Monday, September 10, 2012

Caramel Popcorn

    As summer slowly fades into fall, bringing chilly evenings and changing colors, it is time to start thinking about fall flavors. When I think of fall, I think about Pumpkin, Eggnog, Caramel, Pecans... Things of this nature. When I was growing up, each fall we would go to a friends house and have a hay ride, followed by a bon fire, bobbing for apples, and everyone would have popcorn balls. I never particularly cared for the candied popcorn balls, I much preferred caramel popcorn.
   Now that my children are getting old enough to enjoy these things, I think it is time to start our own family tradition. We have been gathering sticks, fallen limbs, etc. and preparing a spot for a bon fire. I have also been in the kitchen trying different caramel popcorn recipes, searching for the perfect combination of stickiness and gooey delicious flavor. We finally decided that this recipe below is our favorite. It is adapted from a "Salted Caramel" recipe that I had found in a cook book of my grandmothers. This caramel sets up firm, but not 'crunchy', on the popcorn. So if you are looking for more of a "Cracker Jack" feel, this is not the recipe for you. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family has!!

What you need:
1 stick of real butter
1 cup (packed) brown sugar (light or brown, it doesn't matter)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large mixing bowl of popped popcorn (I usually use about 1 cup of unpopped kernals, popped on the stove top and lightly salted)

Mix Butter, Sugar and cream together over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Stir only until the butter is melted and all of the ingredients are mixed well. Bring to a boil and do not stir it again. Let it boil for 5-7 minutes, remembering NOT to stir during this time.
(I usually use the cooking time to set out a cookie sheet, and lightly butter it so that the caramel popcorn won't stick to the pan.)
Slowly pour the caramel mixture over the popped popcorn, while stirring the popcorn to coat it as evenly as possible. DO NOT TOUCH THE CARAMEL WITH YOUR SKIN. Once the popcorn is evenly coated, pour the popcorn out into a cookie sheet and pop it into the fridge to cool for 5-7 minutes.

If you want to make caramel popcorn balls, rather than regular caramel popcorn, let the popcorn sit at room temperature for a few minutes before forming the balls. Use caution when handling the caramel, as it retains a high temperature easily. It is also suggested to butter your hands before forming them, then you can either place them on another cookie sheet or cover them individually in plastic wrap and save them for later.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Perfect Rolled Sugar Cookies

    Life got a little crazy for a few months. Between my grandmother's chemo treatments, End of the school year activities for my children, and a few health issues of my own, I have not had time to blog! But I am back and hopefully we can get this ball rolling again!
    This past week I had the opportunity to bake iced sugar cookies for a wedding. That is an experience I will not soon forget. They turned out very light and buttery, and by far the best sugar cookie I had ever tasted. And that is saying a lot because I am not personally a fan of sugar cookies! They held their shape nicely, so they would be perfect for Christmas cookies, when you want to make all of the cute little shapes. The dough does have to be chilled for at least an hour before it is baked, so this isn't a 'last minute' type of cookie.

What you will need:
2/3 Cup butter flavored shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
4 teaspoons milk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour (or pre-sifted cake flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cream together sugar, shortening and vanilla. Add egg. Beat until the mixture is fluffy. Mix in milk. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Slowly blend the dry ingredients into the creamed  mixture. Cover dough and chill for at least one hour.

Preheat your oven to 375.

Divide the dough in half and roll one half out on a lightly floured surface. If you have wax paper, you can roll the dough out between two pieces of wax paper rather than on a floured surface and save a mess. Keep the other half of the dough refrigerated until you are ready to roll it out. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters and place onto greased cookie sheets. Bake for 6-8 minutes, and allow to cool before removing from the pan. This recipe makes about 2 dozen depending on the size and thickness of the cookie.

For best results, allow your pan to completely cool before putting another batch of cookies on it and into the oven. This helps make sure your cookies do not spread before they bake.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grandma Simmons' Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Fortune Frosting

     One of the very best things about having a large family, and living close to them, is being able to visit with them on a regular basis. Yesterday was one of my nieces birthdays', so I made her some brownie cupcakes with chocolate frosting and pink sprinkles and took them to her. They were not the prettiest cupcakes on the face of the planet, but they were yummy. And we sat and talked for well over an hour. For me it brought back memories of being a child, playing with barbies, dressing our dolls, singing off tune to the "BEST SONG EVAR!!!!" usually by the Spice Girls, or some other Top 40 Hit maker. Before I left, she handed me a few of my grandmother, her great grandmother's, recipe's. This one caught my eye. I haven't tried it yet, but it is at the top of my list for the next time I get a sweet tooth, and it will most likely fill the cupcakes for the kids birthday party which is quickly approaching.
     For those of you who were reading quite regularly before I seemingly dropped off of the face of the planet, I'm sorry. We have had a bit of sudden family problems. My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with stage 4  lung, liver, and brain cancer. She started her chemo treatments this week, and will be having them for the next 6 months. 3 days a week for one week and then 3 weeks off. I'm still trying to process all of the information and wrap my mind around the idea of it. So that is why I have not posted, but I am back. I will be posting as often as possible again. And as always, Thank you for reading!

