Pumpkin Poke Cake

Ah, the month of October has arrived.  With the exception of fickle weather, one day warm, one day cold, another day sunny the next few rainy, October does have several good things to offer and look forward to.

Yes, October brings with it a burst of color in the trees; red, yellow, orange, purple and brown leaves which eventually end up falling to the ground.  Soon forts and hills made out of leaves will be fun places to hide in and under or maybe they’ll be just for jumping into.  And when you’re outside, especially at night, nothing thing smells more like fall than the burning of leaves.

Of course everyone looks forward to cider mills visits for apple cider and donuts.  We visit pumpkin patches for the perfect pumpkins, one for each of us so we can scatter them around the porch and lawn with scarecrows, hay bales and dried corn stalks.

All month-long we talk about Halloween decorations and costumes.  Joshua and Papa Walt will turn our front lawn into a graveyard with headstones, skeletons and a few body parts mixed in.  We will  anxiously await the arrival of Halloween Day; the school parades, trick or treating with family and friends and of course anticipating lots and lots of candy in our bags.

October is also the time to break out those pumpkin recipes which is exactly what we started doing and we made our very first Pumpkin Poke Cake.  We love pumpkin pie and pumpkin cream cheese rolls, some of us look forward to limited time offers of Pumpkin ice cream at Baskin Robins and the absolutely, to die for, Pumpkin Cheesecake from Olive Garden.

This recipe is so easy, the cake is very moist.  Even our pickiest eater, Joshua, who also happens to be the expert on the best pumpkins pies, loved this cake.  Just a few ingredients and you have a tasty recipe that everyone will love.  Give it a try!

Pumpkin Poke Cake

PUMPKIN POKE CAKE

What You’ll Need:

1 box yellow cake mix

14 oz pumpkin puree – 100% pumpkin (NOT PUMPKIN PIE FILLING)

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

8 oz. tub cool whip

1/2 bag Heath Bits (I used chopped nuts)

Caramel Sundae Sauce

Directions:

  • Mix together the cake mix, the pumpkin puree (DO NOT add the other ingredients on the cake mix box), and the pumpkin pie spice until a batter forms
  • Pour batter into a well-greased 9×13 baking dish
  • Bake at 350º for 35-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean
  • Let cool completely after baking
  • Using the bottom of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the top of the cake
  • Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake, aiming to fill the holes
  • Refrigerate for 60 minutes or until the sweetened condensed milk has soaked into the cake
  • Spread the cool whip over top of cake
  • Sprinkle on the heath bits (or nuts), and drizzle caramel over top (just to your liking)
  • Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight (best).

Mongolian Beef – Slow Cooker Style

WoW, not only has Monday arrived on what seems like the heels of last Monday, it’s also the last Monday of September.  September seemed to fly by much quicker than I would have liked it to, the grandbabies just went back to school it can’t possibly be September 30 already….I’m not ready to slide into October!!

Working, even part-time, has attributed to the days just flying by.  When I was home full-time one day just kind of melted into the next but now that I’m out of the house six hours a day and hanging out with little Eric a few days a week before coming home I’m back on a schedule of sorts so as I check off things that need to get done and routine tasks time just flies by.

Fall and winter are not my favorite times of the year.  Now is the time I start my countdown to next spring with holidays; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year.  Come on…..let’s bring them on, celebrate and move on to the next.  January 1st the excitement increases, now it’s a down hill slide into Spring; slushing through Valentine’s Day,  breezing into Easter Sunday and Memorial Day until summer arrives once again, bringing warm temperatures, lots of color and time outside.

But, it is fall and with the changing of the seasons and temperatures comes heartier meals; soups, stews, sauces.  I pinned this Mongolian Beef recipe from the “Meet Penny” blog at http://www.meetpenny.com/2013/06/recipe-crock-pot-mongolian-beef/  while surfing on Pinterest.  I pinned it a while ago and kept passing it over all summer, waiting for the weather to get a little cooler and for Joshua’s flag football season to begin so that I could throw it into the crock pot and have a (hopefully) delicious meal when Walt and I got home.

