Category Archives: Cooking Can Be Fun!

Truffles: “Buckeyes” (aka Peanut Butter Balls)

Next to fudge (which I wrote about three years ago, and the recipe can be found here: https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/yoopers-trolls-and-fudgies-and-a-recipe-for-amazing-fudge/), the most popular Christmas candies around our home are “Buckeyes,” which are basically peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate. If you love peanut butter and chocolate . . . you’ll love these! “Buckeyes” are so named because they look like horse chestnuts (which have been nicknamed “buckeyes”),  but that’s where the similarity ends, because the real buckeyes are poisonous to humans and most animals!    However, our homemade buckeyes are 100% edible and 200% scrumptious!

Homemade Buckeye Candies
(makes 48 candies, which serves about one person . . . just kidding!)

#1. Filling: In a large mixing bowl, combine:
15 oz. jar of peanut butter
1/2 cup (4 oz) softened butter
4 oz cream cheese
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything until smooth. ( You can use a mixer or mix by hand; I mix by hand because the dough is very heavy and there’s a lot of it, so the powdered sugar tends to fly everywhere, and it takes a big mixer to be able to handle it.)

#2. Refrigerate covered (to keep it from drying out) until well chilled and pretty firm (an hour) or until you’re ready to dip the candies. (Keeping the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight is fine, and the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for days—or even frozen, although that’s not ideal.)

#3. Roll the dough into 1″ balls and place on a cookie sheet. (The cookie sheet doesn’t have to be lined with waxed paper, but it does have to be lined before you dip the chocolates, because the warm chocolates need to be set on waxed paper.)

#4. Chocolate coating: Combine in a microwavable mixing bowl
10 oz. chocolate chips melted in microwave with
2 tablespoons shortening (or coconut oil)
Microwave for 40 seconds. Take it out and stir, then place it in the microwave again for another 20 seconds and stir until it’s completely melted and smooth. Take your time. It’s critical that you don’t microwave the chips any more than you have to, so if you really need more time, only go an extra 5-10 seconds.#5. Once the chocolate and shortening have melted, dip the buckeyes one at a time by inserting a toothpick into the top center of one of the balls. Swirl it in the chocolate, leaving the very top without chocolate. Set the buckeye on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper, and gently pull out the toothpick, using a fork if needed to dislodge it. You can use the same toothpick for each buckeye. If your family can resist eating them on the spot, store them in a cool place until they are completely cold. Once they are cold, they can be stored (carefully) in a container. I place them right next to each other, but I put a sheet of waxed paper between each layer so that they can be stacked into 3 or so layers. Enjoy!!

 

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus:
for he shall save his people from their sins
” (Matthew 1:21).

A Powers’ Family Original Holiday Tradition: Holiday Fruit Salad (with Fresh Cranberries)

I have a dear friend who was an accountant for many years, and at my request, she shared a recipe she’d created for her family . . . in the perfect format for somebody who’s computer savvy: A spread sheet! However, I’m a klutz and couldn’t figure out how to turn it into a wordpress-friendly doc., so I’ll share it with you as is, just in time for the holidays. Merry Christmas!! Here’s what she shared:  “I love cranberries but at our family gatherings I seemed to be the only one enjoying the cranberry dishes……so I created Powers Family Holiday Fruit Salad. Everyone loves it, and it is now a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” 

POWERS FAMILY HOLIDAY FRUIT SALAD

10oz

Cranberries, cleaned and drained

20oz

Crushed pineapple, drained

3 medium

Apples, diced (I use gala)

1 cup

Grapes, halved

2 cups

Heavy Whipping cream, whipped

1 cup

Sugar

2 teaspoons

Vanilla

10oz

Mini marshmallows

Grind the cranberries in a food processor or blender

Combine the cranberries, drained pineapple, diced apples, and grape halves with the sugar.

Stir in the vanilla and mix well

Fold in the whipped cream….then add marshmallows

Refrigerate until time to serve

O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3)

Goulash

December already! Again already! How was your Thanksgiving? We had such a lovely time, and the older I get, the more I savor every opportunity to be together! It occurs to me that the holiday season (at least around my home) is heavy on the treats, so I thought maybe a recipe for a good main dish would be in order to start off the month right! Here’s another old family favorite from my childhood. I never see it on restaurant menus anymore, but that’s all the more reason to serve it at home!

