golden yellow cake

My grandmother was a great cook — the absolute best! Seriously…. Just ask anyone who ever ate her food. Amazing.

The bad news is that she didn’t have many recipes written down that I know of. One that I have from her is this golden yellow cake. Now, I believe it’s her recipe — I’m 98% sure — but it may be from my 7th grade home economics class. All I remember for sure is that this recipe was added to the recipes made in that class, in my mini 3-ring cookbook binder that I used to store them all. Some recipes we were asked to bring from home, to use in the class, and I’m sure that’s why this one is included. I remember going to Gram with requests for a few of my favorites.

So I guess there is a 2% chance my memory is completely goofed up and Gram never made this. I’ll check with my mom soon — she’s got a better memory for the history of recipes than I do!

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Golden Yellow Cake

1 stick butter, softened but NOT MELTED

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup milk (I use whole milk)

2 1/2 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 375F (350F if using glass or dark metal pans).

*Note: This is where I differ from Gram’s instructions for this recipe. On her version the directions are simply to “beat all ingredients for 4 minutes”, but over the years I’ve done it a bit differently, as noted below.

Cream together butter and sugar. On low speed add vanilla and eggs. Slowly add milk alternatively with combined flour, baking powder and salt. Once all combined, beat on medium speed for 4 minutes. Scrape sides a few times.

Grease and flour a 9×13 or two 8×8 or 9×9 pans, or use parchment paper to line your pan(s).

If using a 9×13 pan, bake for 25-30 minutes.

If using two 8×8 or 9×9 pans, bake for 14-18 minutes. (*Note: I’ve made this cake again in 9-inch round pans, and the oven temp was at 350F due to something else in the oven at the same time. The cooking time for the cakes at that temp was 18-22 minutes.)

*Edited to add that on May 16th I made these into cupcakes, and baked them for 18-20 minutes. I frosted them with chocolate fudge frosting and they were delicious!

A toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean when the cake is done. And it will be golden yellow on the top… hence the name of the recipe!

calzones

The first recipe I posted on this blog was for homemade pizza, which we make weekly. When making it yesterday, my daughter decided to switch it up a bit, and made a calzone. The rest of us had individual pizzas, but after tasting our daughter’s calzone, my husband wished I had made his pizza into one as well. Next time I’ll be sure to make a calzone just for him!

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Calzones

*Note: I made the dough in the bread machine — same recipe as for pizza dough. (Here’s the link to that recipe.) When ready, I divided it into four equal parts. Each section is enough for a nice size calzone (my daughter was able to get two meals from the one calzone — my husband may not be so lucky).

Roll the dough into a large circle or oval … doesn’t matter which! We did this on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. No added oil needed and it makes transferring the calzone to a plate super easy.

On one half of the dough, you can put any of your favorite pizza toppings. My daughter’s calzone had pepperoni and cooked mild Italian sausage. When I make one for my husband I’ll start with those two items, and add sliced onions and green peppers and lots of garlic.

Along with the meat, she layered a bit of sauce (we used tomato puree instead of crushed tomatoes in yesterday’s sauce since she prefers a smoother result). Then she topped it off with shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese and a shredded cheese blend which included more mozzarella, along with provolone, asiago, Parmesan and Romano.

Carefully fold the dough over to cover the toppings, sauce and cheese, and to form a semi-circle (or semi-oval?). Crimp the edges to seal them. Use a fork to gently press down to help with this process. Using the fork, poke a few holes into the top to allow steam to escape. If desired, brush a little melted butter on top before cooking.

Bake at 400F for about 15 minutes (the more toppings — the thicker it is — the longer you’ll have to cook it, possibly up to 20 minutes).

*Hint: I moved the calzone around the oven during its cooking time. It started on the lowest rack to make sure the bottom cooked well, then onto the center rack for even all-around cooking, and finished the last 5 minutes on the upper most rack to give it the nice golden crust you see in the pictures. Not sure if this was necessary, but the result was perfect, so I’ll do this again next time as well.

Serve with extra sauce.

pork with applesauce

I grew up watching The Brady Bunch. Way back when …. First runs in the early 70s. I’m one of six children and the blended Brady family had six children — I could relate to so many of their issues. One thing I’ll never forget about that show is that Peter Brady loved pork chops and applesauce. I’ve always been a big fan too. Peter Brady was famous for going around saying “pork chops and applesauce” in a semi-annoying way and so did I … now I am wondering if this used to get on my mom’s nerves. Yup, most likely.

