Category: Easy


I said I wouldn’t be one of those people who cooked for their dogs. And then we brought Riley home.

4 ingredient peanut butter Dog TreatsHe had a cough and choked on his hard food, so on Day 2 I found myself cooking up some brown rice, egg whites and cheese. I thought that would hold him over until I could get some softer dog food.

Well, I didn’t stop there. New dogs require training, and training requires treats. Treats are expensive, so when I saw this post for DIY Dog Treats that uses only 4 ingredients, I thought I should try them. I had everything in-house and I already had the oven on!

These are super-simple to make, and so cute too! I would have used a bone-shaped cookie cutter but I don’t have one so I used the heart. The Pretty One has been making fun of me since he saw them! As he says, just a day after I said I wouldn’t cook for a dog, I baked him treats. And not only did I bake him treats, but I cut them into little heart shapes! He’s taken great delight in showing them to his sister and his friends. I’m glad I’m here to amuse him. What are mothers for, right?

I got about 4 dozen treats from the batch using a 2″ cookie cutter. I’ve read some comments on other blogs that some dogs don’t do well with wheat. Riley hasn’t had any trouble with them, but if your dog is sensitive to any of the ingredients, the simple solution is to not make them. 🙂

Oh, and you should freeze whatever you don’t expect to use within a week. I checked the batch yesterday (2-3 weeks after I made them) and they’re growing fuzz.

Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Stuff you need:

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

1 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)

1 cup milk

Now what?

Preheat oven to 375′F.

In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk, then add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead.

Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness and use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Bake for 18-20 minutes on a greased baking sheet until lightly brown. Cool on a rack, then store in an airtight container.

Make sure you keep an eye on them, because they tend to burn easily.

Freeze whatever you won’t use within the week.

Fresh Apple Cake

Fresh Apple CakeHow about a quick and easy apple cake? The most time-consuming part about this is chopping up the apples. If you’re lazy like me, don’t bother to peel them. Just wash them well, and start chopping!

I used Granny Smith apples because that’s what I had in the house. Use your favorite kind, or a mixture of sweet with tart. I didn’t chop the apples too much because I like to have pieces in my cake. However, if you don’t like biting into apple chunks, dice them finer.Fresh Apple Cake!

The batter will be very thick. That’s fine – just make sure you’ve got the dry ingredients mixed evenly with the wet ingredients before smooshing the batter into the pan.

Make a 9 x 13 pan or split the batter into two 9×9 cake pans and keep one for yourself, and share the other with friends.

Fresh Apple Cake

Adapted from Midwest Living

Stuff you need:
3 cups flour [I used 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 all-purpose flour.]
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sale
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 medium Granny Smith apples, washed and chopped [Peel if that’s your preference – or you’re not as lazy as I am.]
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Powdered sugar for dusting

Now what?

Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan or 2 9×9-inch baking pans; set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; make a well in center of dry mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil and vanilla; stir in apples and nuts.

Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be stiff). Smoosh batter into prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. If you like, dust with powdered sugar or top each serving with sweetened whipped cream and an apple slice.

Yesterday the temperature was in the 70s. This afternoon? 31 very damp, chilly degrees. I know it’s November, but I was really enjoying the warm sunshine!

Steak Soup

Steak Soup – Kansas City Style!

Since the temperature isn’t working in my favor, it seemed like a good day to make a pot of soup. Plaza III The Steakhouse in Kansas City is known for their Steak Soup. When the natives talk about steak soup, it’s this one. This copycat recipe from my friend Jennifer’s family cookbook is delicious and perfect for a chilly day! The recipe makes about a gallon of soup, so if you don’t have a big family or a party of people to feed, freeze some or share with friends!

The soup is surprisingly simple and uses few ingredients. The original recipe calls for Accent but I don’t use it because it contains – or is – MSG, which makes me wheeze. Instead, I substituted some salt and burger seasoning to add richness.

It’s easy to see why this is a Kansas City favorite!

Plaza III Steak Soup

This recipe makes about a gallon of soup so make sure you are using a BIG stock pot! If you don’t want that much, the recipe should halve easily.

Stuff you need:

1 pound ground chuck / ground beef [The Pretty One likes thicker soup so I used 1 1/2 pounds.]

