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Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn is one of those indulgences that seems justified on a cold fall or winter evening.  There are many different types of  Caramel Corn and just as many recipes.  This recipe comes from the folks at Land ‘O Lakes and is the best I’ve ever made.  I used to make it in huge batches, bag it and sell it at the bakery.   If I’m making it for my family, I stir in about 2 cups of roasted and salted peanuts, but these can be omitted.

While it is a bit time-consuming, you’ll be making time in your busy schedule to make it again and again.  7 quarts of Caramel Corn sounds like a lot, and you can, of course, cut the recipe in half BUT…you’ll be glad you made it all!

Start with 7 Quarts (28 dry cups) of air-popped popcorn.  Sort through and remove any un-popped kernels.   Place the popcorn in a very large bowl, one which leaves enough room to stir.

Pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a large saucepan, combine:
2 cups Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Corn Syrup
1 tsp Salt
1 cup Butter

Bring to a boil.  Stirring constantly, boil the ingredients until a candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees.

Remove from heat and stir in:
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Immediately stir into the popcorn (BE CAREFUL as it is VERY HOT!).  Coat the popcorn well.  Pour the popcorn out onto lightly greased baking sheets.  Bake in the oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  After the hour, line the counter or table with parchment or wax paper and dump the pans of popcorn out onto the paper.  Allow to cool completely.  Break apart the pieces and bag or store in an airtight container.

         

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Peanut(ty) Butter Cookies

Otherwise know as “Whole Jar” Peanut Butter Cookies, this recipe is my very favorite.  Having had a “peanut free” bakery, I often found myself craving peanut butter.  Occasionally on my day off the car would lead me to a nearby bakery, aptly named “Happiness Is..” for their delicious peanut butter cookie, which I believe to be this recipe.  I’m guessing the original recipe came from one of the peanut butter companies, because of the “whole jar” of peanut butter called for.

As an aside, who didn’t grow up eating peanut butter??!!  Really, we practically lived on peanut butter sandwiches as did every other kid in my school.  For what I believe must be environmental, many children find themselves allergic, so Perfect Endings Bakery was a peanut-free bakery.

If you are fortunate enough to not have a loved one with a peanut allergy, do enjoy these cookies, as you won’t get any more peanut butter flavor than this.

In a mixer bowl, cream:
1 cup Butter, room temp.
 
Add to the butter and cream well:
1 cup Sugar
1 cup packed Brown Sugar
 
Add to above and mix well:
2 Eggs, whole
1 Egg Yolk
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 whole jar (18 ounce) Peanut Butter, creamy
 
Combine dry ingredients in another bowl and then add to above:
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
 
Stir in:
1 cup Peanuts, coarse chopped
 
Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.  Roll into 1-1/2″ balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving room for spread.   Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 9-12 minutes, or until lightly browned, but still soft in the center.  When removed from the oven, immediately press down the cookie with a flat spatula.  As with most cookies, these freeze well. 
 
  

Banana Layer Cake

Sometimes in life, we make a mistake and find out that it wasn’t a mistake after all.  Recently, I offered to bring a celebration cake to a dinner.  The Birthday celebrants were men, so I chose my go-to favorite: Banana Cake with a Browned Butter Icing.

Since we were a small group, I opted to make only half of this recipe to make a single layer cake.  In full disclosure, I mistakenly added only 1/2 as much butter as called for and I did not realize my mistake until after baking.  All of the guests were told of my “mistake” in advance and all agreed the cake was perfectly moist, and not dry as I expected.  So, if you are trying to reduce fat, feel free to make this same “mistake”, otherwise enjoy the recipe as written!

 
 
In a mixer bowl, cream with paddle attachment:
1 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
 
Switch to the whip attachment and add:
4 Eggs

Whip on high speed for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl mix together:
2 cups Banana Pulp
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2/3 cup Buttermilk
 
In another small bowl sift together:
4 cups Cake Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt

Add to the creamed mixture the dry and wet ingredients alternately, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

     

Pour the batter into 2-9″ cake pans, lined with parchment paper and greased.  Bake in a 350 degree oven 40-45 minutes or until tests done with a toothpick.  Cool completely on a rack.   Run a knife around the edge of each cake pan and remove the cake from the pans.  Fill and frost the cake with the following Browned Butter Frosting:

  

Browned Butter Frosting:

In a small pan, slowly brown:
6 Tabl. Butter, stirring constantly
 
Beat in the mixer bowl using the whip attachment:
2# Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
Browned Butter from above

While mixer is mixing, slowly add 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk to nice spreading consistency.  Ice the cake quickly as soon as the frosting is made as this is a “crusting” recipe (meaning it dries to the touch). I placed walnuts on this cake by cupping them in my hand and pressing against the sides of the cake.

 

Caramel Apples

Do you want to make some child(ren) very happy???  Can you be patient knowing that a big pay-off is coming?  Then you need to make these Caramel Apples!  I know you could unwrap store bought caramels, melt them down with a little water in the microwave and make a caramel for dipping apples, but…do you know how long it takes to unwrap all those little individual caramels?  Actually, Kraft now makes Caramel Bits which is a bag of caramels unwrapped for baking purposes.   Kraft has solved the unwrapping problem, but the taste of homemade caramel far surpasses the store bought.

Making your own caramel from scratch, while requiring some patience, is quite gratifying.  The recipe is simple, the process takes about a half hour, the dipping can be a bit messy…but the result is AMAZING!  Plan now to make these with your loved ones, or maybe for the neighbor kids ; )

Wash, thoroughly dry and place sticks in 8-10 apples*.  (I used wooden chopsticks in mine)  Place the apples on a parchment lined cookie sheet. *Use any crisp apple variety.

In a small, tall pan, melt:
1/2 cup Butter
 
Add to the pan:
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
 
Stir continuously until the above reaches a boil.  Add to the pan:
1 can Condensed Milk (not evaporated)

Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan and while stirring on low heat, bring up to a temperature of 248 degrees F.  The process of getting to the right temp takes at least 20 minutes but more like 30 minutes depending on your stove.   When the temp gets to 248 degrees F, remove from the stove and add 1-1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract.  Stir to incorporate.

     

Dip the apples in the caramel, turning to coat well.  Place the apples back on the parchment to set.  Roll in garnishes if you wish: nuts, choc. chips, small candies, sprinkles, ,etc..

     

If you have any caramel left, pour it on top of parchment in a shallow pan.  Allow to set up and cut with sharp knife for individual caramels.  OR: wrap it in a plastic bag and re-melt slowly in the microwave for dipping again in a couple of days when the kids start pestering you for MORE CARAMEL APPLES!!!

Pumpkin Praline Dessert

Betty Crocker has a recipe which, while delicious, is confusing because its not quite a cake, a bar, or a pie.  Using canned pumpkin and a cake mix (I know ~ shocking!), it’s actually a combination of those and frankly, I find it better served upside down so that the soft, creamy filling is on top and the praline is on the bottom.  You can serve it any way you’d like, but you will definitely be serving this to your family and guests, preferably with a side of whipped cream!  This recipe serves 12.

For the bottom layer, combine in a bowl and whisk:
15 oz. can Pumpkin, solid (not pie mix)
12 oz. can Evaporated Milk
3 Eggs, whole
3/4 cup Sugar
1 Tabl. Pumpkin Pie Spice (or make your own mix with 1 tsp. each of Cinnamon, cloves and ginger)
 
     

Pour this mixture in the bottom of a greased glass 9″ X 13″ pan.  Spread 1 whole box of Yellow Cake Mix (dry) on top of this filling.

Melt:
3/4 cup Butter

Pour melted butter over the top of the dry cake mix.  Sprinkle the top with 1 cup of Pecans, chopped.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 45-55 minutes.  Cool completely before serving.

  

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Everyone knows a healthy breakfast is a great way to kick-start the day.  On school days, I get the privilege of babysitting my two grandsons and part of my responsibilities is to feed them breakfast.  2-year-old Joey loves pancakes or oatmeal.  This recipe uses both of those breakfast items in one delicious and, as it turns out, healthier breakfast.  Might I suggest you add chocolate chips to the batter in place of the cinnamon for a special treat.

I like to make the pancakes, separate with wax paper and then freeze.  Just pop in the toaster or microwave when needed. This recipe makes about 15 pancakes.

 
In large bowl, mix together:
1 cups AP Flour
1 cup Oats, Old Fashioned
1 Tabl. Sugar
2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon (or 1/4 cup Chocolate Chips)
 
In another bowl, whisk together:
1-1/2 cups Buttermilk
1 cup Ripe Banana, mashed with fork
1 tsp/ Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
3 Tabl. Butter, melted
 
        
Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Lightly grease or spray griddle.  Pour batter onto hot griddle.  Wait until bubbles show on the entire surface.  Flip over and cook the other side.  To make the tenderest pancakes, only flip over once.
 
  
Serve with butter and or warmed syrup. 

Snickerdoodle Muffins

I have a confession: I’m hooked!  Hooked on Pinterest.com.  In case you’ve never heard of it, which I can NOT imagine, it is a virtual bulletin board where you can “pin” pictures/articles you find on the internet (for FREE!).  For me, this is amazing, because I often find something I want to share with someone and then can’t find it when I need it.  Anywho…Pinterest also allows you to look at what others are “pinning”.  In a way, it helps to keep up on trends. (You can also “follow” people – like me, for example, http://pinterest.com/bakingway/  if you have similar interests.  Not that I’m trying to get you “hooked” too ; )

Right now, one of the trends that everyone seems interested in is Snickerdoodle anything: muffins, cakes, cookies.  I became so interested in this recipe, I looked it up and tried it.   Of course, I made a few adjustments to the original recipe to better suit my tastes.  Looking at the top of the muffins, you’d swear you’re looking at Snickerdoodle Cookies.  I think you’ll enjoy it too!  This recipe makes 12 large muffins.

In a mixing bowl, cream until light colored and fluffy:
1 cup Butter, room temperature
1 cup Sugar
 
 
Add to above:
1-1/4 cups Yogurt
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
 
In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
2-1/4 cups Flour
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
3/4 tsp. Baking Powder
3/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 tsp. Nutmeg

Stir dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, careful not to over-mix.

For dipping, combine:
1 cup Sugar
2 Tabl. Cinnamon

Drop scoops of muffin batter in a shallow plate or bowl with cinnamon sugar mixture.  Turn each scoop of batter over in order to thoroughly coat all around with sugar.  Place the scoop in muffin paper/pans.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 22-25 minutes, or until done in center.

  

Calvados Apple Muffins

The calendar and the weather are both telling us: Fall is here.  The beauty of fall makes up for the loss of the warmth of  summer.  We tend to find warmth and comfort in foods during these cold(er) months.

Each of us has heard of, tasted and/or made an apple cake, as they are quite popular.  I determined to make mine “better than” by replacing some of the oil with yogurt to add flavor and moisture and sauteing my apples before adding them to the batter.  A splash of Calvados or Applejack – an apple brandy, intensifies and accentuates the apples.

I made this recipe into muffins for a special brunch, but have made it in a bundt pan for years.  Just sprinkle the top of cooled cake with powdered sugar – it’s taste can stand on its own!

In a Saute pan, melt:
2 Tabl. Butter
 
Add to hot pan:
3 Apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 Tabl. Sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon

Saute apples until just soft.

Toss into the saute pan:
2 Tabl. Apple Brandy (Calvados or Applejack) * Optional

Toss the brandy with apples, and allow to flame a bit (this burns off alcohol).  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

     
 
In a large bowl, whisk together:
1-1/4 cups Sugar
2/3 cup Yogurt, plain
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
3 Eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
 
  
 
In a small bowl, mix together dry ingredients:
2 cups AP Flour
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
 
        

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet.  Add the cooled apples and stir to coat.  Place in muffin cups by scoop.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until done.

     

If baking in a bundt pan, bake in 350 degree oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until tests done with toothpick.  Cool cake and dust with powdered sugar.

Millionaries Shortbread Layer Bars

Millionaires Shortbread is, as you can imagine by its name, RICH!  So, what do you have against “rich”?  Personally, I’d prefer “rich” over sweet any day and believe me, there is a difference.  It’s not the sweet that makes your teeth ache, but the richness that brings satisfaction.  This recipe makes a small 9″ square pan, but because of its richness, it makes 2 dozen servings.

You’ll want to make the caramel filling first and allow it to cool a bit before adding it on top of the crust.  Line your pan with foil to make easy pull out for cutting and fast clean-up!

 

 

CARAMEL LAYER:
In a saucepan, stir together:
1 can Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Butter
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
Pinch of salt
 

Cook on low heat, stirring constantly, for about 20 minutes until thick.

 
Remove from heat and stir in:
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

Leave on the counter to cool.

     

SHORTBREAD LAYER:
Mix together in mixing bowl:
2-1/4 cups AP Flour
1/2 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Butter, cut into small pieces

Firmly press the dough into the bottom of the pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes until lightly browned and done.

  

Pour the Caramel over the warm crust and spread.  Cool completely.

CHOCOLATE LAYER:
In a bowl combine:
1 cup Chocolate Chips
2 Tabl. Butter

Melt in a microwave on low heat.

Remove from microwave and add:
2 Tabl. Corn syrup
 
  

Stir until smooth.  Pour over cooled caramel layer and spread to cover the top.  Sprinkle top lightly with Sea Salt (optional).  Allow the bars to set up completely before cutting.

  

Corn Muffins

Whew! I’m not sure about you, but my end of summer was a bit hectic.  In the midst of the extreme heat of the last of August, along came Hurricane Irene. Like many of you, we were for-warned of the high winds and extreme amounts of rain.  Here in the northeast, after a very wet summer, that combination led to a LOT of downed trees and wires.

What does a normal person do, when a hurricane is predicted?  Knowing we were headed for downed lines and trees, I filled the bathtub with water (for flushing the toilet), prepped drinking water, set barrels underneath the eaves to collect rain water ( I had to make sure we had enough toilet flushing water 😉 , gathered flashlights, battery powered radio and batteries, purchased fruit and…baked!  Well, I had to bake – I mean, who goes for days without electricity and doesn’t need some kind of homemade goodness?!

I decided on these muffins since I convinced myself they were nutritious and hearty and would stave off hunger pains.   The recipe makes 12 muffins.

In a bowl, whisk together:
2 cups AP Flour
1 cup Cornmeal
1/2 cup Sugar
1 Tabl. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
In another small bowl, combine:
4 Eggs
1-1/2 cups Milk
1 cup Butter, melted
 
Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, until smooth.  Place the batter by scoops into muffin tins.  Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until tests done and are lightly browned.  
 
        
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