I made this dish a few weeks ago and it was fantastic, Walt and I both loved it.  Of course I made a few minor little changes…

  • Instead of using the London Broil or the beef tip roast I just used 2 lbs. of stew beef and the beef was amazingly tender*
  • Instead of dry sherry I used a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water**
  • I purchased already slivered carrot strips – next time I will slice the carrots, my thin carrot slivers got lost in the meat and the sauce, I’d rather have carrot slices that I can pick with a fork***
  • I used ground ginger instead of fresh****

This was the perfect dish to come home to on a Sunday afternoon after a football game.  We walked through the door and the house smelled wonderful, I made rice (not instant) and we were ready to eat.  Give it a try, I bet you’ll love it too.

MONGOLIAN BEEF – SLOW COOKER STYLE

Crockpot Mongolian Beef

 What You’ll  Need:

1.5 – 2 lbs. Stew beef*

1/4 cup corn starch

1 medium onion thinly sliced

3-4 large carrots sliced thinly***

1/4 tsp. ground ginger****

2 cloves minced garlic

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar and 2 tbsp water to equal 1/4 cup (Replaced 1/4 cup dry sherry)**

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

  • Toss beef strips/pieces in cornstarch and set aside
  • Mix remaining ingredients in your crock pot and place beef over top (Don’t mix in sauce yet)
  • Cover and cook for 6 to 8 hours
  • Gently stir the beef into the sauce mixture and serve over rice

Source:  http://www.meetpenny.com/2013/06/recipe-crock-pot-mongolian-beef/

Coming Up This Week…Sept. 29 – October 5

Sunday

I don’t know about anywhere else but yesterday was the perfect fall Saturday in Michigan.  The temperatures were mild, the sun was shining and the beautiful baby blue sky was an unblemished backdrop for fall’s burst of color.  Red, orange and yellow leaves still hanging on the trees created a perfect picture of fall in Michigan.

Our Sunday, however, is not so perfect…it’s cooler, overcast with a threat of rain.  But it is Sunday, rain or shine and time for our “Coming Up This Week…” post.  My favorites this week are “National Coffee Day,” “Homemade Cookie Day,” “National Taco Day,” “World Teacher Day,” and “Do Something Nice Day.”

I wish I could add vodka day in there somewhere but I can’t.  I’m a sweet wine, foo-foo umbrella drink kinda gal.  Give me a “Bellagio Funky Monkey” a frozen strawberry margarita, or a nice chocolate “Amaretto Freeze” and I’m a happy lady.

As always….pick a day or two this week and have a little fun.

Sunday – September 29

  • Confucius Day
  • National Coffee Day

Monday – September 30

  • National Mulled Cider Day
  • National Mud Pack Day

Tuesday – October 1

  • World Vegetarian Day
  • Pudding Season Begins
  • Homemade Cookie Day

Wednesday – October 2

  • National Fried Scallops Day
  • National Custodial Worker Day
  • Name Your Car Day

Thursday – October 3

  • National Caramel Custard Day
  • Techies Day
  • Virus Appreciation Day

Friday – October 4

  • National Taco Day
  • Cinnamon Roll Day
  • National Vodka Day
  • National Golf Day
  • National Frappe Day

Saturday – October 5

  • National Apple Betty Day
  • Do Something Nice Day
  • International Frugal Fun Day
  • Oktoberfest
  • World Teacher Day

Tuscan Pasta With Tomato-Basil Cream

As I grow older I become more focused on the quickest way to getting a tasty dinner on the table without going for greasy, cold, take out burgers.  It’s become even more important since I’ve gone back to work part-time and  I’m also picking Eric up from school three days a week.  I’m dealing with rush hour traffic on two freeways trying to get from southwest suburbs of Detroit to northeast suburbs and not walking through the door until 5:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m.,  I don’t want to spend a lot of time hanging out over the stove.

Now that Walt is taking sandwiches to work instead of leftovers, I have eliminated the need to cook at least one day a week, sometimes two.  Another day or two we use the crock pot so dinner is ready as soon as I walk through the door.  We generally go out to dinner one day a week so that leaves me with 3-4 days that I actually have to plan meals that I prepare when I get home.  It’s not always easy to come up with meals that I can make quickly and still be tasty when reheated for Walt as he walks through the door a few hours later.