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup margarine (1 stick)

1 cup flour

8 cups water [Original recipe said 1/2 gallon but I had to look up how many cups that was!]

2 Tablespoons beef base / beef concentrate [This is the stuff in the jars in the soup aisle, probably on the top shelf. Restaurants use this – that’s why their soups are so good!]

1 package frozen mixed veggies (about 1 pound)

1 can (2 pounds) tomatoes, UNdrained [I used 2 14-oz cans petite diced tomatoes.]

1 Tablespoon pepper

1 Tablespoon Accent OR 1 teaspoon salt + 1 Tablespoon Weber Grill Creations Gourmet Burger Seasoning OR other beef seasoning

Now what?

Put the ground beef, chopped onion, celery and carrots in large stock pot and cook until beef is browned.

Drain off fat and transfer beef and veggie mixture to bowl. Set aside.

Melt margarine in stock pot then stir in flour to make a paste. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add cold water. Cook until thickened, stirring to keep it smooth, about 5 minutes. [Mine didn’t get thick, more like a cloudy water.]

Add in the beef concentrate and stir to mix.

Add in the meat & veggie mix, frozen veggies, tomatoes and seasonings. [I didn’t drain the tomatoes. If you think the soup is too watery, simmer with the lid for another 30-45 minutes.]

Simmer for 45 minutes or until veggies are tender.

I was invited to dinner at my daughter’s a couple of weeks ago. After we finished the chicken enchiladas she’d made, my son-in-law looked over and asked, “What did you bring for dessert?”

“Nothing,” was my reply. “Tish told me not to bring anything.” “What?!? Why’d you do that?” he asked his wife. It seems Alex had been hoping for the pumpkin cake I’d made last fall for him, and was disappointed when it didn’t appear. I promised to bring one the next time I saw him, which turned out to be last weekend for their kids’ birthday parties, and he was appeased. Pumpkin Spice Pudding for Alex's Cake

This cake is an adaptation of the Hornet’s Nest Cake from The Cake Mix Doctor. It’s crazy-easy and comes out perfect every time! Basically, you make pudding, fold in a cake mix, then top it with pecans and chips before baking.  The original recipe calls for vanilla pudding, butterscotch chips and pecans. The chips sink slightly into the cake to create holes, which mimics the appearance of a hornet’s nest. No frosting is needed, and would probably be just too much sweetness anyway. (Yes, there is such a thing as too much sweet!)

I saw some Jell-O Pumpkin Spice instant pudding mix in the store last fall and thought I could do something with it. I’ll admit I don’t get excited about all the pumpkin stuff on the market in the fall. It’s just not one of my favorite flavors, nor is it in the top 25 probably. But my daughter and her husband love pumpkin stuff and I thought I’d play with the pudding mix somehow.

This Hornet’s Nest Cake came to mind, because I think you could change it up to use whatever flavor pudding, cake mix, and type of nuts you like and come out with something that is both easy and impressive. So I went with pumpkin spice pudding, a yellow cake mix, a combo of butterscotch and white chocolate chips, and pecans. I thought it was good, but Tish and Alex liked it even more and requested it a couple times after that. Click for recipe.

Son-In-Law Cake (Pumpkin, Butterscotch & Pecans)The cake is moist, and the top layer is both sweet and crunchy, as the chips and nuts stay near the top of the cake and the nuts brown a bit. I haven’t checked the stores to see if the pudding is out yet, since it’s seasonal, but I’d guess it’ll be there soon if it’s not already. I was lucky and had stocked up at the end of last year’s holiday season so I still had 1 box stashed away.

If you can’t find pumpkin spice pudding, try butterscotch or maybe a butter pecan, if there is one, and add some pumpkin pie spice to the pudding mixture. Alternatively, use vanilla pudding and a spice cake mix, and add pumpkin pie spice to either the cake mix or pudding. I’d start with about a tablespoon of the pumpkin pie spice, smell and taste your mixture, and add more spice if you think you want it.

I delivered the cake to Alex last weekend and he declared it, “All mine!” Since we didn’t cut it while I was there, I can only show you a picture of the un-cut results. But trust me on this one – it’s a really delish cake that takes maybe 5 minutes to throw together.

