Saturday, September 29, 2012

Simply Saturday Bear Creek Soup Time!!!

I have lauded Bear Creek Soup mixes ever since Tina Radcliffe came along last year and proclaimed their excellence last year on this very blog!!!

And here is a very happy head of cauliflower. After eating it for a couple of days, I had some leftover... Raw and delicious!

And I had a chunk of ham in the freezer...

I thawed the ham... cut it up... Did the same with the cauliflower...
Dragged out a soup pack (we bought twenty of them at the Christmas Tree Shoppe... for $2.50 apiece. Are you kidding me??? That's a half-gallon of delicious soup for $2.50... Snap!)

Make soup according to directions. Add cauliflower (about two cups, more or less) and ham (about the same, more or less) when you whisk in the soup mix...

Let simmer.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Amazing Chocolate Covered Oreo Cake

Missy, here. I'm finally sharing the cake I hinted at last week. I made it for my daughter's Sweet Sixteen birthday. It was a HUGE hit with the girls. And I have to say it turned out looking pretty good--close to the photo I first shared on Pinterest.

Here's the original recipe on the Kraft website.  (click here)


1 package Devil's Food Cake mix
4 squares bakers semi-sweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
1/4 cup butter
1 package cream cheese softened (I used the light version)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups thawed Cool Whip (I forgot and used one whole container which was probably about 4 cups!)
12 Oreo cookies coarsely chopped or crushed

Preheat oven to 350 and bake 2 layer cakes according to directions. Recipe said 9 inch, I only had 8 inch pans and it was fine.

For newbies...If you ever read about testing for doneness with a toothpick and wondered what to look for, I took a photo to show you what it looks like. The first time (left), the cake wasn't ready. The second time, it was.

Cool for 10 minutes in pans, then remove to cool on wire wracks.

While cooling, crush up the Oreos in a ziplock bag. I pound mine with a meat mallet.

 Heat chocolate and butter in microwave until butter is melted (1-2 minutes). Then stir until smooth. Cool about 5 minutes.

Yum. Don't you just want to lap that up?

Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until blended (I used my stand mixer). Gently fold in the Cool Whip and Oreos (by hand).

This is a bite right before I did a taste test! :) It's amazing. I could sit and eat it straight out of the bowl. Who needs the cake anyway, huh??

But since you might want to invovle cake, I'll finish. Spread the filling on one of the cooled layers. Then top with the other layer.

Notice mine is quite tall since I used like twice as much Cool Whip as I was supposed to! It's a monster cake! :)

Next spread the melted butter/chocolate mix on top. It's pretty yummy by itself as well!

Here's the finished produce (minus the candles). :)

By the way! You can find me on Pinterest by clicking here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A mix.

I've finally figured out how to make a decent red velvet cake and the secret is in... the mix.


 Now you  purists may contend my error, but... I've tried so many stinkin' red velvet recipes and none of them came out as nicely as this. And did I mention it was easy???  And that all the grown ups here loved it? And the kids, too? Who else do I need to impress, right?  So follow the easy-peasy mix directions and make the cake... I used two 9" pans to get four layers for added cream cheese frosting goodness.  :) A cake's sole purpose in life should be to hold frosting. Yes, this is an ultimate Ruthy truism.

Bake as directed... note the reddish color? The camera did not do it justice, and we're not going to think about how much red dye #5 or 7 or 2 is in this baby, right? We're going for looks... and taste. Mostly taste because a lot of good looking baked goods taste like cardboard these days. We don't do cardboard in the cafe, no sirree, Bub!

 Cake is baked... It had a couple of cutesie, interesting bubbles come up on the top, very old fashioned. It turned out of the pans beautifully, did it not?  And note the package of Philadelphia cream cheese, watching... awaiting its turn in the mixer. Did you know that this cheese was developed in Philadelphia, New York (in the North Country) not Philadephia, PA?  Ruthy factoid #714.

Frosting ingredients!!!! OH. YAY!!!!

8 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. butter
6 cups Confectioners/powdered/10X sugar, name of your choosing
3 tsp. vanilla

Cream softened cream cheese and butter together. Beat in sugar, one cup at a time. Add vanilla. Whip on high speed for about 4 minutes until thick and happy. You'll know the frosting is happy by the smile you get when you take a taste. Your smile makes the frosting VERY HAPPY.

 Now... slice the cakes in half to make four thinner layers.  Have a large cake plate ready for layer #1:

Spread icing across surface of cake. We don't care if the icing picks up red crumbs HERE... they're hidden. On the top and sides we care. Really. Truly. But I'm ahead of myself. Place second layer on first, repeat. And then keep doing that until top layer is in place. Go, go, go!!!!

 As the cake settled, I noticed the top was bulging just a little so I used my handy dandy bread knife and evened the top of the cake off by removing the thin slice you see above and putting it on a "come and get it" plate...  It's gone now, so clearly, someone got it!!!  Bye-bye, little cake!

