teosinte kernels were small and unfused. In fact Biologist were certain that the Teosinte plant was a relative to rice. There was no possible way corn could have mutated from the Teosinte plant. Upon further investigation the science community discovered that the Native Americans selected particular Teosinte plants and developed the first hybrid corn plant through genetic modification. The hybrid was a shorter replica of the modern ear of corn.

Corn was a staple in the Native American diet. It was easy to cultivate as it grew well in the soils of South America. The Native Americans learned to dry and grind corn into corn meal for food. The husks were used to make shoes, baskets and mats. When the British Colonist arrived, in the 17th century, they taught the settlers how to grow and harvest the corn. Corn plants were planted with bean plants to provide support for one another. The spaces in between the mounds of earth were filled with ground covering melons. This method of planting provided an abundant supply of food in a small space. Cornmeal became a substitute for traditionally used grains of wheat and oats.

The type of cornbread depends on the area and family. Most culinary enthusiasts claim there are two factions of cornbread, Southern and Northern. Southern cornbread is made using bacon grease and little to no sugar. It is grainier and crumbly. Northern cornbread is a sweet cake-like bread with added sugar. Still there are more varieties of corn breads. Yeasted cornbread has a bread like texture. Savory cornbread mixes in fruits, vegetables and herbs. Skillet cornbread, or hoe cakes, are fast fried in fat before putting the pan in the oven. Corn Pone is a fried corn dough. Johnny cakes are corn pancakes.

This recipe for cornbread is a Northern cake-like bread. It is sweet and has a significant rise similar to a cake. I like to serve it as a dessert with honey butter.

Be sure to check out the variations after the recipe for some yummy alternatives.

Source: Patricia Bergstrom
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 1/2 cups milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Honey Butter:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

For Honey Butter: Whip 1/2 cup butter with 1/3 cup honey until smooth.

For Cornbread:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

In a small bowl, combine cornmeal and milk; let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix in the cornmeal mixture, eggs and oil until smooth, about 5 minutes on low speed. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Serve with a dab of fresh whipped honey butter.

– Substitute the white sugar with half white and half light brown sugar.
– If using a glass pyrex reduce oven temp by 25 degrees.
– For muffins bake 25 minutes
– For more corn flavor use 2 cups cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups flour.
– For a gluten free alternative replace all-purpose flour with amaranth flour using 2 cups cornmeal and 1 1/2 cups amaranth.
– Melt 1 tablespoon bacon grease in a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the grease is sizzling hot add the cornbread batter to the pan. Smooth the batter. Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. This creates a nice crispy outside.
– If you are looking to incorporate more whole grains into your diet try grinding your own cornmeal from popcorn. You read right, yes popcorn. Since popcorn is extremely hard a professional grinder like the WonderMill is recommended. (Grind with the dial turned as far to the right as it can go.)

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Aunt Ruth’s Sour Cream Pound Cake

– johanna | August 5th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Treats

This week my son requested pound cake for dessert. I was surprised to find I have yet to post the recipe for my Aunt’s Sour Cream Pound Cake. My Aunt always had a round of her famous sour cream pound cake tucked away under the lid of the stainless steel cake dome. I know I gush a lot over my great Aunt Ruth. She is an amazing woman. She is a strong classy lady with loads of common sense wisdom.

My Aunt Ruth can farm and hunt with the best of tom boys; yet, she can don a gown and ballroom dance with a regal air. She has the purest heart. She never gossips or speaks ill of anyone. She believes in the saying “if you can’t say something nice do not say anything at all.” So you will find she does not talk too much. When she does she has so many adventurous stories to tell. My Great Aunt Ruth was unable to have children of her own but she was a loving mother to many. You can’t help but love her. She has an infectious smile with a down to earth personality. She is the most amazing cook too. Her meals are simple. No fluff. Just simple fresh ingredients.

My Aunt Ruth always served her pound cake with fresh chopped strawberries. The strawberries were tossed with sugar to draw out the juices to create a syrup. She always had pint sized containers of fresh picked strawberries and blueberries in the freezer ready to top pound cake or be made into a cobbler.

Pound cakes get their name from the weight of the ingredients used: a pound of butter, a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs. Always try to use the freshest good quality ingredients when preparing pound cake. Because pound cake gets the majority of its flavor from the butter there is no substitute for real butter. Use a low protein flour such as Pillsbury or a cake flour to keep the crumb tender.

Pound cakes do not use baking powder to give them rise. Instead they rely on the power of eggs and whipped air incorporated into the batter during the creaming and addition of the eggs. Over mixing the batter can result in a dense crumbly cake rather than a lighter moist version. In this recipe the butter, butter-sugar mixture, dry ingredients and egg whites are all whipped separately before combining them. It is equally important to mix each stage properly.

2 sticks butter, room temperature but still cool
2 3/4 cup sugar
6 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, room temperature but still cool
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp lemon flavoring (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour the bottom, sides and cone of a 10-inch tube pan.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar; cream until light colored and fluffy. About 5-7 minutes.

**Do not stop beating sugar and butter too early. Continue beating until the mixture is light in color and fluffy not stiff and dull.**

Whip egg whites until just stiff. (about 2-3 minutes with a mixer) Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, alternating egg yolk then some egg white.

**Do not over mix each addition. Mix in each egg addition just until the color of the egg yolk or egg white disappears.**

In a small bowl sift the flour, salt and baking soda. Using a large spatula, fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture alternating sour cream then flour; mixing until just combined. Add the vanilla and lemon; fold in until incorporated.

Pour the mixture into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan to finish cooling on a wire rack.

To serve: top cake with glaze and a dusting of powdered sugar. Or omit the glaze and dust with powdered sugar. Serve with sliced berries, ice cream or whipped cream.

Glaze: Beat the following ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
8 ounce package cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 box powder sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

— Try to use a lighter aluminum tube pan. The darker pans tend to darken the sides and bottom of the cake more.
— Bake by instinct not time. Watch the cake at about the 1 hour mark. Test for doneness by pressing on the top. If it feels firm and bounces back the cake may be done. If it jiggles or feels fragile under pressure it is not done.
— If the cake is browning too fast cover the top with aluminum foil and place pan on a baking sheet. This will insulate the cake from further direct heat.
— Weather and ovens vary the end result of baked goods.
— There is no substitute for lemon extract. Lemon juice contains acids while the extract has more of an essential oil base. You could try a tablespoon of lemon zest, if in a pinch, added to the glaze.

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