Give it a try and let me know if you make any variations to Alex’s version!

Oatmeal Whole Wheat CookiesHere’s a quickie cookie recipe for you to try. I adapted them from a healthy blogger and added chocolate chips so they wouldn’t be so shocking to my system!  🙂

As far as chocolate chip cookies go, there aren’t too many ingredients. They mix up quickly and make a somewhat small batch. I used a regular sized ice cream scoop to portion the cookies and got 11 big, soft cookies. You’ll get about that many — more or less — depending on how much fun stuff you add to the batter, such as chocolate chips, nuts, craisins, etc.

Like most oatmeal cookies, you can choose whichever add-ins and spices you enjoy to customize the flavor of the cookie. Oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon are a natural combination. Craisins, orange zest and extract plus dark or white chocolate chips is another good combination. Use what you like and try different combinations for variety. Click for recipe.

For this batch, I used craisins, orange zest, a splash of orange extract and another of vanilla extract, and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Orange and cranberry are a great combo, and the chips add an extra flavor layer. I think dark chocolate chunks would be great in these. White chocolate would be tasty too, if you like white chocolate (it’s not my favorite, but I’d eat it in this combo).

And if you’re reading all the whole wheat recipes on my blog and worrying that my sugar addiction is waning and I’m eating too many healthy things, don’t worry. I’m still here and planning more indulgent desserts.  I have to admit, though, that I’m enjoying finding recipes that are a bit healthier but in a stealthy way. I feel just a pinch less guilty eating them. And if you don’t tell there is whole wheat flour in these, nobody will ever guess!

I associate crock pot cooking with cold, winter days, but recently it occurred to me that summer is an even better time for using the crock pot. Kansas City was expected to be in the triple digits for several more days. I didn’t want to turn on the oven or stand over the stove for long, and I surely didn’t want to stand on my west-facing deck next to a hot grill in the late afternoon sun! Yet we need to eat.

For the most part I’m happy with picking at bits from the frig, but The Pretty One really needs a meal to keep him going. Between 40-50 hours a week at his internship and 9 hours of online summer classes, he needs “real” food.White Bean Chicken Chili

The Pretty One eats at the golf course when he’s working, but golf course food typically isn’t very healthy. Menus are designed for speed, not nutrition. Once he’s home, he heads to his laptop to study and take his tests for his online courses, so I like to have something healthy ready for him.

It seems weird to make chili in the summer, but I guess it shouldn’t since we eat hot foods all year round. I found this recipe on Taste of Home. It’s not a thick and creamy white chicken chili, so don’t expect that. I followed the recipe closely, but added a bit more pepper since I wasn’t feeding anyone who is spice-challenged. The flavor is great! It had just enough pop without being too much. The consistency, though, wasn’t what I expected. It’s more like a soup than a chili, so I took one of the reviewers’ suggestions and add a cup or so of cooked brown rice to it. I think the rice made it a more filling dish that was still somewhat light. Click for recipe.

I’m happy with this recipe and think it’s a nicely-spiced, healthy meal that didn’t heat up the house. The crock pot may become one of my go-to kitchen tools this summer. In fact, I’m already looking for more recipes to try!

Banzai to Alex! We celebrated Alex’s birthday with these cinnamony Snickerdoodle Bars.

Banzai Birthday: Snickerdoodle Bars

Alex showing respect for Sensei (me!) who made his Banzai Birthday Treats! 😉

They have the flavors of a snickerdoodle cookie without all the effort and patience required to roll the dough into balls and then dip them in cinnamon sugar. (Have I ever mentioned I’m not the most patient person?) Once the bars are baked a simple sugar glaze tops them off.

This is one of the few recipes where I could just eat the batter off a spoon! I don’t say that often because I don’t like batter or raw dough, but there’s just something about these that I find irresistible! If you’re a cinnamon and vanilla fan, you need to try these! Click for recipe.

I found this recipe at Grin and Bake It awhile back and made a pan for The Pretty One to take back to school. He had to take them – – if I had kept them for myself, I would have eaten them all within a day! The Pretty One is a veteran snickerdoodle taster and raved about these, so I knew they were good. I even forgot to put on the glaze and neither of us missed it!

