Monthly Archives: August 2014

Colorado Pasta Salad

Colorado Pasta Salad

Just in time for Labor Day weekend, I am going to share a recipe for my family’s favorite (and my go-to) pasta salad.

I first tried this salad sometime in the late 1980’s. My parents had gone to Denver over the summer to see my maternal Aunt and her family. One of my cousins made this as a side dish to go with our dinner.  It was delicious. We all loved it, and I can remember my father raving about how good it was. He was not generally a pasta salad kind of guy and as the Food Editor of the local newspaper, he had discerning tastes. My father later found the recipe in a cookbook from Colorado, which he thought intriguing since that is where we first had it. In our house, we still call it “Heidi’s Pasta Salad”, but you can call it by its formal name:

Colorado Pasta Salad

  • 1 12-ounce package of Rotini
  • 2 cups seedless grapes, halved
  • 3 of 4 green onions, chopped
  • 2 ounces cheddar cheese, in small cubes
  • 1 cup mayonnaise

Cook Rotini according to package directions. Rinse to cool. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat noodles and combine thoroughly. Serve cold.

Some substitutions can be made: black olives in place of the grapes; blue cheese in place of cheddar. I much prefer the grapes to the olives.

I sincerely hope everyone enjoys this pasta salad as much as my family does. The flavor combination is delicious.




Posted by on August 26, 2014 in recipe


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Slow Cooker Tikka Masala ~ and Homemade Slow Cooker Ketchup

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala ~ and Homemade Slow Cooker Ketchup

Another triple digit Kansas day meant I was not cooking. I happened upon a new recipe that I had all of the ingredients for and that sounded fresh. So tonight, it was “Slow Cooker Tikka Masala”.

I found the recipe at

I did cheat just a bit, because I had started my homemade ketchup yesterday and it was done this morning. I used some of the homemade ketchup in place of the onion, garlic, and tomatoes. It worked perfectly! Everything else I followed to the letter. It was great to have home grown cucumbers to use as well as our own cilantro.

When I was plating the dish, I had three faces looking at me cautiously. Daughter Number Three was immediately put off by the cucumber relish. She is not a fan of veggies. She and Daughter Number Four went ahead and tried the chicken and I saw smiles. “It tastes like pumpkin pie chicken!” announced 4. I waited for The Hubs to give me any signs. He did eat the relish for Daughter Number Three. I finally asked him what he thought. It tasted really good, but was a little bit tough. I had cooked if for 4 hours on high. It was a bit tough. He did say that if I cooked it on low it would be something he would definitely try again. The flavors were different, but good. Yay! Winner Winner Chicken Tikka Masala Dinner!

I did finish the ketchup overnight in the slow cooker. It sure condensed down! It worked great in the Tikka Masala and I ended up with a pint to use on burgers or Patatas Bravas!


Many of the tomatoes that I had from the garden were yellow plum tomatoes. Daughter Number Three and I opted to skip the broiling / roasting part of the recipe so that we didn’t heat up the kitchen. Instead, we boiled water in the microwave and poured over the tomatoes to loosen the skins. We slipped the skins off and pureed the tomatoes, then ran them through the colander to remove some (many) of the seeds.

I read a bunch of recipes and didn’t like any of them…so I added what sounded good to me!

Homemade Slow Cooker Ketchup

  • 4 pounds tomatoes (I used half yellow plum, half red)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped coarse
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ jalapeno, chopped
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Wash the tomatoes and remove stems and blemishes. Place in a large bowl, sink, or colander. Pour boiling hot water over the tomatoes to loosen skins. Set tomatoes aside to cool, then slip the skins off. In batches, puree skinned tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Pour pureed tomatoes into slow cooker crock. Chop onion, garlic, and jalapeno and add to the slow cooker. Add vinegar, sugar, salt, peppers, and paprika. Stir together and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until thickened. Do not place lid on slow cooker tightly.

I did not ‘can’ my ketchup because I used half of it in the Tikka Masala and ended up with a pint! I did sterilize the jar, ring, and lid before putting the remaining ketchup in the jar, though.

