Year in Review

I can’t believe it’s New Year’s Eve already. 2015 has flown by so fast. I guess it’s true that time really does pass by faster the older you get.

After having a record warm November and December (and a green Christmas), we finally got our snow the Monday after Christmas. We had an early snowstorm in November, but it quickly melted, and it was warm enough the weekend before Christmas that the boys and grandkids were outside playing football in short sleeves. Glad it’s finally starting to act like winter.


Looking back over 2015 and our garden and my canning, I didn’t get near enough done this year. It was a wet spring, so while we did get an early garden planted, not much grew this spring. I think this is the first year since Kevin and I have been married (23 years) that I didn’t have any of our own tomatoes to can, and I had to buy green beans so I could can those. Thankfully one of Kevin’s co-workers had some extra tomatoes, so I was able to put up some salsa. On the other hand, our apple and peach trees went berserk, so I was able to do a bunch of applesauce, pie fillings and jams to put on the shelves. All this means is that next summer we will have a huge garden, and I’ll be canning up a storm to replace everything we’ll eat this winter. The shelves should be pretty bare by then. Thank goodness I did extra last summer 🙂

I was also able to try several new canning recipes this year. With the boatload of apples, I tried a new apple pie filling, Caramel Apple Pie Filling, which is a new favorite in our house. I also finally got to try canning pickled mushrooms, and this is a recipe I’ll be making a lot in the future.



This year we raised chickens, and while we lost a few along the way, we now have a full freezer, for which I’m very thankful. The guys were also successful fishing for catfish this summer, so there’s plenty of that in the freezer as well. No venison this year, as they just didn’t have any luck, but between the chicken, the catfish and the couple of huge turtles they caught, we aren’t short of meat this year.

All in all, 2015 was a pretty good year. My family is healthy and happy. There’s food on the shelves and in the freezer. Life is good. Happy New Year everyone!

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Cheeseburger Mac Stew

All over the Internet I keep reading recipes for cheeseburger soup. My sister even makes a version of it, although I haven’t had the privilege (yet) of tasting it. So, when I was trying to think of something different for dinner last night, I thought I’d try my hand at making this soup. A lot of the recipes I read online included hash browns, and since I didn’t have any frozen hash browns on hand and didn’t feel like making them from scratch (I was feeling lazy), I omitted them, but feel free to include some if you try this.

I will confess that I keep the dreaded “blue box” macaroni and cheese in my kitchen cupboards. While I make mac and cheese from scratch (and my husband and I don’t particularly care for the store-bought stuff), my sons like to have the “blue box” on hand to make themselves a quick snack. I thought this recipe would be a good way to get rid of one of those boxes from my cupboards, and the cheese mix from the box did help thicken up the soup – hence I named the recipe cheeseburger mac stew.

cheeseburger mac stew

Cheeseburger Mac Stew

3 cups chicken broth
2 large carrots, scraped and shredded
2 cups milk
1/2 box Velveeta cheese
1 pound hamburger, cooked and drained
1 box macaroni and cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, brown hamburger until no longer pink. Drain and set aside.

In a large stockpot, combine chicken broth and shredded carrots. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the carrots become tender. Add the milk, Velveeta and cheese mix package from the macaroni and cheese box. Stir until well combined and the cheese mix is dissolved. Add the cooked hamburger and the macaroni from the package. Cook until the macaroni is tender, about 8 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.

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Christmas Cookies: Grandma’s Orange Delight Cookies

I remember Grandma Decker making these orange-flavored cookies when I was a kid. They were a real treat, especially since my mom didn’t make these very often. I remember when I was growing up that Mom would make these and then say they didn’t turn out like her mother’s did, not that I could tell any difference, but after a while she didn’t make these any more.

I was talking to her about this recipe the other day, and she said she hadn’t made them in years. I decided that if I could pull off the recipe, it would be a nice surprise for her this Christmas. These are a soft cookie, and the flavors develop nicely after the glaze has time to soak into the cookie. Final verdict after taste testing – they’re just like Grandma used to make 🙂

orange delight cookies

orange delight cookies 2

Grandma’s Orange Delight Cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

3/4 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon good vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour milk (1/2 tablespoon of either white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to equal 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the Glaze:

1 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar

Cream together shortening and sugar until combined. Add eggs, vanilla and grated orange rind, and beat until the mixture is smooth. Dissolve the baking soda in the sour milk, and add milk mixture to the batter. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt to the batter, and mix until well combined.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes. (Mine took 10 minutes.)

While the cookies are baking, combine all the glaze ingredients and set aside.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and while hot, spread the glaze on the cookies. The glaze makes a thin sugary coating over the cookies and must be put on the cookies as soon as they are removed from the oven.

Christmas Cookies: Chocolate Crinkles

While this isn’t probably considered a traditional Christmas cookie, in my family we always have these chocolate crinkles on the cookie tray during the holidays. I remember a family friend making these when I was a kid, and my mom always included these at Christmastime. They’re my oldest son’s favorite cookie – well, anything with chocolate would probably be his favorite, but he always requests these for Christmas.

chocolate crinkles

chocolate crinkles 2

Chocolate Crinkles

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons good vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners’ sugar for rolling

Mix together vegetable oil, melted chocolate and sugar. Add one egg at a time, mixing well between additions. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine flour baking powder and salt. Slowly add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, and mix until smooth. Chill dough for several hours – overnight is fine too.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a cereal bowl that contains powdered sugar, and roll the dough balls until completely covered in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheets.

Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until almost no imprint remains when you lightly touch the cookie.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Christmas Cookies: Nutmeg Logs

I come from a long line of bakers. My maternal grandmother always had cookies or a freshly baked cake when we’d come to visit. My paternal grandmother baked the most delicious breads, angel food cake and pies, especially mincemeat and cherry. But my mother was queen of Christmas cookies. She’d start baking after Thanksgiving, and by Christmas, she’d have several tins of cookies stored in the freezer just waiting for the holidays. When I moved out on my own, I tended to make candies and fudge for the holidays. I didn’t need to make Christmas cookies because that’s what Mom did. Of course, I’d make roll-out sugar cookies, and the boys and I would decorate batches every year, but I didn’t do what I call Mom’s “specialty” Christmas cookies. This year I decided it was time I did.

One of my favorite cookies that Mom always made was her Nutmeg Logs. I haven’t seen this recipe on the Internet, not that it isn’t out there somewhere. I’m not really sure where this recipe came from, but I’m betting it’s my grandmother’s or some other relative on Mom’s side of the family. It’s tasty, and it makes a lot of bite-sized cookies, and you can store them in the freezer until you need them.

nutmeg logs

nutmeg logs 2

Nutmeg Logs

For Cookie Dough:

1 cup butter, softened (not margarine)
2 teaspoons good vanilla
2 teaspoons rum flavoring (or dark rum if you prefer)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

For Frosting:
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon good vanilla
2 teaspoon rum flavoring
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons light cream

Cream the butter with the vanilla and rum flavoring. Gradually beat in the sugar, and mix until well combined. Beat in the egg. Sift together the flour, nutmeg and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and mix well.

Shape pieces of dough on a sugared board into long rolls that are 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut dough into 3-inch pieces, and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool.

For the frosting, cream together the butter, vanilla and rum flavoring. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar and light cream. Beat until smooth and creamy.

After the cookies have cooled, spread the frosting on the top and sides of each cookie. Mark cookies with the tine of a fork to resemble bark. Sprinkle lightly with freshly grated nutmeg.

Makes approximately 72 cookies

Bacardi Rum Cake

There are lots of boozy cake recipes on the Internet, and this particular one may be out there too. I got this recipe over 30 years ago from a family friend, and it’s been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. This cake is super easy to make, especially since it starts with a cake mix. Be sure to make the glaze for the cake – it makes all the difference in the world.

rum cake 2

rum cake slice

Bacardi Rum Cake

For the Cake:
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 package yellow cake mix (without pudding)
1 3 3/4-ounce package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark Bacardi rum

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons dark rum

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Add 1 cup of chopped pecans to the bottom of the Bundt pan, making sure they’re evenly distributed.

Mix all the cake ingredients together. Pour batter into the Bundt pan, covering the nuts. Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake tests done.

After removing the cake from the oven, let it cool in the pan.

While the cake cools, make the glaze. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the water and the sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Stir in the rum.

Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Prick the top of the cake with a toothpick. Liberally spoon the glaze over the top of the cake so that it soaks into the cake.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Honey Cinnamon Cornbread Muffins

I was looking for a quick and easy muffin recipe to make a quick breakfast for the guys during deer season. I found this recipe on A Spicy Perspective. They’re quick to mix up, and they taste great. The guys said I could make these again – a surefire hit for my family.

honey cinnamon cornbread muffins

Honey Cinnamon Cornbread Muffins

1 1/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease muffin pans.

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon until well combined. Whisk in the eggs, honey and buttermilk. Add the melted butter, and mix until the mixture is smooth.

Pour batter into prepared muffin pans, filling only 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Yield: Approximately 15 muffins

Canning 101: Homemade Horseradish

My husband likes to make homemade horseradish. He may not make it every year, depending on how quickly we go through it, but it’s something that’s easy to make, although it will “scent up” your kitchen if you work it up inside 🙂 He got his recipe from a co-worker, and it’s a good one to have on hand, especially if you grow your own horseradish like we do.

In the fall, dig up the horseradish roots – as much as you want to prepare. Kevin always digs in late fall, and this year he was able to wait until Dec. 11 as it stayed warm enough that the ground hadn’t frozen, and he could still get the spade in the ground. Here’s one of the largest roots he dug up this year:

horseradish root

After digging the roots, cut off the crowns, but don’t throw them away. You can save them and replant in the spring, or share with your family and friends so they can start their own horseradish patch in the garden. Scrape or peel the roots as you would a carrot.

horseradish scraped

Cube up the roots into manageable pieces, small enough that they won’t ruin a food processor. Believe me, these roots are tough, and we’ve gone through several commercial-grade food processors making horseradish in the past.

To each cup of cubed horseradish root you add to the food processor, add 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar. Pulse the ingredients until smooth and creamy. You’ll want to have an open window in the room you’re working – when you open up the lid to the food processor, you’ll understand why 🙂

Pour prepared horseradish into clean pint jars. Add lids and rings. Store horseradish in the refrigerator.

horseradish prepared all jars

When horseradish is fresh, it will be snow white in color, and as it ages, it turns creamy white in color. The intensity of the flavor will mellow as it ages, but this keeps for several months in the refrigerator. Use it as you would use store-bought horseradish: in cocktail sauce (add to ketchup) or add to mayonnaise and sour cream to make a tasty dipping sauce for prime rib or roast beef. I even use it in my barbecue sauce for a little extra kick. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Everyone knows it’s not Thanksgiving dinner without dessert. In my house, my sons and husband love pumpkin pie, but I’m not the biggest fan. Maybe I ate too much of it as a kid. I do, however, love cheesecake, so when I’m asked to make a pumpkin dessert, I generally make pumpkin cheesecake. You still get the pumpkin flavor – but I get the cheesecake part I love.

pumpkin cheesecake 2


Pumpkin Cheesecake

2 cups crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
8 tablespoons butter, melted

3 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 carton ricotta cheese
1 pint sour cream
1 can pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon good vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the crust ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. Press into the bottom and halfway up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Cover the bottom and sides of the springform pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese with the sugar. Mix on high until well combined and fluffy in appearance. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the ricotta cheese, sour cream, pumpkin puree and the vanilla. Turn the mixer on low speed at first, gradually increasing the speed to high as you incorporate all the ingredients together. Mix until everything is well combined and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Place the springform pan inside a larger pan (I use a roasting pan). Add hot water to the larger pan until the water level is about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake cheesecake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. After an hour, turn off the heat, but let the cheesecake sit in the oven for an additional hour.

Remove from the oven, and cool before refrigerating. For best results, let the cheesecake cool in the refrigerator at least 8 hours or overnight before serving.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

A favorite Thanksgiving side dish in our house is sauteed Brussels sprouts. I’m a lucky parent as my sons will eat just about anything – from liver and onions to spinach and these Brussels sprouts.

We like sauteed cabbage, and since Brussels sprouts are in the same vegetable family, one year I decided to try sauteeing some. Add some bacon and dried cranberries, and you’ve got the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner.

brussels sprouts and bacon

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and sliced in half
5 bacon strips, diced and cooked
1/2 small onion, diced
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced Brussels sprouts and diced onions. Cook the vegetables over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the Brussels sprouts are nicely caramelized and the onions are soft. Add the cooked bacon pieces and the dried cranberries, stirring to incorporate and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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