This recipe is quick, easy and tasty.  It started with a bag of ravioli, a jar of Alfredo sauce, a splash of wine, a little basil and parmesan.  What made it perfect?  The fresh chopped up tomatoes right out of our garden.  Try it….you’ll love it too!

Tuscan Pasta With Tomato Basil Cream

TUSCAN PASTA WITH TOMATO-BASIL CREAM

What You’ll Need:

1 (20-oz.) package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli*

1 (16-oz.) jar sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce

2 tablespoons white wine

2 medium-size fresh tomatoes, chopped**

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish: fresh basil strips

Directions:

  • Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  • Meanwhile, pour Alfredo sauce into a medium saucepan.
  • Pour wine into sauce jar; cover tightly, and shake well.
  • Stir wine mixture into saucepan.
  • Stir in chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup chopped basil, and cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
  • Toss with pasta, and top evenly with 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Garnish, if desired.

Source:  http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/tuscan-pasta-with-tomato-basil-cream-10000001646355/

Baked Pork Chops

Walt loves fried pork chops…..wait, I need to elaborate, Walt LOVES my mom’s way of frying pork chops.  So a few weeks ago when he walked into the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and saw the pork chops frying on the stove top he got all excited, “Oh sweetie, fried pork chops I love fried pork chops.”

“Slow down Sparky” I chimed, I’m just browning them they are going in the oven.  A cloud, first the shade of confusion quickly darkened to disappointment.  I quickly explained they had to be browned before I baked them and he watched me transfer them to a baking dish and slide them in the oven.

An hour later just as I was getting ready to pour the sauce over them once again my dear husband came meandering into the kitchen (notice a pattern here).  “Whatcha doing?”  “I’m adding the sauce” I replied.  Frowning Walt continued “But I like them……”  “Crunchy, I know” I replied, and slid them back into the oven with the sauce.

Just about this time Joshua wandered up from the basement, “Watcha making grandma, it smells really good?”  “Baked pork chops” I replied, “want to try some with us?”  Now you would have to know Josh, unless it’s pizza or chicken strips he’s not having any of it.  “No thanks, but it smells good” Josh said and went on his way.  That little conversation was an indication that these chops were going to be amazing even though he had pizza on the grill.

I am happy to say that the final result was DELICIOUS!!  I hate to admit this in writing for all to see but I baked four (4) pork chops, served them with mashed potatoes……there were NO leftovers and only two of us ate them!!!

These pork chops were full of flavor and so moist!  Cut only with a fork, fall off the bone moist.  Try them they won’t disappoint and surely will become a family favorite.

As usual, I did make a few minor adjustments:

  • The recipe called for 6 pork chops I only made 4 good-sized chops
  • I used two cans of Golden Cream of Mushroom soup – they recommended regular Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • I used Crisco to pan fry not oil
BAKED PORK CHOPS
Baked Pork Chops
What You’ll Need:
4-6 bone-in pork chops about 1-1.5″ thick – DO NOT USE THICK CHOPS
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 tsp. Lawry Seasoning Salt
2 eggs beaten
1/4 – 1/2 cup flour
2 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
2 cans Golden Mushroom Soup (Original recipe 1 can – Mushroom Soup)
1 soup can of milk (Original 1/2 can to 1 can soup)
2/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup Crisco (more or less depends on pan size)
Directions:
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Rinse pork chops, pat dry
  • Mix seasonings into flour
  • Dredge pork chops in flour, dip in egg, dredge in bread crumbs
  • Melt Crisco over medium high heat (drop a little bit of bread crumbs moistened with water into the Crisco to tell when it’s hot)
  • Add pork chops to pan and brown each chop for 5 minutes on each side.  Pork chops should be golden brown – place in 13×9 baking dish – cover with foil
  • Bake for 1 hour
  • In the meantime whisk together soup, milk and wine
  • After an hour take pork chops out of the oven and pour soup mixture over the top
  • Replace foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes

Ranch Mashed Potatoes

Happy Monday everyone!  We’re coming out of a really great weekend, the new furnace and air conditioner were installed on Friday, Saturday Joshua and Kaylee hung out for a bit, we made a big batch of pasta, pizza and bread sticks!  Yesterday we went to Joshua’s first flag football game of the fall 2013 season and yes….we won!!  Busy, busy, busy!!