Overall, the ketchup was a success. It was a success because I used our homegrown tomatoes. It was also a success because I tried something new. Again, a success because I was in charge of what went in to my ketchup. Yes, all add up to success.

In fact, it was a weekend of Slow Cooker Success! It was wonderful to make so many great new things without heating up the house! If you are in a Triple Digit Dilemma for cooking and baking try these are some of my other tested and approved slow cooker meals!



Posted by on August 24, 2014 in recipe


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Baking on a Hot Day ~ Slow Cooker Dump Cake

Baking on a Hot Day ~ Slow Cooker Dump Cake

When the temperatures soar over the century mark, the last thing I want to do is cook. Baking is definitely out of the question. I do have to feed my family, though – and take care of things that need taking care of.

One of the best parts of my Kansas summers is the fresh produce. That can also be a burden when the tomatoes are pouring off of the counters and they start to attract little fruit flies. I had waited as long as I could, but The Hubs was starting to make mention of the little flying pests, so I knew that I had to do something with the tomatoes first thing this morning. Knowing it was going to be hot I decided I would make homemade ketchup, in the slow cooker. I read through several recipes and took pieces of several to create my own. After cooking on low for the allotted number of hours, it still seems a little bit thin, so I put it back on low to cook overnight. I’ll be sure to post how it turns out!

With the house smelling delicious with the ketchup cooking, the family was getting restless for something to snack on. It was so hot outside that I knew I wasn’t in the mood to do much. Daughter Number Three was pushing me to make “No-Bake Cookies”. I was going to oblige, but she lost interest in that as I was looking up recipes and I lost my helper. Pre-teens… After she wandered off to some other part of the house and I was all alone in the kitchen I decided that I didn’t even want to use the stovetop. I decided to get creative / crazy and make a dump cake. I remember discovering a recipe for “Dump Cake” in a cookbook that my dad helped put together in the mid-80’s. My parent’s didn’t use ‘boxed’ cake mixes so we didn’t have the ingredients on hand. I asked my mom to buy me the ingredients that the recipe called for and I put it together. 2 cans cherry pie filling, 1 white or chocolate cake mix, 1 stick of butter melted. Pour into a baking dish in the order listed, bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes – 40 minutes, until cake is ‘done’.

I don’t keep canned pie fillings in my house, but I almost always have a couple of boxed cake mixes in case I need to make “Cake Balls” or “Cake Pops”. I improvised using things I had in the house. This is what I came up with:

Slow Cooker Dump Cake

  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 pint apricot jam or preserves
  • 1 lemon cake mix
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • ¼ cup water
  • Nonstick cooking spray

Spray the inside of the slow cooker crock with nonstick spray. Pour in the blueberries and apricot preserves. Stir together gently. Pour the cake mix over the top evenly. Pour the melted butter and water over the cake mix to cover completely. Cook on high for 1 ½ hours and low for 1 ½ hours until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I served this for dessert after a quick dinner of fried hamburgers and fried potatoes. (No healthy eating today!) It was terrific to serve the burgers topped with onions and fresh tomatoes from the garden. I did scoop a bit of the homemade ketchup onto my burger. I really hope it thickens up tonight! The family all liked the slow cooker cake. The Hubs said that the ice cream was a good touch, because it cut the tartness of the lemon cake and the apricot. The girls didn’t seem to mind the tartness. Daughter Number Four had to be admonished for sticking her spoon back into the slow cooker. (She was only admonished after she had been asked nicely to stop 3 times.)

I’m glad that my little creative experiment worked out. It was nice to have a fresh dessert, even on a hot day!

This creation certainly was not the pinnacle of my creative success, but I will definitely be sharing the idea with anyone who loves using a slow cooker or want to bake something on a hot, hot day!


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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in recipe


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Mocha Coconut Cake – More Birthday Deliciousness

Mocha Coconut Cake – More Birthday Deliciousness

Two days after Daughter Number 3’s birthday we get to celebrate another birthday in our house. The Hubs birthday is on August 14th.