Here's a Ruthy frosting tip:  Use a thin layer of frosting to GLUE CRUMBS to the CAKE... It works like magic. I take a spatula and press frosting along all sides of the cake. Notice the crumbs shining through? They're about to disappear because they're trapped in frosting like and evil dictator's take over the cosmic world of cake crumbs dastardly plan!!!!  BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Now... gently smooth large dollops of frosting around sides of cake working from one side to the other, and never going back the original way!!!  So if you start on the right, keep rotating your plate in one direction to frost. This keeps your knife/spatula from picking up crumbs and plunking them down in the finished frosting layer...

On the top, apply several spoons full or spatula plops of frosting in the middle of the cake and spread gently toward edges... See below? No crumbs. You've locked them in and they CANNOT ESCAPE. Well, they can if you let kids help, but we don't care about crumbs if kids help because we like kids a lot, right?

Now you use the exact same technique for the sides, starting at one point and working your way around... The sides are a tiny bit trickier but while you pressed the initial trapping frosting into the cake to lock in Mr. and Mrs. Crumb and all their baby Crumbs?  Here you use a light touch, like painting a wall.

And there we have the finished product!!!  Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for the crew watching the ACFW Awards Gala on Saturday night... in our jammies!!!


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

For the love of cookies

Hello, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back and I have cookies! I didn't want to leave you with a mental picture of that disastrous cake. You might wonder if I can make anything at all! So, here is a sweet little recipe for those days when you want to impress the guests.

But, before we start, a little reminder of who is posting and where...
(Got it? Good. That's me on the cover.)

   Here is a picture of what I'd seen once and thought was so adorable!

The recipe is a standard refrigerator dough recipe like so:

2 eggs
1 cup oil
2 sticks butter (I suggest you use the real stuff, we're eating cookies, We need calories.)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

  Don't skip the cream of tartar. I tried that once and they were gooey instead of crumbly. We want something like a tea cookie here. Let's leave the soft and chewy cookies for the chocolate chip walnut variety.

  Now, I had this sudden urge to try these cookies because I was upgrading my life.

Yes, you heard that. A whole new me!

And here is the first step... Meet EDNA.

  Edna is my very first mixer. I found her languishing at a garage sale last week. She was $2.00 and was leaning in a very come-hither way against a WWII army trunk. I knew at first sight we were going to be best pals. As for the name, I chose it after Edna St. Vincent Millay. 
Here she is, looking angsty and romantic. She wrote some very, very famous poetry. Like this one:

 My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
It gives a lovely light.

 Ah, isn't that wonderful? We still use that phrase.... But I like her because she really excelled at writing the perfect 'break up' poetry. She was raised by a single mother and had a full ride to Vassar. People were scandalized at how a woman could be so, well, frank about the downsides to romance. (Although in our world, all heroes are perfect! Poor Edna. She could have used some good romance novels.)

She was definitely one to STIR THINGS UP. Get it? Ha!

  So, Edna the poetic mixer and I started on our adventure of checkboard cookies. I was nervous, she was a hardened old-timer. The perfect pair.
 I hoped.

So, here we go. *deep breath*

With a roar like a V-8 engine, Edna started to make her magic. And I fell in love. In a very un-ESVMillay way. Unconditionally. Heart and soul and till motor burn-out do us part. She was beautiful. I would have picked her up and danced around except that she might just outweigh me.
Split the dough in half, after all ingredients are mixed. Add 3/4 cup cocoa powder.

Chill for one hour. When it's well chilled, take both parts and roll them into two long logs of dough. (So, four logs.) Chill again for an hour. Then, cut each roll in four long pieces. Following me? Yeah, me and Edna had lots of time to chill and swap bad boyfriend stories.
Um, well, this isn't quite looking like it should. Edna was cool with it. She said to just keep going. So, four long strips, laid side by side. Then another four on top, alternating colors.
Chill again. (Edna confessed everything about that Army trunk. He was strong and sturdy, built to protect, but too confining for her Bohemian lifestyle so they parted ways. )
So, after the log is chilled again, start slicing into small pieces that will show the checkerboard inside. Bake at 350F for 9 minutes. (Ignore the Prego sauce. It has nothing to do with this recipe.)


Allllllllrighty then.

  Edna thinks I didn't keep them cold enough and they started to meld together before cooking. She advised me to tell the kids we were making zebra cookies. She says it's all about confidence. And I live in a zoo, so that fits.
Mmmmm. Shortbread zebra cookies. I have no idea how long they stay fresh, because cookies in this house last about 2 hours max, and those are the burned ones. I advise you to grab a few girlfriends, some hot coffee or cold milk and swap stories about past loves. Or broken hearts. Or just make something up.

 If all else fails you can read poetry to each other.

  Until next time, my dears!


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just for Me

Happy Tuesday, everyone. Mindy here, still recovering from a WONDERFUL ACFW Conference last week. Yes, I'm still reeling a bit, a little bleary-eyed. The last thing I wanted to do last night was fix a big dinner. But, they were happy with grilled cheese on rye.

Me, on the other hand...I wanted something a bit healthier, but definitely quick and easy. So I decided to make myself a nice Caprese salad.