When I asked Alex what he wanted for treats, he told me he prefers vanilla over chocolate “if it comes to a cake-like creation” but didn’t specify anything other than that. Since these were so good the first time, I thought they’d be something the Karate Club would enjoy.

Snickerdoodle BarsThere’s not much to this recipe, and maybe that’s the key to it. The vanilla batter layered with the cinnamon sugar filling really work together for an enjoyable treat.

The most wonderful aroma will fill your kitchen when you bake these!

 

 

Snickerdoodle Bars

From Grin and Bake It

 

Stuff you need:

2 1/3 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon-sugar filling:

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Now what?
Heat oven to 350. Spray or grease the bottom only of a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar and cinnamon for cinnamon-sugar filling in a small bowl and set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter on high speed until creamy. Beat in sugars.

Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add dry ingredients and beat on low speed until combined. [Batter will be very thick and sticky.]

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar filling evenly over batter. Dollop teaspoons of remaining batter evenly over cinnamon-sugar filling. [You won’t be able to spread it!] Gaps are okay. The filling can peek through.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

In a small bowl, stir glaze ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over bars.

Happy Birthday to us!

Chocolate Banana Cupcake with PB Chocolate Cream FrostingYesterday at Colahan’s Martial Arts we celebrated two birthdays – John’s and mine. It was an extra-special celebration because Susana brought her ukulele and accompanied the infamous Colahan’s Martial Arts Choir for the birthday song. I loved it!!

I baked for John and Susana baked for me, and without coordinating desserts, we both made a variation of chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. As the saying goes, Great minds think alike! We had Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Frosting for John, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes with peanut butter cups and Peanut Butter Frosting for me!!

We had lots and lots of cupcakes – and they were DELISH! Even with one of the guys eating FIVE cupcakes (an impressive feat!) and most everyone else eating two, we still had plenty of leftovers. So many, in fact, that the birthday boy was sent home with quite a few, and the rest were left on my desk for my co-workers. Neither Susana nor I trusted ourselves with a tray of cupcakes within easy reach; we know better…

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Banana Cupcakes (front) and Chocolate PB Cupcakes!

I don’t know exactly how Susana made hers, but I can give you the idea. Chocolate cupcakes had a small peanut butter cup dropped into the batter before baking. Then they were topped with peanut butter frosting and chopped peanut butter cups. Yum!!

I made Chocolate Banana Cupcakes from Chocolate from The Cake Mix Doctor… I’d never made cupcakes with chocolate and banana in them, and was curious to find out how strong the banana presence would be. I used very dark bananas that I had tossed in the freezer – those that had hit the point of bad for eating but good for baking. I was pleased with the texture and the subtle banana flavor of the cupcake, and waited to choose a frosting flavor after I tasted them. Click for recipe.

I considered making a marshmallow-based frosting, but opted for the lazy way because it was getting late. I wish I could tell you what I put in the frosting, but I really don’t know! I had a container of chocolate cream cheese frosting in the freezer from a recent cake, so I whipped it up with a can of cream cheese frosting and some peanut butter. The result was a creamy chocolate peanut butter frosting that worked nicely with the cupcakes! Banzai Birthday Treats!

Today, I wish I had a couple of those cupcakes. But then again, I’m really glad I worked at home today so I couldn’t get to them. The temptation would just be too much!

These brownies are for Tom, one of my Cohorts in Chocolate, because neither he nor I care for the fudgy goop “brownies” that are all the rage these days. Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Tom is the artist who drew my “brain” that’s on the “A peek inside…” page of my blog. He and I were talking about food. We talk about food a lot. We both love good quality chocolate, and sometimes share our discoveries. Somehow we got on the subject of brownies, and Tom mentioned he thought the boxed brownie mixes had become “fudgier” than they used to be. I thought so too, and I haven’t made them lately because I’ve been disappointed by them. (Yes, I use boxed brownie mixes. Why reinvent the wheel? I usually add nuts or chips or something to the mix, but lately I don’t think they’re as good as they used to be.)

Tom and I both prefer a more cake-like brownie, something that has more of a “chew” to it that you can sink your teeth into. I like brownies when they get a bit stale, and used to attempt to let some sit in the pan and dry out a bit before I gobbled them up. I say “attempt” because most of the time I wasn’t successful!