As is tradition, he gets to choose his birthday dinner and cake. Sometimes he opts to eat out. Sometimes he opts for no cake, because we usually have cake left from Daughter Number 3’s birthday. This year, he asked me to pick up some steaks to grill and some potatoes to bake (in my new convection oven). As for the cake, he wasn’t sure I needed to make him one because we had just had a big birthday cake. I acted a bit dejected or let down at not being able to bake him a cake. He said, “Well, you can make whatever you want to make for me. You could make me ‘That Mayonnaise Cake’.”

Hmph. I had just made that cake for Daughter Number 3 for her Chocolate Caramel Cake.  I couldn’t make the exact same cake just two days apart.

Still pouty, I started racking my brain to come up with a cake for The Hubs. He isn’t hard to please and I am fairly sure he has not met a cake he doesn’t like, but I wanted to make him something special. As I was doing my brainstorming I went in to the kitchen to make myself some brain juice (aka coffee). I pulled my DD Chocolate off of the lazy susan and noticed the K Mocha Coconut that Daughter Number 2 had purchased for her daddy as a special treat; one of his all-time favorites. I think the bells that went off in my head were loud enough that my 85 year-old neighbor could have heard them at his house. Mocha Coconut Cake.

I decided that I would use the recipe for That Mayonnaise Cake, substituting fresh, hot coffee for the warm water.

I searched for a coconut cake recipe and was disappointed in many of the recipes I found. I found one that seemed like it would work with some changes.

Coconut Cake

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 sticks butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup cream of coconut
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2-3 Tablespoons milk, to thin batter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 round cake pans. Set aside. Sift into a large mixing bowl flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer cream butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar in small batches until incorporated and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly. Reduce speed to low; add in half of sifted dry ingredients. Beat in cream of coconut, cream, and extract. Add in remaining dry ingredients until just combined. If batter seems too thick, add in milk to thin. Do not over mix. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Turn out of pans onto wire racks and cool completely.

Coconut Butter Cream Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 4 Tablespoons Cream of Coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

In a medium glass bowl beat butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in cream of coconut and heavy cream. Add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, until desired consistency. Mix in coconut extract.

Toasted Coconut

  • ¼ cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Place coconut on a baking sheet. Toast for about 5 minutes until becoming golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 16 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 16 ounces heavy cream

Place chopped chocolate in a large glass or metal bowl, free from any oil. In a large glass bowl, microwave cream for 60 seconds on medium high power. Microwave in 30 second intervals at medium high power until cream starts to bubble. Do Not Boil! Remove cream from microwave and pour over chocolate. Let stand for two minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until completely mixed. Let stand to cool. The longer it stands, the thicker the ganache will become.

I assembled the Mocha Coconut Cake as follows. Place the cake plate on wire rack. Place an edged baking sheet under the wire rack. Lay parchment or waxed paper on the edges of the cake plate, to just under where the first layer will be. Place one mocha layer on cake platter. Spread top of cake with Coconut Buttercream Frosting, about ¼ to ½ inch thick. Do not frost to the edge or on the sides. Sprinkle with Toasted Coconut. Gently place coconut cake layer on top. Repeat the Buttercream / Toasted Coconut filling. Gently lay the 2nd Mocha layer on top of Toasted Coconut, repeat filling layer. Add the last Coconut layer. Starting at the center of the top layer, pour ganache over the top. It will flow out to the edges and down the side. Using a spoon, pour ganache over the sides to drizzle down. It will flow over the cake plate and into the baking sheet below. Continue drizzling ganache until the sides are covered. Remove parchment or waxed paper from the plate. Wipe the plate edge to remove excess ganache. Place toasted coconut on the edge of the cake plate for decoration.


The Hubs was quite happy with the cake. He laughed a bit when he saw that I had made such a grand cake. It really was something! I have made quite a few three-layer cakes in the past but never a four-layer cake!

This cake was more than a morsel! It turned out even better than I had imagined and was an explosion of Mocha Coconut goodness! MochaCoconutHeaven is more like it! I am thrilled that I got to bake two cakes this week in my brand new oven. I am also thrilled that I don’t have any upcoming birthday to bake a cake for!

A few words of caution: this cake took quite a bit of time, with all of the different components and assembly. The ganache was delicious, but messy.


