Tuesday, January 29, 2008


When we bought our first microwave, in 1981, I discovered that I could make my homemade spaghetti sauce in it. What used to take HOURS of simmering on the stove could be done in the microwave in one hour! What a time saver!! Through the years my recipe has evolved as I've discovered some really good pre-packaged seasonings. This is a recipe that I am frequently asked for. The dessert we like with this dinner is Italian Cream Cake, a good and impressive triple layer cake that presents beautifully when brought to the table on a nice pedestal cake plate. The cake recipe is from my Aunt June, who is a wonderful cook and whom I have gotten MANY recipes from.

Here's the menu:
Tossed Green Salad
French Rolls or Garlic French Bread
Italian Cream Cake

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb Italian style sausage (pork or turkey)
3 - 15 oz cans Italian style stewed tomatoes
4 - 15 oz cans tomato sauce
Minced garlic to taste (I use 1 Tablespoons of prepared minced garlic in a jar)
1 cup Tone’s Spicy Spaghetti Seasoning mix
1 pkg Lawry’s or Schillings Spaghetti Sauce seasoning
2 Tablespoons sugar (cuts the acid of the tomato sauces)
In 5 qt microwaveable baking dish with lid (corning ware), crumble meats and microwave, uncovered, on high for 3 minutes. Stir and break up meat, heat for 3 more minutes, stir and heat in 1 to 3 minute increments until meat is completely cooked. Drain fat. Place remaining ingredients in baking dish with the meat, stir well, cover and microwave for 15 minutes at power level number 6. Stir well, cook for 15 minutes at power level 6; repeat cooking and stirring two more times - giving a total cooking time of 1 hour.
Note: Sauce freezes well in sealed plastic container or in Ziploc freezer bag.
Tone’s Spicy Spaghetti Seasoning mix is available at Sam’s Club and some super WalMarts. The ingredients are salt, dehydrated onion, spices, dehydrated red and green bell pepper, sugar, parsley, dehydrated garlic, red pepper.

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup Crisco shortening
2 cups sugar
5 eggs, separated
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup angel flake coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small mixing bow, beat the egg whites until stiff. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and shortening, add sugar and beat until smooth. Add egg yolks and beat well. Combine flour and baking soda, add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well. Stir in vanilla extract, coconut and nuts. Fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour batter into 3 greased and floured 8 inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until cakes test done with a toothpick. Cook 5 minutes, remove from cake pans onto cooling racks and let cool completely. Frost with cream cheese frosting.
8 ozs cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
In medium bowl, mix butter and cream cheese at medium speed on electric mixer. Add vanilla extract and mix well. Add powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Spread between layers and on top of cake (do not frost the sides). Sprinkle chopped nuts on top


There is a restaurant my husband and I like to eat at and they have this Italian Pot Roast. It was pretty easy to figure out how they make this dish and so I'm sharing it with you! It's a pretty heavy meal, so I've found that biscotti and coffee is a sufficient dessert for this meal. My biscotti recipe is from an old friend of mine who got it from an elderly Italian lady. . . so we assume it's authentic. Biscotti is so easy to make and it keeps so well, I frequently bake both the regular recipe and the chocolate one.

The menu:

Italian Pot Roast with Carrots and Potatoes

Sauteed Zucchini

Tossed Green Salad

French Rolls or Garlic French Bread


The recipes:


Place a brisket, flank roast or pot roast (well trimmed) in slow cooker. Pour one jar of any brand and any flavor spaghetti sauce over meat. Arrange russet potatoes that are washed and pierced (but not peeled) on top of sauce and also carrots that are washed (but not peeled). Cover and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours.

½ Cup Margarine, Softened
1 ½ Cups Sugar
3 Eggs
1 T Anise Seeds (crushed with either a mortar and pestle or in a coffee bean/spice grinder)
3 Cups Flour
1 ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
¾ Cup Coarsely Chopped Almonds
Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Stir in eggs one at a time. Stir in anise seed. Mix dry ingredients together and then stir into dough. Stir in almonds. Separate into 4 balls. Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Roll each ball into logs and place two logs on each cookie sheet. Pat down logs to about 2 inches in width, about ½ inch thick and almost the length of the cookie sheet. (Lightly oiling hands helps keep batter from sticking – spraying Pam on hands works great)
Bake each sheet for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place each rectangle on a cutting board. Slice diagonally into one inch segments. Place slices back on cookie sheet, cut side up, and bake another 10 minutes.

½ Cup Margarine, Softened
1 ½ Cups Sugar
3 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 ½ Cups Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1 ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/3 Cups Coarsely Chopped Almonds
1 Cup Chocolate Chips
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in almonds and chocolate chips. Shape as per instructions for regular biscotti. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (until springs back when lightly pressed). Reduce oven to 325 degrees. Cut as per instructions for regular biscotti, place cookies “bottoms up” (instead of cut side up) on cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more.


My lasagna recipe is from my mother-in-law and we think it's the best lasagna EVER! I've been making this recipe for 34 years and my mother-in-law made it for a good 20 years before that. The tiramisu recipe is from one of those best of the best cookbooks that was put together by home economics teachers in the state of California several years ago. I don't like most restaurant's tiramisu, many of them use rum or something else that I don't like! My recipe is easy and elegant and even people who don't like coffee compliment the chef when they try it. I've modified it a bit, mainly exchanging the traditional lady fingers for vanilla wafers. . . that change was out of desperation because lady fingers are sometimes hard to find. The vanilla wafers work so well, I don't even bother trying to find those lady fingers any more. Here's the complete menu for my lasagna dinner:


Apple Feta Salad

Garlic French Bread


And here are the recipes!

1 lb lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 - 1 lb, 12 oz can stewed tomatoes
2 - 6 oz cans tomato paste
In large skillet, brown meat over medium-high heat, drain off any excess fat. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
1 - 16 oz carton cottage cheese
2 beaten eggs
2 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
In a small mixing bowl, mix cottage cheese, eggs, parsley and parmesan cheese.
1 - 8 oz pkg lasagna noodles - boiled to al dente and drained
1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
Place ½ of the noodles in a 13 x 9 pan. Spread with half of the cottage cheese mixture, then spread with half of the meat sauce mixture, sprinkle with half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Let set 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

1 medium-size Golden Delicious apple
1 medium-size Red Delicious apple
½ Tablespoon light olive oil
4 cups torn leafy green lettuce or lettuce mix
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
1 bottle Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing, or Red Wine Vinaigrette Dressing
Core and quarter apples; slice each quarter into 3 wedges. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add apple slices and saute until golden and barely tender (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Just before serving, arrange leafy lettuce on individual salad plates. Top with sautéed apples and feta cheese. Serve with dressing on the side.

2 Cups Whipping Cream
2 - 8 ounce packages Cream Cheese, softened
1 Cup Powdered Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 Cup Cold Espresso
1 box Vanilla Wafers
1 Hershey’s Chocolate Bar, shaved into curls
In medium mixing bowl, whip cream until stiff, set aside. In large mixing bowl, whip cream cheese until smooth, then add powdered sugar, vanilla and 4 Tablespoons of the espresso. Fold whipped cream and cream cheese mixture together. Arrange ½ of the Vanilla Wafers in 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle half of the remaining cold espresso over the wafers. Spoon half of the cream cheese mixture on top of wafers. Repeat layers. Top with chocolate curls. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
NOTES: Must use espresso made in an espresso machine. Espresso coffee made in a drip coffee maker is NOT the same. If you don’t have an espresso machine, purchase an espresso “to go” at a coffee shop. An alternative to chocolate curls is Ghirardelli Chocolate Powder, just sprinkle on top of Tiramisu.
Instead of 9 x 13 dish, use sherbet or other stemware, placing a vanilla wafer in the bottom and lining the sides with wafers. It takes longer to do these individually, but is more festive for special dinners. Any remaining mixture can be layered in an 8 x 8 dish or whatever size would accommodate.

Monday, January 14, 2008


It doesn't get any easier than Bisquick! Bisquick came on the market in 1931 and was primarily a mix for making biscuits or pancakes. As the popularity of this product grew, so did the recipes using it. The first time I had a Bisquick Braid was in about 1988 and it was brought to a potluck I attended. I couldn't believe it was a bisquick recipe! The lady who brought the dish graciously gave me the recipe. The Bisquick Danish were also tasted for the first time at a potluck, and of course I asked for the recipe. These pastries are not as good as a yeast dough pastry, but they are good and they are FAST!


2 cups Bisquick
¼ cup sugar
3 ozs cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup milk
7 oz. jar of raspberry (or other fruit) preserves or jam
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In medium bowl, mix the bisquick, sugar, cream cheese and butter. Stir in the milk to form a stiff dough. On a pastry sheet dusted with a little flour, roll dough out to a 15 x 10 rectangle, transfer to a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet. Spread preserves or jam down the lengthwise center of the dough. With a knife, cut 1 inch wide tabs along both long sides, cutting almost to the preserves and cutting the same number of tabs on both long sides. Starting at one end, fold one tab over the preserves and at a slight downwards angle, fold the tab directly opposite over and down, slightly overlapping the first tab. Continue folding the tabs until all are folded over the preserves. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Drizzle with glaze (see recipe and instructions for glaze for the Bisquick Danish)


