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Let’s Eat Cake

I had a conversation with my mom last night. It went something like this:

Me: What should I blog about tomorrow?
Mom: How about kitties?
Me: I think I’ll blog about a recipe. Should I do pork chops or blueberry pie?
Mom: Pork shops. Blueberries aren’t in season.
Me: I think I’ll do a cake recipe.

I know my mom just loves our little chats.

Friday is a good day to share a recipe, I think, because then I have time to actually make the recipe over the weekend. This way, everybody wins — you get a new recipe, and I get cake!

This particular cake is wonderful both for it’s light taste and it’s amazingly easy preparation. I throw this cake together when I’m craving baked goods, but haven’t bought special ingredients for things like brownies or other types of cake. This cake calls for cupboard staples. Plus, you make it from scratch, which sounds fancy and impressive, and means you don’t have to worry about what’s actually in that cake mix.

Enough talking, let’s make cake!

Vanilla Crazy Cake (I don’t know why it’s crazy. Crazy good, maybe.)
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil
¾ cup milk
¼ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup semi-sweet real chocolate chips


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In 8-inch square baking pan combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, with wire whisk, stir together egg and vanilla. Make 2 indentations in flour mixture; pour oil in one and egg mixture in other. Pour milk over flour mixture; mix well. Stir in pecans.
3. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
4. Sprinkle chocolate chips over warm cake. Let stand 2 minutes; slightly swirl melted chips to cover cake.

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A Pumpkin Recipe for Halloween

Halloween wouldn’t be complete without pumpkins. So I thought it would be appropriate to share a tasty pumpkin recipe today. I made it over the weekend and brought it to a party, and everyone said it was pretty tasty. So, there you have it, everyone likes it. These cookies stay soft and don’t flatten out during baking, which I love! And if you’re worried about the possibility that cookies that taste like pumpkin might be weird, don’t be. The taste of pumpkin isn’t overpowering, and what taste there is definitely is more pumpkin pie than pumpkin vegetable.

Pumpkin Spiced and Iced Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 can (15 oz) 100% Pure Pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups (12 oz package) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, but very good)
Vanilla Glaze

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheets.
2. Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until creamy. Beat in pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets.
3. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Drizzle or spread with vanilla glaze.

Vanilla Glaze

Combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl and mix well.

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Penne Pasta, Beef, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes


I collect more recipes than I should. Eventually, I end up with a pile of magazines, pages torn from magazines, scribbled notes, and computer print outs that must be addressed before they can get organized and conquer my kitchen. I collect recipes that later on, when I’m sorting, I can’t figure out why I would have kept them. Seriously, what am I going to do with a recipe for candied beets? My pile was getting a bit unruly, so I spent some time yesterday culling the herd and writing down the few that actually made the second cut onto recipe cards. I have a real soft spot for pasta, especially when it’s part of a recipe that doesn’t take much of my time. I found such a recipe in my pile and thought I’d share it.

Penne Pasta, Beef, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 1/2 cups (6 oz) uncooked penne pasta
1 lb boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into strips
1/2 tsp peppered seasoned salt
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and cut into strips
2 tbsp oil reserved from the tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Cook and drain pasta. Meanwhile, spray a 12″ skillet with cooking spray. Add beef to the skillet, sprinkle with peppered seasoned salt, and cooked 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until brown. Stir in tomatoes, 1 tbsp oil, and onions. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until heated through. Stir in the artichoke hearts, pasta, and remaining oil. Cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until heated. Sprinkle with parsley.

Relax and enjoy.

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Easy and Delicious (and sometimes Vegan) Black Bean Soup

This recipe takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish, which I love. It’s very easy and quick, and still manages to be tasty and healthy (there are only 210 calories per cup). If you make it with vegetable broth and leave out the sour cream, it’s vegan. When I have vegans over for dinner this is usually what I serve, and they haven’t complained yet. I like to serve this soup with corn bread. Usually, there’s leftovers. I like to drain off most of the liquid and serve the chunky part of the soup over rice the next day. It makes a great lunch!