I know there are probably some who are wondering what’s so happy about a Monday, it’s the first day of the work/school week and usually the most dreaded day of week.  Well I look forward to my Mondays, I pick up Eric from school every Monday (Tuesday and Wednesday too) and we get some Eric and grandma time in before Eric heads off to spend some time with his daddy while his momma is working.  So, I no longer dread Monday’s.

Today I want to share with you my recipe for Ranch Mashed potatoes.  I hadn’t thought about using Ranch salad dressing in my mashed potatoes until one day my Wendy’s take out baked potato came back to the office without sour cream.  The office refrigerator didn’t have sour cream but it did have Ranch dressing packets so I used that instead and became addicted!!  To this day when I order a baked potato from Wendy’s I get a packet of ranch dressing instead of sour cream.

The chances that I will have Ranch dressing in my refrigerator far out weigh the chances that I will have milk.  We just don’t drink or use a lot of milk in fact when I buy milk I only buy a pint because I know we are not going to use it or drink it.

That’s exactly what happened one day long ago, I was making mashed potatoes and realized that I didn’t have enough milk but I did have Ranch dressing so I used the Ranch dressing instead and my potatoes became an instant favorite.

I love recipes that come from ingredients that I’m sure to always have in the house.  These potatoes are also great made ahead and reheated in the oven until warm.  Try them and ENJOY!!

RANCH MASHED POTATOES

Ranch Mashed Potatoes

What You’ll Need:

1.5 – 2.0 lbs. Idaho Potatoes – peeled

2-3 slices American Cheese (I use Kraft American Cheese)

2 tbsp. butter

1/4 Cup Ranch Dressing (I use Kraft Original Ranch – You can increase/decrease to preferrence)

Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Place peeled potatoes in a sauce pan – cover with water – bring to a boil – let boil 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork – Drain
  • Add cheese, butter and Ranch dressing to the potatoes – place cover on pot until cheese melts
  • Mash with hand masher, not mixer
  • Serve

Coming Up This Week…September 22 – 28

Sunday

If it’s Sunday it’s time for Coming Up This Week.  There are some fun and unusual days this week….

Today is not only the first day of fall, it’s also “National Ice Cream Cone Day” yummy, that one can be mine this week.  Our Joshua will love Thursday, it’s “Pancake Lovers Day,” Mio if you’re reading it’ll be chocolate pancakes for dinner at your house!!  For my two chocolate milk lovers Eric and Kaylee Friday is “National Chocolate Milk Day.”

The one that had me laughing the most was “Dog In Politics Day,”  Dogs in Politics Day is about dogs that were part of the presidential family. On this day in 1952 Richard Nixon gave a speech to assure the public that he had not received illegal campaign contributions for personal use. However one “gift” he received was a dog that his daughters named Checkers. He said they would be keeping the dog. The speech became known as the “Checkers speech.” * 

So my family and friends, pick a day or two….be a little creative, have a little fun and have a great week!

Sunday – September 22

  • National Ice Cream Cone Day
  • Business Women’s Day
  • Elephant Appreciation Day

Monday – September 23

  • National White Chocolate Day
  • National Dog in Politics Day/Checker’s Day

Tuesday – September 24

  • National Cherries Jubilee Day

Wednesday – September 25

  • National Comic Book Day
  • Crab Meat Newburg Day
  • National Food Service Employees Day

Thursday – September 26

  • Pancake Lovers Day
  • Johnny Appleseed Day

Friday – September 27

  • National Chocolate Milk Day
  • National Corned Beef Hash Day
  • Crush A Can Day
  • Native American Day