Old Fashioned (American-Style) Goulash
(Makes about 12 cups)

1. In a large pot or frying pan, sauté together:
1 pound ground beef
1 chopped onion (How big? How much do you like onion?)
1 chopped red pepper (green, or whatever color you prefer)
8 oz. chopped mushrooms
1 tablespoon fresh, pressed garlic (or crushed garlic flakes)
1 teaspoon steak seasoning (I like Montreal, but suit yourself)
1 teaspoon seasoning salt (I use Lawry’s, but your favorite is fine)
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
1 teaspoon crushed basil (or some fresh, chopped leaves)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf  2. When the meat is thoroughly cooked, add:
2 cups macaroni (I used cavatappi, but any type works fine)
1  28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato paste or sauce (I used Prego 3-cheese spaghetti sauce)
1 can small, pitted black olives (6 oz. dry weight)
2 cups water  3. Press down the macaroni to make sure it’s immersed in the juice, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes on medium/low  heat until the pasta has softened and absorbed the juice. 4. Serve with grated cheese (your favorite; I used “Italian 5-cheese”)  5. A tossed salad and some fresh fruit make for a healthy, satisfying supper on a cold winter’s night . . . or a warm summer night!

He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the Lord is gracious and full of compassion. He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant” (Psalm 111:4-5).

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

I know it would be ideal to be sharing heart-healthy, low calorie recipes with you for holiday celebrations, but we have some yummy family favorites that are at least an improvement over the standard options without being really non-fat or low cal. Last week’s date bar recipe—with dates and oats—is a big step up from candy, and today’s recipe, pumpkin bars—with pureed pumpkin—is healthier than traditional cakes or brownies. Besides, they taste great and are always a hit at potlucks and parties!

Pumpkin Bars
(makes 24 medium  or 48 small bars)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine:
1 15-oz can pumpkin
4 eggs
1 and 2/3 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup canola (or other cooking) oil
1/2 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

3. Beat until smooth and then pour batter into a well greased, large cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until done. My pan is 17″ by 11″ and the pumpkin batter fits perfectly. A large jelly roll pan also works. If you use a smaller cookie sheet, it won’t all fit without overflowing and burning as it bakes. It can also be baked in a 9″ by 13″ pan, but this makes the bars very thick, and they’d have to be baked longer. (Not to mention, you’d also have super thick frosting with less surface area.) Test it for done-ness just like any cake: It’s done when the top is golden brown, the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the top springs back when touched gently (or a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out not wet).

4. When cooled (but it can be still warm) frost with:

Cream Cheese Frosting

Combine in mixer:
5 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
8 oz. softened creamed cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Whip in mixer until fluffy, and then spread. The frosting will be quite soft, so use just 1 tablespoon milk if you want it to be thick. (I like it soft because it spreads easier). After frosting, sprinkle a little more cinnamon on the top.

Serve whenever. Warm with ice cream is amazing, but it doesn’t really need ice cream to be great because it’s so moist on its own. If you have a lot left over, refrigerate after the first day or so to retain freshness and consistency.

Psalm 95

O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker.For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.10 Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” May we come before God’s presence with thanksgiving this holiday season and find our rest in Him!

 

Old-Fashioned, Home-Town Date Bars

Larry and my husband were close friends from such early days that Alan can’t ever remember not being friends. They lived across the street from each other, rode the school bus together, and roomed together during part of college. Larry and his wife, Kari, even ended up at the same university where Alan and I were in grad school one year, and Kari and I used to swim together and dream about what our babies would be like, since we were both pregnant with our firstborn (sons) at the same time! Now, years later, we’re living in the same community again—also with my closest friend from school days, Brenda (and her husband Tom), which is super fun!