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium ( 1/2 cup) onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, chopped
2 stalks (1 cup) celery, sliced
1 (15 to 16 oz) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 (14.5 oz) can beef or vegetable broth
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (4 oz) can green chilies (optional)
2 tbsp dry sherry (optional)
1 tsp group cumin
sour cream

1. In a 4-quart saucepan heat oil; add onion, red pepper, and celery. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisply tender (about 2 or 3 minutes).

2. Add all remaining ingredients except sour cream. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through and flavors are blended (10 to 15 minutes).

3. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream (or not).

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Homemade Pizza


It’s Friday, and in my family that often means it’s pizza day. Although we usually go out for pizza, there’s nothing quite like the occasional home made pizza. I’m not talking about the sort of “home made” pizza that comes from dumping a jar of pasta sauce on a pre-made crust (although there’s a time and a place for those, too). I’m talking about a pizza with made-from-scratch dough and sauce. I have a recipe for pizza sauce that I’ve been using for years, and I really think it makes the difference between a good pizza and a delicious pizza. I’ve converted a few friends who would say the same. By request, I am also including my recipe for pizza dough.

Tomato Sauce for Pizza

1/4 cup (4 tbsp) olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
5 cups (2 28 oz. cans) Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried tarragon
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
6 oz (small can) tomato paste

Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pan. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until they are transparent. Add the tomatoes, chopping them up with your spoon in the pan. Rub the dried herbs between your hands and let them drop into the sauce. Add the salt, sugar, tomato paste and a few grindings of black pepper. Stir all of the ingredients together and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Don’t let the sauce reach a boil.

This recipe will make about 6 cups of sauce. If you like a smooth sauce, you can run it through the blender after it’s cooled. I personally like it a little chunky, so I just leave it as is. Just break up the tomatoes with your spoon to the size you want. Keep leftover sauce in the refrigerator. You can use it in all sorts of things (although I tend to like it as a topping for pasta), or you can save it for another pizza.

Basic Pizza Dough

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) olive oil
2 packages dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp light brown sugar

Measure 1/2 cup warm water (about 100?F) in a measuring cup and stir in 2 tsp of light brown sugar. Be sure the water is only warm — not hot, or it will kill the yeast and dough won’t rise. The warm water and the sugar help the yeast to become active. Dissolve the 2 packages of yeast in the water and set it aside for at least 5 minutes. The yeast will become frothy.

Meanwhile, sift 4 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl with the salt. Make a depression in the middle of the flour and add 3 tbsp of olive oil and 1 cup of warm water. When the yeast mixture has risen for 5 minutes, add it to the flour.

Dust the surface on which you will be kneading the dough with flour. Now mix all of the ingredients in the bowl with your hands and gather them together and place them on the floured board. Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes.

Knead the dough by pushing part of it away from you with the heel of one hand and then folding it back towards you. Repeat with the heel of the other hand. Then rotate the dough 1/4 turn and repeat. Add more flour to the board (it will become incorporated into the dough) if the mixture is too wet or too sticky. Eventually the dough will become elastic and will stay together in a cohesive ball.

Rub a clean bowl with olive oil and place the kneaded dough in it. Moisten the top of the dough with oil as well. Place a clean dish towel over the bowl and put it in a warm, draft-free place to rise. The oven is usually a good place.

When the dough has risen for 1 1/2 hours, remove it and place it again on the floured board. You are now ready to roll out the dough. You have enough dough to make:

  • 2 thin crust pizzas at 12″ each (preheat oven at 500?F)
    Divide dough into equal balls and roll out into a circle (if you are using a rectangular baking sheet, roll out your dough in a rectangle instead). Sprinkle a little cornmeal on your baking stone or pizza pan and carefully slide the dough onto the stone or pan. Roll up the edges of the dough to form a rim. Brush the dough with olive oil, then add sauce, cheese, and any other toppings you like. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and crisp looking.
  • 1 thick crust pizza at 14″ (preheat oven to 350?F)
    After the dough has risen for an hour, punch it down and let it stand for another hour. Roll out the dough and place it on your pan or stone and make a rim around the edge of the dough. Allow the dough to rise in the pan for 15 minutes and then place it in the oven for 10 minutes unfilled. Remove partially baked crust from the oven and add sauce, cheese, and other toppings. Bake for another 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly.

Personally, I like to use a pizza stone to make pizza. It gives you a nice, even, tasty crust. If you don’t already have one, you may want to pick one up. You can get a nice one from Sassafras for about $20 on Amazon. You may also want to invest in a pizza peel, to transfer your freshly assembled pizza onto and off your pizza stone. It’s not a necessity, but it’s definitely nice to have one.

Enjoy! If you make pizza, I’d love to hear how it turned out for you.

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My Fanciest Cake Ever

Best-Ever Carrot Cake

Yesterday was busy with preparations and celebration. One of my friends defended her dissertation and can now call herself a doctor. That’s a pretty big deal, so we had a party to celebrate, which was a lot of fun. I made a carrot cake from scratch, which I’ve never done before, and it turned out great. It is officially the fanciest cake I’ve ever made, simply because I’ve always made sheet cakes, and this was a real, two-layer sides-frosted cake. And it was delicious, too. Oh, yesterday is also the day I learned how unhealthy carrot cake actually is. The only healthy things in it are the carrots.

Here’s the recipe, taken from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book:

Best-Ever Carrot Cake

4 beaten eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups finely shredded carrots (lightly packed)
3/4 cup cooking oil
Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted (optional)


  1. Allow eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, grease and flour two 9×1 1/2-inch round cake pans; set pans aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda.
  2. Ina medium bowl combine eggs, carrots, and oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Pour batter into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool thoroughly on racks.
  4. Frost tops and sides with Cream Cheese Frosting. If desired, sprinkle chipped pecans over frosting. Store cake in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Soften one 8 ounce package of cream cheese and a half cup of butter or margarine. Beat these together with 2 tsp vanilla extract. Gradually add 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar to the mixture, then continue adding more sifted powdered sugar until the frosting reaches spreading consistency (this will likely mean that you use between 5 3/4 and 6 1/4 cups total powdered sugar.

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Three-Pepper Pasta Salad

Three Pepper Pasta Salad

Someone was looking for pasta salad recipes over in the Etsy forums yesterday. Of course, this got me to thinking about my favorite pasta salad recipe, which I will share with you now. This recipe is so easy to make, so don’t let the long list of ingredients fool you. I’ve taken it to several pot-luck style events, and it’s one of those dishes that’s completely gone when it’s time to go home (which is sad if you were secretly hoping for leftovers for yourself, as I do.) I may have to whip up a batch of this soon… If you end up making this, I hope you’ll come back and leave a comment to let me know how you liked it!

1 package (12 ounces) tricolor spiral pasta
2/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried basil)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 small sweet red pepper, julienned
1 small yellow pepper, julienned
1 small green pepper, julienned
1 medium tomato, cut into thin wedges
1 can (2 1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained
2 tbsp sliced green onions
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, cubed

Some notes about how I do it: extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil, red wine vinegar, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Also, I don’t bother to measure the green onions, I just use scissors to snip 1 bunch of them into the bowl. Oh, and I’ve actually been using shredded Parmesan, instead of grated. It all gets liquified in the blender anyway.

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, process the oil, vinegar, basil, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until smooth.
3. Drain and rinse pasta; place in a large bowl.
4. Add the peppers, tomato, olives, and onions.
5. Add dressing; toss to coat.
6. Add mozzarella and toss. Serve at room temperature.

6 to 8 servings.

If you left out the cheeses, I bet it would still be delicious, and it would be vegan, too. Also, I bet the dressing would be good on other salad, too.