Saturday – September 28

  • Strawberry Cream Pie Day
  • Ask a Stupid Question Day
  • National Good Neighbor Day
  • Drink Beer Day

*http://justsimplydogs.com/2012/dogs-politics-day-checkers-day

Out With The Old…

Generally I don’t think that there are women’s chores and men’s chores.  Seriously….men who remain bachelors for a period of time (like my sweet husband) generally have to fend for themselves doing the cooking (or deciding on takeout), the cleaning (Ok….maybe), the laundry, the shopping, ect.  So I think couples should be able to share the household responsibilities and for the most part I think Walt and I do that pretty well.  If Walt wants to eat and since I do all the cooking, he has to do everything else….just kidding!!!  We do try to divide and conquer, sometimes one does do more than the other, eventually it all balances out.

Today I am finding an exception.  After 3 years of putting it off we are finally having a new furnace and air conditioner installed.  This is where I think it becomes one of Walt’s responsibilities unfortunately he was unable to get the day off and since I don’t work on Friday, I will supervise the project.

It’s not that I don’t think that I can handle it, you’d have to know Walt personally to know what a challenge it will be for me because Walt is not here to personally supervise the job.  Walt is very particular about how he wants things done and is very clear what his expectations are.

Last night we spent 15 minutes in the basement, he walking room to room, Walt pointing out what the Randazzo guys are supposed to do, the extra’s that were promised.  In turn, to make sure I understood, I re-walked the route pointing it all out so that Walt knew I was clear.  I passed, I’m so excited!!!

Luckily Walt is here this morning, the guys from Randazzo have arrived and Walt walked them through his expectations which they assured him was in the documentation and they were well aware of.  I’m glad that Walt was here for start-up, for the initial walk through, already there are a few minor issues.  Not with what was promised, but with codes and it has more to do with the air conditioning unit outside than anything inside.  I’m going to lose a few plants but loved how cautiously careful Walt was when he came inside to tell me.  He knows I love my plants.  Plants can be replaced and in the greater scheme of things, our flower beds are going through a major transformation anyway so it’s all good.

By 5:00 p.m. tonight we will have a brand new furnace and air conditioner.  Papa Walt will have peace of mind knowing that nothing will go wrong this winter when our precious grandbabies are here, as I type Walt has already said he will sleep better knowing it’s done.

So for today we say to goodbye to the old…….

 

001

 

and anxiously await the installation of the new.

An “Egg”cellent Idea!!

We love breakfast.  If time and schedules would allow, I’d make breakfast everyday.  Unfortunately we fall into “hurry up and go” category of morning rituals much like everyone else these days.  Far from the images of Donna Reed and June Cleaver, preparing breakfast for their families in perfectly pressed dresses and pearls.

But who says breakfast has to be served only in the morning?  Every now and then we like to make an omelet with fresh veggies and cheese inside.  Other times we have a craving for a great Quiche or a good breakfast casserole.

Recently, after a long day, I really didn’t feel like cooking anything too complicated.  After checking the refrigerator and finding eggs, some left over – all ready cooked bacon from Sunday’s breakfast, shredded cheese and sour cream I decided to run out to the garden and grab a few tomatoes and peppers.  I had all I needed to whip up a fresh crustless Quiche.

When you’re looking for something that is quick and easy just check out your refrigerator, I bet you’ll have everything you need to whip up a fantastic “breakfast dinner.”   Breakfast for dinner is always an “egg”cellent idea!!!

Crustless Quiche

CRUSTLESS QUICHE

What You’ll Need:

6 large eggs

2 Tbsp. Sour Cream

8-10 slices of bacon cooked and chopped

1/4 cup of green pepper chopped (you can add red, yellow or orange as well)

1 small tomato – seeded and chopped

1/2 – 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (depends on how cheesy you like your Quiche)

Directions:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
  • Spray an 8×8″ baking dish with Pam
  • Crack eggs into a bowl, add sour cream and whisk
  • Pour into baking dish
  • Spread green pepper and tomatoes over the egg mixture
  • Spread the bacon over the peppers and tomatoes
  • Spread cheese over the top of the bacon
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean