Monthly Archives: February 2015

Pie Crust Cinnamon Rolls

Pie Crust Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite little treats to bake when I was little were pie crust cinnamon rolls. What? You don’t know about pie crust cinnamon rolls? Let me help you out.

When my mother would bake pies, the scraps of dough that were left over after trimming her pie crust to fit the pie plate were made into pie crust cinnamon rolls. The dough was re-rolled into an oblong shape, covered with melted butter, and covered with cinnamon and sugar. Then the prepared dough was rolled cinnamon roll style, cut into 1” pieces, placed on a pie plate or a baking sheet and baked for 15-20 minutes until brown and cooked through. These little yummies were always my favorite part of homemade pie!

This past weekend when I was at my mother’s house she asked me if I wanted a box of pie crusts she had purchased ahead of the holidays. She wasn’t sure she would bake a pie, and if she did if she would have the energy to scratch make a crust. She had been holding on to this unopened box and was going to throw it out if I didn’t want it. I wasn’t planning on baking a pie, but I took the crusts home with me.

I was planning on a big pot of chili for dinner. I like to make chili a couple of times over the winter, almost as a requirement. I wasn’t in the mood to make corn bread, which I typically make to go with homemade chili. I also like homemade cinnamon rolls with chili, but really didn’t feel like baking cinnamon rolls. Light Bulb (yes, I did recently watch Despicable, Me)! I would make pie crust cinnamon rolls using the premade pie crusts my mother had sent home with me, if they were still good.

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Per the directions on the box I took the 2 individually wrapped pie crusts out of the box and laid them on the kitchen table in the plastic wrappers. I took a block of cream cheese from the fridge, and got out brown sugar and cinnamon. Next, I called Daughter Number 4 in to the kitchen. I asked her if she would like to make the best part of dinner. When she saw the array of ingredients she said she would. I removed the first pie crust from the wrapper and unrolled it onto a cutting board. I explained that instead of butter we would be using cream cheese as the base. She spread it out on the pie crust, as if she were spreading sauce on a pizza. It was beautiful. The she covered the cream cheese with brown sugar and cinnamon. Together, we rolled the pie crust and I let her use the pizza cutter to cut the 1” (some smaller, some bigger) slices. We laid them onto a pizza pan. Then, I gave her more freedom on the 2nd pie crust. She covered it with cream cheese, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Then she asked for pecans and cinnamon chips. She was liberal in her coverage. We rolled and she cut the 2nd pie crust and laid those on the pizza pan. We baked the pie crust cinnamon rolls at 350◦ for about 20 minutes until they were golden brown and cooked through.

The whole family was excited about the rolls, and doubly excited when I told them they were to be eaten with the chili and not after the chili. The rolls were delicious! The Hubs raved about how good they were and how well they complimented the chili. The pecan ones were our faves.

It was wonderful to take an experience from my childhood and share with one of my own children, but also to take some pre-packaged pie crusts and create something wonderful. This is a great dish if you are in a hurry and makes a super accompaniment to chili, but would also be great for a little breakfast or brunch addition.


Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized


Homemade Pretzels Update and Beer Cheese Dip

Homemade Pretzels Update and Beer Cheese Dip

Homemade Pretzels – updated and Beer Cheese Dip

This will be short and sweet, or short and cheesy!

First, I made a very little adjustment to the Homemade Pretzel recipe. I reduced the baking soda in the water bath from ¾ cup to ½ cup. The pretzels are less bitter, otherwise they turned out as beautiful as the first batch.

Now onto the good stuff;  I have discovered the world easiest (and quite possibly tastiest) Beer Cheese Dip ever. Just to make sure that the first time wasn’t a fluke, I tried it several times with several different beers and cheeses. Still great!

Beer Cheese Dip

  • 12 ounces beer
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened, cubed
  • 12-16 ounces cheddar, shredded

Pour beer into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heat until warm. Add cream cheese and whisk until smooth. Add in shredded cheese, slowly, whisking continuously. Remove from heat and serve with fresh baked pretzels.

The first time I made this I used an oatmeal stout, cream cheese, and smoked Swiss. The second time I used a wheat beer, the cream cheese, and sharp cheddar. The third time I made the dip in the microwave, microwaving for 30 second intervals, whisking briskly between. It only took about four minutes to cheesy goodness! This batch I used Light Beer, cream cheese, and cheddar. All three were total success.

This cheese dip is also delicious with tortilla chips and on sandwiches. It’s also delicious on a spoon and my fingers.

The next time you need a cheese dip, especially if you like beer cheese…this is a great one to try! Quick, easy, and delish!


Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


King Cake

King Cake

For as long as I can remember I have been enamored by Mardi Gras. I love the symbolism, the music, the tradition, the meaning, and mostly – the food. Yes, the food.

Almost every year since I can remember I have celebrated Mardi Gras by making feasts and fare associated with Fat Tuesday. Sometimes I create New Orleans’esque fare, sometimes Shrove Tuesday inspired pancakes, or crêpes. About 7 years ago The Hubs decided to up the festivities by ordering a genuine Traditional King Cake from a well-known New Orleans bakery. It was not only a hit, but the beginning of a tradition! We have purchased a King Cake every year since!

This year I had the good fortune of having President’s Day off from work. The timing could not have been more perfect in correlation to Fat Tuesday the next day! Even more exciting was the knowledge that I had purchased some special items to make my very own King Cake the year before and my schedule didn’t permit me doing it. This year I had the time, I had the ingredients, and I was ready! I chose what seemed to be about the easiest recipe I could find and set out with the help of Daughters 3 and 4.

The ease of the recipe was not underestimated and the King Cake itself turned out better than I could have hoped for! I will make my own King Cake every year now – well, at least the next 5. I have 5 new plastic babies to put in the cakes (they came in a package of 6).

Here is the recipe I used. It is definitely easy enough for anyone with basic bread making skills.

Mardi Gras King Cake  


  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup warm milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 ¼ to 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten


  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons water
  • Green, purple, and yellow sugars
  • Small Plastic Baby (optional)

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add 1/2 cup sugar, butter, milk, egg yolks, salt, lemon peel, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 16-in. x 10-in. rectangle. Combine cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over dough to within 1/2 in. of edges.  Roll up jelly-roll style, starting with a long side. If you are going to put a plastic baby in the cake do it during the rolling process. Pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet; pinch ends together to form a ring. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Brush with egg.

Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack. For glaze, combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice and enough water to achieve desired consistency. Spread over cake. Sprinkle with colored sugars. Yield: 1 cake (12 slices).

Again, let me say how easy this cake was to make. Daughter Number 4 told me that this is the best King Cake she has ever eaten. In fact, she ate 2 pieces after dinner and asked for one for breakfast the following morning.

When you’re laying out your menu for next year’s Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival feast add this delicious morsel! Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!


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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


Very Best Cheesecake

Very Best Cheesecake

As much as the meatloaf was the husband’s Valentine’s gift from me, the dessert from Valentine’s Day was a gift to both of us and our girls.

Everyone in our family loves cheesecake. I am convinced that the love of cheesecake was passed to me in utero. As I recall the story, when my mother was pregnant with me she craved cherry cheesecake. My dad would get a Sara Lee cherry cheesecake to share with her and to satiate her craving. She would sneak into the kitchen and have a piece, and then another and another…and before she even realized it she had eaten the entire cheesecake. In her defense (according to her) they were very small cheesecakes. My father realized that the cost of these cheesecakes was prohibitive to the amount of her cravings and he found a recipe on the side of a graham cracker box.

That recipe was lost over time, so my parents spent a great deal of time trying to replicate that recipe. When they found it they made sure to write it down and make copies. In fact, the recipe made it into the “family” cookbook that they made for each of their four children in the early ‘90’s. This is the very same recipe that my mother makes for me every year on my birthday. It is “The Very Best Cheesecake”.

The Very Best Cheesecake


  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 8 Tablespoons melted butter


  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1-pound can sour red cherries, drained, liquid reserved
  • Cherry liquid plus enough water to equal ¾ cup liquid
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix crust ingredients and pat firmly into the bottom and sides of a pie plate. Beat filling ingredients with an electric mixer until satiny; pour into crust. Bake 20 minutes at 375 degrees; remove from oven. Mix sugar for topping with cornstarch into a saucepan; gradually blend in cherry liquid and heat, stirring, until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. After removing from heat stir in lemon juice and cherries. Cool 5 minutes and spread on top of cooled cheesecake. Chill several hours.

This is not only the Very Best Cherry Cheesecake, it is so simple! This recipe is one of the testaments to scratch baking. It is easy and tastes exponentially better than a boxed mix or frozen cheesecake, without being cost prohibitive.

Oh, and I love this cheesecake after it has been refrigerated for a day or two. The crust caramelizes a little bit and tastes even better.

Take the opportunity to make this cheesecake the next time you have a craving for cheesecake or want to make a special dessert.


Posted by on February 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


Grandma’s Meatloaf

Grandma’s Meatloaf

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Many years I do the traditional “romance” dinners; steak,

lobster, appetizers, decadent chocolate desserts.

This year, I decided to change it up a bit. I made a gift from my heart to my husband. I made

good old-fashioned, classic foods. I made homemade meatloaf. For many people, meatloaf

would not sound like much of a gift. There are two reasons this was a gift for my husband. The

first; I am not a fan of meatloaf. I am not a huge fan of meat, so turning meat into a loaf does

not make me like it more. The second; my husband has always been kind about my meatloaf. I

have always made meatloaf similar to my mother’s meatloaf. I have mixed it up a little bit over

the years, but always seem to fall short of what he loves most in a meatloaf. When I have asked

in the past what his ultimate meatloaf would be, he says “my grandma’s”. I’ve asked him what

it tasted like, smelled like, what the texture was like. I would have called his Grandma to ask

her, unfortunately she is suffering from age-related dementia and is not able to share her

recipe. Instead, I did some research. I looked up about 15 recipes for meatloaf and using the

information he had given me about Grandma’s meatloaf, I discovered what makes a better

meatloaf and mixed up my meatloaf.

The first key I got to my success was when I called The Hubs up for dinner and he said, “It smells

like my Grandma’s house”. I’m sure he tried the homemade mashed potatoes and the broccoli

with cheese sauce before he tried the meatloaf. I’m not sure if he didn’t want to disappoint me,

or be disappointed himself. Finally, he tried the meatloaf. “This is it”, he said. “This is my

Grandma’s meatloaf.” He later asked me if I had gotten her to tell me her recipe. I explained

the process I had gone through to create his Valentine.

I am sharing the recipe I created, and the secrets to good meatloaf: fresh bread, sauteed

vegetables, and milk.

Grandma’s Meatloaf

  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chili sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ green pepper, chopped fine
  • ½ medium onion, chopped fine
  • ½ Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced and divided
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth
  • Meatloaf juices, reserved
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon Turmeric

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add ½ Tablespoon olive oil to a saute pan, heat. Saute onion and

green pepper, and ¼ of mushrooms until soft. In a small bowl whisk egg and milk. In a large

bowl add ground beef, bread crumbs and chili sauce, egg mixture, and sauteed onion and green

pepper. Mix with hands until thoroughly combined. Shape into a loaf and bake in a 9X13 pan (I

prefer glass) for one hour, until cooked through (to 160 degrees internal temperature).

Remove meatolaf from oven, drain drippings into saute pan. Add remaining mushrooms. Cook

and stir until tender. Add broth, simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring occassionally. Combine water

and cornstarch in a small cup; stir into broth. Cook and stir continuously for 1 minute, or until


Remove meatloaf onto a platter, carefully, and cover with mushroom sauce.


Not gourmet, not fancy, not even complicated – just old-fashioned classic goodness. This

meatloaf recipe is certainly not going to stay in the special meals and holidays folder, it’s

making its way into the rotation for any occasion.

You should fit this into your rotation, too!


Posted by on February 15, 2015 in recipe


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Homemade Pretzels

Homemade Pretzels

I have mentioned before that I am a carb-aholic. From my earliest of days I have loved bread in all of its forms. Among my top choices: pretzels. I have wanted to make homemade pretzels, but for one reason or another kept delaying it. Recently my pretzel addication has gotten re-ignited. Today, I chose to quench it.

I read several pretzel recipes and was so excited to learn the secret of what gives pretzels their dark outside, soft inside, and unique flavor. I chose one from the group and set to making it. I was a little skeptical that the pretzels journey I was embarking on and the results it would bring. I knew I must try it.

This recipe is from Alton Brown, the Food Network.

Homemade Pretzels

  •  1 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface, and for large pretzel twists divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

(Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007)


I made large pretzel twists, small twists, and pretzel bites. The pretzel bites I covered in cinnamon and sugar.

Amazing! Amazing! The pretzels are so amazing! They all turned out perfectly deliciously! They look and taste exactly like a good pretzel should; crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. My entire family said they are equally as good as the pretzels you can get at a ballgame or even the pretzel stand at the mall! The only feedback that could be even remotely considered negative is that I didn’t make a double batch. Daughter Number 2 wanted to be able to take some back to college with her. “You’ve learned for next time,” she told me.

So I have. I have learned for next time!

You can bet with the success I had, and the ease in which I found pretzel making, there will be a next time. This is a morsel I will make again soon!






Posted by on February 8, 2015 in Uncategorized