2 cups Bisquick
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
2/3 cup milk
¼ cup raspberry (or any flavor) preserves
Glaze (recipe follows)
Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix the bisquick and sugar; using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until crumbly in texture. Pour in the milk and stir until JUST mixed. Use a ¼ cup measure and drop 12 mounds onto a slightly greased, or sprayed, cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each mound. Pour a little oil into a small container and dip your finger in the oil and then press a “finger size” well in the center of each mound. Fill each well with 1 teaspoon preserves. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and drizzle with glaze while still warm. Makes 12 danish.
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix until smooth, spoon into a small plastic bag (sandwich or snack size), with scissors snip off a very small section of the corner of the bag and squeeze glaze into a zigzag pattern over the top of each danish. Serve warm or room temperature.
TIP: To make filling the plastic bag MUCH easier, fit the plastic bag into a glass mug or cup, folding the bag opening over the rim of the mug. Now you can set the mug on the counter and spoon the glaze into the bag with much ease. Pull the filled bag out of the mug and proceed!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


My first taste of peach kuchen was in 1971 and it was love at first bite! I was a senior in high school and had a part-time job in the office of a local feed manufacturing company in Lodi, CA. There was a wonderful German bakery in town, Knutson's Cottage Bakery, and they baked peach kuchens that were absolutely delightful! It was a real treat when one of us would run to the bakery and buy a kuchen for the office "snack." It wasn't until 1981 that I managed to find a recipe that was close to Knutson's. The card my recipe is on was written by a German lady in Lodi and it is a treasure to me. While my kuchens have never been quite as good as Mrs. Knutson's, they have become my daughter's favorite Christmas pastry. I've seen many variations on this recipe, especially in recent years with all the recipe sites online. Some of them are not a yeast crust, they are more like a cake crust. And some of them have an evaporated milk custard instead of the sour cream. I've not tried any of those, yet!

½ Cup Butter, softened
1 Cup lukewarm Milk
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
3 Eggs
4 – 5 Cups Flour
½ Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 envelope Dry Yeast
Place all ingredients in bread machine in order listed; process on the “dough” setting. Or, if you don’t have a bread machine, mix first 4 ingredients together. Stir in 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. Mix well. Add remaining flour gradually, kneading dough until smooth and elastic. Place dough in buttered bowl and cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour). Punch dough down, divide into 6 equal portions. On floured board, roll each portion into a 9 inch circle and fit into greased 9 inch pie or cake pans. Let rise about 30 minutes.
1 Large can sliced peaches, thoroughly drained
3 Cups Sour Cream, room temperature
4 Eggs, room temperature
1 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Arrange peaches on dough, do not allow slices to touch each other or overlap. Mix remaining ingredients together. Use a ladle or large spoon to evenly distribute sour cream mixture over peaches, spread to within ½ inch of the side of the pans (leaving a “rim” of crust). Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

Notes: Instead of peaches, use canned sliced pears, apricots, or prunes. Instead of fruit, use cottage cheese and the dish is now called Kase Kuchen . Use about ½ to ¾ cup cottage cheese for each pie, the custard step is the same as for fruit and you will still sprinkle with cinnamon.
Baked Kuchen freezes very well for several months. Wrap well with plastic wrap or seal one cake in a 1 gallon size freezer bag.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sticky Pecan Bundt Breakfast Cake -- Illustration is a pencil sketch with watercolor pencils.

For years I would make homemade pastries for Christmas breakfast from scratch. In the "old days" it was all about mixing with the electric mixer and then hand kneading. Then I got a bread machine. . . boy did that help! It was so nice to mix and raise the dough in the machine and then proceed with the forming, filling and second rising and baking. Then the frozen food people finally came out with a really good premade dough! It is so easy to make homemade pastries nowadays! Oh I still like some of my old recipes, and I still use the bread machine -- no, I do NOT hand knead EVER! The breads I still use my old recipes for are Foccacia and Portuguese Sweet Bread. . . but I've pretty much adapted all my other sweet pastry recipes so I can use Rhodes Frozen Rolls -- what a snap!! So, here's a recipe with several variations:

24 Rhodes frozen dinner rolls, thawed but still cold
½ Cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ Cup chopped pecans
½ Cup butter, melted
½ Cup packed brown sugar
In a small bowl, mix regular sugar and cinnamon. Roll each dinner roll in the sugar/cinnamon mixture, completely coating the roll. Place in a buttered bundt pan. Repeat until you have a single layer of dough balls in the bundt pan. Sprinkle with half of the pecans. Repeat layers until all the rolls and pecans are in the bundt pan. Stir together the melted butter and the brown sugar and pour over the rolls. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray, and place it on top of the pan (sprayed side down). Let rise until almost to the top of the pan - takes about 1 hr. Remove plastic wrap and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Invert immediately onto serving platter.
Variations: Chocolate/Pecan Sticky Bundt--Cut each roll in half with scissors and wrap each piece around a chocolate chip, sealing dough well, before rolling in the cinnamon sugar mixture, continue with the recipe. Cream Cheese Pecan Sticky Bundt--flatten each roll and then wrap around a level tablespoon of cream cheese seal dough well, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and continue with recipe. Peanut Butter Peanut Sticky Bundt--replace chopped pecans with chopped roasted peanuts, flatten each roll and then wrap around a level tablespoon of peanut butter and seal dough well, roll in cinnamon sugar mixture and continue with recipe.

Stuffed French Toast Casserole

In our home, Christmas morning starts with a huge homemade breakfast. This tradition started in my husband's family and is something our children look forward to almost as much as they do the gift exchange! My husband is in charge of the hash browned potatoes and the bacon and I am in charge of the eggs and pastries. Our menu ALWAYS has these items, but the type of pastries change through the years. For the hash browned potatoes, my husband bakes large russet potatoes the day before and lets them chill completely and thoroughly overnight in the refrigerator. Then he grates them and cooks them in lots of butter, adding salt and pepper as they are cooking. The bacon and scrambled eggs are cooked in the usual manner -- but as a treat, I use 1/2 and 1/2 in the eggs instead of 1% milk! The pastries. . . ah the pastries. These have been German Peach Kuchen, Cinnamon Rolls, Hawaiian Coconut Rolls, Sticky Rolls, Chocolate Filled Sticky Rolls. . . the list can go on and on and on. Several years ago, I tried Stuffed French Toast Casserole and it became such a hit that it is on the Christmas menu permanently! It's a super easy dish and so that's just fine with me. The older I get the more I don't want to mess too much with the lengthy raised yeast recipes. So, here's the recipe:


Cut into ½” Cubes:
1 loaf of firm white bread (Country Potato or Country Buttermilk)
Layer ½ of the bread cubes in the bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking dish.
Cut into ½” Cubes:
1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese
Evenly scatter the cream cheese cubes over the bread cubes in the baking dish. Cover with remaining bread cubes.
Mix together:
10 Eggs
1 ½ Cups Half and Half
¼ Cup Maple Syrup
½ Cup Melted Butter
Pour mixture over bread cubes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes – 1 hour, until lightly browned and knife inserted in the center reveals no liquid. Cut into squares to serve. Serve with maple syrup or fruit syrup. Our favorite is Strawberry Syrup.

Christmas Day Dinner

The menu:

Spiral Cut Honey Glazed Ham

Ranch Potatoes

Sweet Potato Casserole

Green Beans with sliced almonds

Waldorf Salad


And for dessert:

Cranberry Pecan Pie (pictured), Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie --all available with either sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Coffee, Tea, or Milk

The special recipes:

Ranch Potatoes

2 lbs, russet potatoes, washed and unpeeled, sliced thin as you would for scalloped potatoes

1/2 cup butter, cut into slices

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups sour cream

1 pkg Ranch Dressing mix

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Layer the sliced potatoes and butter in a 2 qt covered casserole. Sprinkle each layer with a little salt and pepper, if desired. Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Combine sour cream and the dressing mix. Spread evenly over hot potatoes, top with grated cheese. Return to oven, uncovered, until cheese melts. About 5 minutes. Do not overcook.

Sweet Potato Casserole

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes - baked, peeled and mashed

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

6 Tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Wash, pierce with a knife and wrap potatoes with aluminum foil, bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool completely. (I do this the day before I'm going to make the casserole) With a potato masher, mash the potatoes. Stir in eggs, melted butter, sugar and spices. Mix well. Pour into a greased casserole dish and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.


3/4 cup crushed corn flake cereal

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

6 Tablespoons melted butter

Place cereal in a ziploc bag, crush into crumbs. Into the bag add the pecans and brown sugar and shake to mix well. When casserole comes out of the oven, sprinkle this topping evenly onto the top and then drizzle the melted butter over all. Return to oven for an additional 15 minutes.

Cranberry Pecan Pie

1 – 9 inch Pie Crust
3 Eggs
1 Cup Corn Syrup
2/3 Cup Sugar
¼ Cup Butter, melted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Fit crust into a 9 inch pie dish. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, corn syrup, sugar, butter and vanilla until blended. Stir in cranberries and pecans. Pour into crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake 35 – 40 minutes longer or until filling is almost set. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover and refrigerate overnight before slicing. Yield: 6 – 8 servings.