What you will need:
1 3/4 unsifted cake flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients except boiling water; Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Remove from mixer. Stir in boiling water. (Batter will be very thin). Pour into 2 greased and floured 9" layer pans. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or  until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on rack, remove from mans, cool completely. Top with frosting.

2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, 2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar, 3 tablespoons hot water, 1 egg, 1/3 cup soft butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Melt chocolate in mixing bowl over double boiler. Remove from heat. Blend in sugar and water slowly. Beat in egg, and beat until smooth. Then add butter and vanilla.

** PLEASE NOTE ** The frosting DOES in fact have a raw egg in it, so PLEASE keep this cake cold at all times!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Home made bread

When I was a child, my mother would bake home made bread every week. Usually on Friday afternoon, as we would clean the house and get ready for the weekend. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting on my dads lap, the smell of fresh baked bread filling the house, listening to what he did that day while he took off his work boots.

As I got older, things in our family changed, and my mother slowed her bread making to a trickle and then stopped completely before I was old enough to really learn how it was done. Early this summer my husband and I moved into the same house that I grew up in. I've been cooking in the same kitchen that I remember those yummy bread smells coming from, so I had to at least try to make bread from scratch. I looked online and went threw page after page of recipe's that always started out great, but eventually said "Add this all together in your bread machine...."  Oh wait.. I don't have one of those. Nor do I want one. Hmm. SO finally I found a recipe that sounded promising, and after trying it, I'm glad I didn't give up. This bread turned out light, slightly sweet, and very yummy. I cut the sugar in half so I could share it with my diabetic father, who of course loved it as much as I did.

What you will need:
2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half. Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans. Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

I found this recipe and many others over at, if you find a good one that your family loves, feel free to send me a link!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Southern Comfort Bon-Bon's

What you will need:
3 1/2 cups vanilla wafers, crushed
2 Tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup Powdered sugar
1/4 cup Light Corn Syrup
1/3 cup Southern Comfort
1 cup pecans (Optional)
16oz Chocolate Chips, Melted.

Mix Vanilla wafers, Cocoa, Sugar, Syrup and Southern Comfort together in a medium mixing bowl until well blended. Roll mixture into bite size balls and dip into melted chocolate chips. Set on wax paper and let the chocolate harden. Serve immediately, or store in an air tight container at room temperature.

Southern Pralines

Here is another recipe from my Grandmother. I don't remember her ever making these, of course, most of my memories from her cooking, I was a child. This recipe is of the "Adults Only" variety! So next time you are having a dinner party, or need a home made gift for an adult in your family, you might try this!

What you will need:
6 teaspoons Southern Comfort
3 teaspoons Condensed Milk
1 teaspoon butter
4 cups brown sugar
2 1/2 cups of pecans
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Mix Southern Comfort, Milk, Butter, Sugar and Pecans in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium to medium high heat, stirring constantly. Bring the mixture up to "Soft Ball" stage (235-240 degree's). Add Vanilla, stir until creamy. Let the mixture cool slightly and drop onto wax paper to set. Let cool completely before eating.

Santa Fe Soup

What you will need:
1 lb hamburger meat, browned and seasoned to taste
1 can of corn, with juice
1 can of "Rotel" (Diced tomatoes and chili peppers)
1 block of Velveeta cheese
1 can of Ranch Style beans, or any of your favorite beans
1 bag of your favorite tortilla chips

Brown and season your hamburger meat, drain well. Put Meat, Corn, Rotel and Beans into a pot, and put over medium heat. Dice the Velveeta into small pieces and add to the pot, stirring frequently to keep it from scorching. When your cheese is melted, spoon mixture over bowls of chips and serve immediately.

This is a recipe my grandmother gave me a few weeks ago. I personally can not eat Rotel because of the tomatoes, so instead, I added a package of taco seasoning to the soup while I was waiting for the cheese to melt. It was very tasty!