Often when we get together, Kari brings some delectable dessert, but a few weeks ago Kari was at a medical meeting and couldn’t make it to our dinner party, so Larry brought a dessert that had been a favorite when he was growing up. The recipe is so old he hasn’t a clue where it came from, but Alan also remembered loving date bars when he was little (growing up in the same rural community), and Tom (Brenda’s husband, also a farm boy growing up) remembered them from his childhood as well. I loved the salty, sweet, buttery flavor, so I thought you might too! Thank you for sharing, Larry!!

Old-Fashioned Date Bars

For the date filling:

  1. In a medium sized sauce pan, mix 3 cups of cut up dates, ½ cup of sugar, and 1 ½ cups of water.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened.
  3. Set aside to cool.

For the crust/crumble:

  1. In a bowl, mix together thoroughly ¾ cup butter (softened) and 1 cup of brown sugar.
  2. Sift and stir in 1 ¾ cups flour, ½ teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt
  3. Stir in 1 ½ cups of rolled oats.

Place half the mixture on the bottom of the baking pan and pat the mixture down (9” x 13” pan if you want thin date bars or 8” x 8” or so if you want thick date bars.  I think I used a 6 ½ “ x 9” pan and it seemed a bit too thick to me).

Spoon the cooled date mixture onto the crust/crumble in the pan and spread evenly.  Then spread the remainder of the crust/crumble mixture evenly onto the date filling.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Psalm 100

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Happy Thanksgiving!!

Squash and Apple Bake (with a Caramel Flair)

Last weekend, my lifelong friend, Brenda, had us over for the evening, and she made a scrumptious dinner (as always) which included a memorable autumn side dish that was the perfect blend of fruit and veggies with a hint of caramel sauce. Brenda said it was from a Betty Crocker cookbook she’d received for a wedding shower gift (nearly 50 years ago). Over the years, her treasured recipe book completely fell apart, and today she only has two pages remaining. This recipe is on one of those two. She says the only variation from the above recipe is that she uses cinnamon instead of mace, and recently, she’s found that she can find butternut squash already cubed at her local grocery, which saves her a lot of time and effort!                Here’s what it looks like when it’s still warm from the oven, and here are the happy dinner guests who enjoyed it with me! Thank you, Bren!

P.S.—Stay tuned next Saturday! Larry’s wife, Kari, was at a medical meeting and couldn’t make it for dinner, so Larry (in the middle of this photo) brought us some mouth-watering date bars that his mom used to make. He says he will let me share his mother’s recipe this coming week. ALSO, if you have a family favorite that isn’t easily accessible on allrecipes.com or current cookbooks—or you’ve developed a recipe that you love and would be willing to share, I’d happily include it sometime! Just send me “your favorite” with some photos to kathrynwarmstrong at gmail.com. Also (as some of you have cooking blogs), if  you want to send me a link to your blog, I’ll share that along with your recipe!

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Marshmallow-Smothered Sweet Potatoes

With Thanksgiving coming up in just a few weeks, it seems appropriate to write about family favorites for a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner, and one of my family’s favorites is a sweet potato casserole smothered with toasted marshmallows. It’s super simple but always popular. Here’s how:

Marshmallow-Smothered Sweet Potatoes
(serves about 12±)

3 pounds of canned yams (or baked, peeled, and diced sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sprinkling of salt

4 tablespoons butter
10-ounce package of marshmallows (can also use miniature, but full-sized ones look almost irresistible!)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. After draining off all but about two tablespoons of the juice from each can, empty both cans of canned yams and their juice into a covered casserole dish, arranging them so they’re as flat as possible (without squashing them).
3. Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt evenly over the yams.
4. Bake covered in the oven for 40 minutes.
5. Remove the cover and add a layer of marshmallows over the top.
6. Return the uncovered casserole to the top rack of your oven and bake until the the marshmallows are melting and start to turn a golden brown. This takes approximately 15-20 minutes, but test it carefully and often, because all ovens are a bit different, and the casserole can go from toasty to burned very quickly!
7. Serve immediately, although if you can’t, you can try covering it loosely with aluminum foil. Don’t let the foil touch the marshmallows, though, or they will stick and pull off the beautifully toasted, crusty top!

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High
” (Psalm 92:1).