Craggy-Topped Fudge BrowniesI’m still on a quest to find a brownie I can portion-control and freeze for craving times, and these came to mind. I liked the Chocolate Quinoa Brownies I made earlier this week, but they don’t have the texture I usually crave. It had been quite awhile since I made this recipe, but I remember them being really good. What I couldn’t remember was how fudgy or cake-like they were. That could easily be solved by whipping up a batch.

These were every bit as good as I remembered! They’ve got the perfect texture to them – a little bit of chew, without being too soft or too dry. They obviously take a little more effort than a boxed mix, but not much – and the result is definitely worth it!

Butter and sugar are melted on the stove, chocolate chips are stirred in, then a few more ingredients are added. Pour them into a pan, sprinkle on some nuts, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Try these by themselves or topped with praline ice cream, warm caramel sauce and toasted pecans. Doesn’t that sound good? I think you’ll find the extra effort these require produce a much better brownie than a boxed mix, and you won’t mind mixing these up when the brownie craving hits!

Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Craggy-Topped Fudge Brownies

Stuff you need:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
3 eggs
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Now what?
Heat sugar and butter in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until butter is melted.
Remove from heat.
Add 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips and stir until melted.
Stir in eggs.
Stir in flour, vanilla and baking soda until combined.
Spread into greased 9×13 inch baking pan.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts on top. Press down lightly.
Bake in preheated 350F oven for 18-22 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out slightly sticky.
Cool and cut into bars.

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies!I have no idea how I came across this recipe, but I guess it doesn’t really matter! I bookmarked this recipe a while ago, and ran across it yesterday when I was looking for something to bake today. Who wouldn’t want to bake on the 4th of July? It’s only 99 degrees here, and cooler than it’s supposed to be the rest of the week. Perfect time to turn on the oven, right? My concession to the heat was to bake this morning, before it was too hot outside.

I cook with quinoa frequently and like its versatility. I can use it for sweet or savory dishes, and it goes with most anything. In this case, quinoa replaces flour to give substance to the brownies. I wasn’t sure how these would turn out, but the reviews were good so I thought they were worth the try. I’m glad I made them – they’re really quite good!! Click for recipe.

These are very moist, more similar to the texture of a flourless chocolate torte than a brownie. The rich, chocolate goodness satisfied my chocolate craving, and so far I’ve managed not to eat the whole pan. (I’m so proud!) With proper blending, the quinoa isn’t noticeable, so if you’re looking for a healthy sneak or need something flourless, this is a good choice. The only change I made to the recipe was to add ¼ cup of walnuts to the top before baking. I think nuts accent the chocolate flavor and I like the crunch factor. If you don’t like nuts, leave them off and sprinkle powdered sugar on top after they cool.Mixing up Chocolate Quinoa Brownies

If these were cut into squares, I think they’d be OK to handle and transport, but they’re very soft and will need some support. For some weird reason I don’t own square pans, so I used a 9” round pan. (My birthday’s coming up, so there’s a gift idea for someone!) Anyway, the wedges would be great for plating up with some fresh whipped cream and berries!

Chocolate Quinoa Brownies are really easy to make – you put everything in a food processor and turn it on until your mixture is smooth, then bake! But I think I burned out the motor in my processor making Nutter Butter Truffles awhile back, and even if I didn’t, it’s boxed up in the garage and I was too lazy to get it out. Instead, I tried to use my stick blender. That didn’t work well; I think the mixture might have been too thick/dry. So it was on to my blender, which is quite sturdy and has a “Puree” function. That worked splendidly, and after a couple of minutes of whirling blades, the brownies were ready to go into the oven.

I wrapped a brownie and threw it into the freezer to see how they hold up. Hopefully, they’ll freeze well and I’ll have a stash ready for one of those times when I “need” a brownie!

 Chocolate Quinoa Brownies - Out of the blender, into the oven!Note: The quinoa used in this recipe is cooked with more water than normal for a smoother texture. If you’re making a larger batch of quinoa and measuring out some to make the brownies, mine measured about 2 1/3 cups of cooked quinoa, but you might want to use a little less. If you’re using quinoa cooked with the normal amount of water, yours may be a bit crunchier. That’s probably OK – just something to be aware of!