Posted by on August 17, 2014 in recipe


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Chocolate Caramel Cake – Birthday Deliciousness

Chocolate Caramel Cake – Birthday Deliciousness

On Tuesday I shared that we were celebrating Daughter Number 3’s 12th birthday! I failed to mention that it was her Golden Birthday! She turned 12 on the 12th!

One of the family traditions that I have continued in my family is the birthday dinner. The birthday girl (or boy) gets to pick what they want to eat for their birthday dinner. They also get to choose the birthday cake. The tradition is also to make the birthday cake…as opposed to buying it. There have been times we have broken from tradition, but that is a rarity.

When I asked Daughter Number 3 what she wanted for dinner she asked for homemade Macaroni and Cheese, with a side of “Little Smokies”. I tried to explain to her that she had that backward…but that didn’t work. So I agreed to make her Macaroni and Cheese with a side of “Little Smokies”.

She also asked for an ice cream cake (from a chain whose name is somewhat royal). I told her that this year we would opt for making a cake, not buying one. She told me that she would have to think on it for a bit. A short time later she came back to me. She wanted to know if I could make a chocolate caramel cake. Well, I hadn’t ever made one, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t.

I have a go-to chocolate cake recipe. It is one of the moistest and easiest chocolate cakes to make. Ever. It is a mayonnaise cake recipe that I found more than 25 years ago when I was looking for a chocolate cake recipe for someone who has milk allergies. My dad helped me find it, and I have used it ever since. For the filling between the layers I decided to do Dulce de Leche. My plan was to cover the outside with Ganache. When I mentioned that to Daughter Number 3 she said she preferred buttercream. I asked if she wanted a chocolate buttercream and she asked for caramel buttercream. I obliged.

It was a delicious cake and I am so glad she asked for it! I have learned some new tricks that I will be using forever, and I learned a little bit more about baking, filling, and frosting cakes.

The first recipe I will share is the Dulce de Leche. I have shared before that I make caramel by cooking Sweetened Condensed Milk in the can. I realize that some people do not recommend this method for various reasons. I also know that this is such an easy way to make delicious caramel. However, I just got a brand new stove with a smooth cooktop and did not want to keep a large pan of boiling water on for hours. I had read that you can also make my delicious kind of caramel using a slow cooker. I did that.

Easy Caramel

  • 1 can  of Sweetened Condensed Milk

Remove the label from the can. Place the can in the crock of the slow cooker. Fill with water to about an inch over the top of the can. Cook on slow for up 7-8 hours. Turn off slow cooker. Remove can and cool. Open can, pour caramel into bowl, whip with an electric mixer until creamy. If you want salted caramel, grind in some sea salt. Stir.

That Mayonnaise Cake

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour cake pans. Combine all ingredients. Beat hard 2 minutes. Pour into prepared cake pans. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Allow to cool for about 20 minutes, and turn out of pans onto rack to cool completely. Makes 2 9-inch cakes.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 can sweetened condensed milk, caramelized (see above)
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • Sea salt

Cream softened butter in a glass bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add in the caramelized milk. Cream until well mixed. Add powdered sugar, about ½ cup at a time, mixing well between add-ins. When you have reached your desired consistency (you made want more sugar, or less) add in vanilla and sea salt. Mix until blended. Use to frost cooled cake.


I made 3 thinner cakes out of the cake batter. After they had cooled I covered layers one and two with the Dulce de Leche. I then covered the top of the third layer and the sides of the cake with the Caramel Buttercream. The Dulce de Leche made the cake a little bit crunchy, so I may make a few adjustments to that. It was not offputting to any of the 5 of us, but it might be to some. We would definitely eat this cake, prepared exactly the same way, again. (and again)

It's so good Daughter Number 4 ate it with both hands!

It’s so good Daughter Number 4 ate it with both hands!

If you are getting ready to make a birthday cake for someone and want it to be a little bit different, you should absolutely try this combination of chocolate and caramel-y goodness! If you are simply looking for a delicious and easy to make chocolate cake, I recommend That Mayonnaise Cake above all others!



Posted by on August 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Wonderful Waffles! (yes, homemade)

Wonderful Waffles! (yes, homemade)

Today, we are celebrating Daughter Number 3’s twelfth birthday! It’s so very exciting! I will share recipes and stories of the birthday dinner and cake later…

What I am sharing with you now is what we ate for her birthday sleepover with one of her besties!  I gave the girls a vast array of choices ranging from homemade pizza, spaghetti and meatballs or meatball sandwiches, any number of ground beef dishes (hamburgers?), chicken dishes (Chinese chicken, fried chicken, Italian chicken) and more. I guess pre-teen is the age where two girls can turn dozens of food choices into blank stares and crickets. Bueller? Bueller?

After what seemed like a very long time I said, “Waffles, pancakes, “… Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner! The young friend said, “Homemade waffles? My Mammy and Pawpaw make me homemade waffles.” I assured her they would be homemade.

I giggled as I had a quick flashback to the week prior. I had stayed with a friend in her gorgeous home with her uber gorgeous kitchen. Highlight was when she offered to let me make breakfast Sunday morning in her kitchen! I asked her what she would like, and offered to make waffles. She had been showing me to the pantry when she turned and said, “Oh. I don’t have any Bisquick”. (I am using this story with permission) I busted out laughing, and said “Oh, silly! I don’t use Bisquick”, which resulted in a little slap to the back of my arm. More laughter ensued. She pulled out the waffle iron and I set to work making homemade waffles.

I have learned that whether I am making healthy waffles or unhealthy waffles, they are fluffier and tastier if you whip the egg whites and fold them in.

I used the above recipe for the sleepover waffles.

Fluffy Waffles

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the waffle iron. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Place the butter in a glass measuring cup and microwave at short intervals until melted. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Stir in milk, oil, and melted butter. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the sugar and mix until egg whites form peaks. Add liquid ingredients (not egg whites) to the sifted dry ingredients, stirring in vanilla. Do NOT overmix. Gently fold in egg whites with a rubber spatula until egg whites are incorporated into the batter. Again…do NOT overmix. Ensure that both sides of the waffle iron are sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or oiled lightly. Using a ladle or measuring cup, pour batter into the center of each ‘waffle’ on the preheated waffle iron. (Follow the instructions for your waffle iron) Cook until the waffle batter has stopped steaming. Waffles should be lightly browned and crisp, not doughy.

Serve with butter, syrup, peanut butter (my favorite), fresh fruit, jam or your own favorite topping.





It doesn’t really take all of that to whip up a delicious waffle, though. It can be very quick and easy…even without the mix!

Basic Waffles

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs, separated (or whites only)

Preheat waffle iron. In a large mixing bowl, or measuring bowl sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a small bowl combine egg yolks, milk, oil, and vanilla. Set aside. In a small bowl whisk egg whites until light and fluffy, or forming soft peaks. Add liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Be careful not to overmix. Some lumps can still be visible. With a rubber spatula fold in egg whites gently. Do NOT overmix. Pour batter into the middle of the waffle sections in the preheated waffle iron, being careful not to overfill. Batter should not come to the edge of the iron. Cook waffles until iron stops steaming. Waffles should be lightly browned and crisp when done.

So, if you don’t have the extra time to make the longer, richer version you can make this quick and easy Certainly don’t be afraid of trying homemade waffles yourself! It may take a few tries at getting the right amount of batter in the iron or cooking them to your version of perfection (not too gooey, not too crisp).







Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


In the Kitchen with Kate Homemade Pizza Edition

It’s exciting to see how every recipe can be morphed into a new one!

Did That Just Happen Blog

I can’t decide between In the Kitchen with Kate or Cooking with Kate.  They both have the “kha” sound, and I like the shorter Cooking with Kate, but like the look of the two “K”s in In the Kitchen with Kate.

cooking from scratch

Obviously I’m not that good at naming thing, not very inventive.  And apparently I’m a bit self-centered.

I think we knew that latter bit already, though.

Anyway – if you have any suggestions, I’m open to them.


I’ll try to be open to them.

But I’ll be really open to someone who wants to make me a cute little jpeg that I can use for these episodes!

Moving on.

I’m currently obsessed with pizza.

Specifically, homemade pizza!

I’ve made a couple lately, from spinach feta to chicken broccoli, and I have no plans of stopping as they are turning out so very yummy, and so much better for…

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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Uncategorized