My mom and grandmother both made awesome pork chops, and to my delight they made them often. For me, applesauce was a necessary side for those chops. Didn’t matter if the applesauce was from a jar or homemade. I considered the concept to be pretty simple: when making pork chops, you must serve it with applesauce.

When I was out on my own and satisfying my pork chop and applesauce cravings, I decided to save time and clean-up by making it together in the crockpot. As they cook, the apples flavor the pork and help to keep it moist.

*Note: I tend to buy pork tenderloins more often than other cuts of pork, and that’s what I use in this recipe, most of the time. But any cut of pork would work.

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Pork with Applesauce

pork tenderloin or chops or roast … you pick!

3 granny smith apples, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

*Note: The amounts of apples, maple syrup and brown sugar are intended for one tenderloin or 4 chops. Increase these amounts proportionally if using a larger amount of meat.

In a skillet over medium heat, brown all sides of the pork in a small amount of vegetable oil. Then place the meat in the crockpot.

Into the crockpot also put the cubed apples, maple syrup and brown sugar.

Cook on high for a few hours, or on low if cooking all day.

crockpot beef roast

I don’t eat red meat, but I serve it to my family a couple times a week. Because I don’t eat it, I don’t have tons of recipes for beef, and haven’t experimented too much. In the past, when cooking beef, I haven’t always had the best results — for example, I’ve burned steaks often enough that I’ve given up trying (if my family wants steak, that’s what restaurants are for, right?). Usually I make hamburgers for the beef eaters in my family, but if I do so too often, they strike. So I rotate between this crockpot beef, hamburgers, and a few other beef dishes. And we know which restaurants to go to when the steak craving takes over!

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I have a few variations for making beef in the crockpot — and I’ll post some of them at another time — but this recipe is pure and simple. Meat, potatoes, carrots. Simple. The flavors of the beef shine through (or so my family tells me).

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Crockpot Beef Roast

In a deep skillet, brown both sides of a chuck roast, or any cut of beef you prefer, after seasoning it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Place meat in crockpot set to HIGH.

In the pan that you browned the meat, add 1/2 – 1 cup of water or red wine. Deglaze the pan over low heat. Pour that liquid over the meat in the crockpot.

Scrub 4-6 potatoes. Cut each one in half.

Peel 4-6 carrots and slice into 1-inch pieces.

Place the carrots and potatoes in the crockpot with the meat.

Cover and cook on HIGH.

lemony chicken

This is not my official lemon chicken recipe — I’ll post that another day. This recipe is close, but it’s an imposter. I guess you could say that this is the cheater version. The “lemons were too expensive at the store” version. Or maybe the “darn it, I forgot to purchase lemons the other day” version. The taste is very similar — but it differs since it uses bottled lemon juice rather than fresh lemons — but the good news is that it can be adapted more easily for the people with “I’d rather not be overwhelmed with lemon” preferences. No matter what you call it, or what you don’t call it, this is made in my kitchen at least once a week. It’s cheap and tasty and easy and fast. And the whole family eats it. With two picky eaters in my family, that is a huge selling point for me! The whole family knows, when they ask “what’s for dinner?” and I reply “chicken”, this is what they’ll get!

Funny lemony chicken story: One time, in my first year or two of marriage, my youngest sister came to visit. For some reason my husband was cooking —  maybe I had just had my first baby? — not sure why, but it was not very usual for him to cook. When he did cook, he’d make one of two things. Lemony chicken was one. But when my sister visited, he hadn’t made it often enough to know exactly the right amount of lemon juice to add. Well, he more than quadrupled the lemon juice… instead of tablespoons, he used cups. Eating overly-lemony chicken is hard to do, but her expression was priceless and makes for a fun memory!

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Lemony chicken

In a saute pan, cover the bottom with olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pan). Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Add boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders (I often use tenders, since they cook very quickly). Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook on the first side until golden brown, then turn and cook on the second side until golden brown. Turn the chicken one more time, and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Immediately turn off heat and cover. Remove from heat and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes. Serve.

apple crisp

My go-to dessert is apple crisp. I’ve always loved apple pie, thanks to my Gram, who was the apple pie queen!  But making crusts can be time consuming. Apple crisp gives me the flavors I crave, in a fraction of the time.

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Apple Crisp

In a baking dish (tonight I used an 8×8 foil pan, since this dessert was being delivered to a friend’s house), put 1 tablespoon flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a hearty amount of cinnamon.

Peel and slice 3 granny smith apples, one at a time. As you slice each one, put the slices directly into the baking dish and gently stir to cover them with the flour/sugar/cinnamon mixture (this will prevent the apple slices from turning brown as you continue slicing the next one).

In a microwave safe bowl, melt 1/4 cup butter (make sure you don’t boil it … just get it to the soft melted stage). Stir into the butter 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup oats and 1 teaspoon (or more) cinnamon. Also shake in a bit of nutmeg — but not too much! Stir well to combine.

Distribute this mixture evenly to cover the sliced apples.

Bake, uncovered, at 350F for about 40 minutes. Use a fork to determine if the apples are tender. If not, return it to the oven for an additional 5-15 minutes, until the apples are tender. Be careful not to burn the topping! Place foil on top to prevent that, if extra cooking time is needed.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or without (but really, I highly suggest serving it with the vanilla ice cream … and a cup of coffee). And you know what, it’s pretty darn good cold too.

lasagne

Sauce, pasta, cheese.    Sauce, pasta, cheese.    Sauce, pasta, cheese.

I’m one of those people that can say a phrase or a list a hundred times, attempting to memorize it, but then get confused ten minutes later. Was it “sauce, cheese, pasta”? Or maybe “pasta, sauce, cheese”? Set to music, though, and it’s in my head forever. So years ago, when I needed to remember which order to place the ingredients in the pan for lasagne, I’d repeatedly sing “sauce, pasta, cheese” (I made lasagne very often, therefore I sang this very, very often). Now when I make lasagne that little ditty still goes through my head over and over. I’d sing it for you, but I don’t sing well — good thing there’s no sound on this blog post!

*Note: I make this in a variety of ways — cheese only, with spinach, with ground beef, or with sausage. Depends on who I’m cooking for and what mood I’m in!

*Another note: The original recipe was found on a box of Barilla lasagne years and years ago. I’ve modified it slightly. Barilla is the only pasta I use to make lasagne now, because you do not need to cook the pasta before assembling the lasagne. I’m a big fan of saving time and work if it results in a wonderful meal!

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Lasagne

1 box Barilla lasagne (look for “no boiling required” printed on the label!)

1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 container (bag or box) frozen spinach, thawed and drained (if desired)

1 pound ground beef or sausage, cooked and drained (if desired)

2 jars pasta sauce or 2 batches of homemade sauce

*From these ingredients I made two lasagnes. One was cheese only, and the other had ground beef. Because I make two instead of one, still using casserole (9x13x3-inch) dishes, they don’t end up tall (thick?), but I’m okay with that… makes me feel less guilty for having a second (or third?) piece! I’ve done the math and if using half the ingredients in one lasagne, then eating two pieces is equivalent to one piece of a normal lasagne…. At least that’s what I tell myself!

In a bowl, mix together the ricotta, 3 cups of mozzarella, and the Parmesan cheeses. If using spinach, add it to this cheese mixture.

In a deep casserole dish (9x13x3-inch casserole dish or similar), place the ingredients in this order:

  1. 1/3  of the sauce
  2. pasta
  3. 1/2 of the cheese (& spinach) mixture
  4. 1/3 of the sauce
  5. pasta
  6. 1/2 of the cheese (& spinach) mixture
  7. half of the remaining sauce
  8. pasta
  9. finish off the sauce
  10. remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese

If adding the cooked ground beef or sausage, use this order:

  1. 1/3 of the sauce
  2. pasta
  3. 1/3 of the cheese
  4. 1/2 of the meat
  5. 1/3 of the sauce
  6. pasta
  7. 1/3 of the cheese
  8. 1/2 of the meat
  9. half of the remaining sauce
  10. pasta
  11. finish off the sauce
  12. remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350F.

Cover your lasagne and bake for 50 minutes. Take it out and remove the foil. The lasagne should be bubbly. If not, put the foil back on and put it back in for at least 10 more minutes.

When bubbly, remove foil and return to the oven for 10 minutes for the top layer of cheese to melt.

Important: Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Hint: I prefer to complete the cooking process ahead of time (early in the day or the day before you plan to serve it). When you want to serve it, put it back in a 350F oven, covered, for half an hour to warm it through.