First, I needed some yummy tomatoes. I love these little campari tomatoes. Very tasty.
I chopped three or four and tossed them together with some cubed fresh mozzarella. Fresh mozzarella is the kind that comes in a ball, not a brick. Very soft with a mild flavor.
Then I added some chopped basil, a bit of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some fresh ground pepper. Toss it all up and call it dinner.
Light, refreshing, and oh so yummy.
Now if you're thinking this sounds like my bruschetta recipe from a while back, you'd be correct. I just used bigger chunks, omitted the bread crisps, and put it in a bowl.
Okay now, per Tina R., I'm putting butt in chair :-)
What do you like when you're fixin' just for you?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap

Do NOT try to eat this recipe!

BUT, it may very well be your favorite concoction ever.

Would you believe me if I told you I haven't bought laundry detergent for at least ten years? And I spend less than 75 cents for 64 loads of laundry?

And yes, I still do laundry :)

No, this is not a hoax, and no, you don't hear Billy Mays's voice in the background.

Using a few easily found ingredients and about 20 minutes a month, you can live in my frugal world.

(Don't you just love "frugal"? It's a much nicer word than "cheap", isn't it?)

Here are the four ingredients you need:

1/2 bar soap (I use Fels Naphtha, but you can use any soap - Ivory, home made, Artisan, etc. Just make sure it's pure soap)

1/2 cup Washing Soda (Note: this is not the same as Baking Soda. They are different chemical compounds)

1/2 cup Borax (Yes, the stuff that used to sponsor the TV show "Death Valley Days". Did you love that show as much as I did?)

2 gallons water

This is so easy....

First, shave your soap into small pieces. I use a knife, other people use their cheese grater. You want the pieces to be small so they'll melt easily.

Heat one gallon of water and dissolve the soap in it.

You can either do this in a big pot (I have an old 2 gallon stock pot that I use), or you can pour hot water into a large bucket (at least 2 gallons) and dissolve it there.

In any case, stir the soap pieces in the hot water until they're mostly dissolved (I'm never patient enough to get them all the way there...).

Add 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup borax (make sure there aren't any lumps in these powders), and stir until the powders are dissolved. The mixture will thicken while you're stirring.

Now add another gallon of water - cold water - and stir it all together.

Pour it into containers (I use old ice cream buckets), and there you go.

I use about 1/4 cup soap per load of laundry. It worked great in my old top loading washer, and its low-suds is perfect for my new front loader.

The consistency is kind of a watery gel that separates, but just scoop up the gel and liquid together. I keep a small plastic cup in the bucket to use to measure it.

In case you're wondering how well it works...well, my boys are Eagle Scouts. They camped year 'round for six years. You know the drill - mud, dirt, wet, fish guts, mud, more mud, and {{shudder}} boy sweat.

No problem.

And if you use powder, you can use the same recipe, but just mix the dry stuff together (make sure the soap is in very small pieces) and use two tablespoons per load.

So, lets talk frugal living today - What's your favorite frugal tip?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cannoli Cake Celebration!

While working in the bakery of Tops Friendly Markets, I came face to face with one of the most delectable melt-in-your-mouth desserts on the planet.

Cannoli Cake.

Now there are multiple variations on this old Italian favorite. Working there I discovered that making an amazing cannoli cake doesn't have to be a really involved process to be wondrous, and that's what Simply Saturday is all about. Short time investment=great return. Wall Street:  Look Out!!!

You will need:

One cake mix, mixed and cooked as directed in 8" or 9" round pans. A 13 x 9" pan can be used but you have to be good at slicing it in half.

The doll is "A.J."  A.J. and Melissa came to live with us about 12 years ago... They are well loved!
Today his help was requested by a cute, small grandchild.

One cup whipping cream, whipped
1/3 cup sugar (mixed with whipping cream)
8 oz. dry ricotta (Ricotta has natural moisture remaining. I dry mine by pressing it out on paper towel layers multiple times. When dry enough, you'll have to peel the paper away from the cheese. This is super quick and works way better than hanging the cheese in cheesecloth overnight for the cats to lick.)
4 oz. Cream cheese, softened.

Mix Ricotta and cream cheese in blender or food processor to remove those tiny ricotta lumps. Add 1 cup confectioners (also known as powdered or 10X sugar) sugar. Blend well. Fold in sweetened whipped cream.

Slice cake.

Use icing (whipped cream, dark chocolate work best) to make a "dam" around outside edge of cake so that the cheesy filling doesn't leak through.

Use 1/2 of cheese filling on bottom layer.

Put second layer in place. Frost.

Add bottom part of top layer. Fill with cheesy filling (repeating step one of damming the edge with frosting)

Add top layer.



Frosting choices:  The dark chocolate I use is the Hershey's dark chocolate frosting recipe found HERE. It's the best dark glossy chocolate frosting I've ever found and it's foolproof, idiot-proof and delicious! I also copied and pasted it below because you have to dig to find it on the webpage. Scroll down on the right and it's tucked under the chocolate cake recipe, which is a crime because this glossy chocolate icing is so perfect it deserves a page of its own.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa 3 cups powdered sugar 1/3 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Option Two:

Whipped cream icing:

Whip 3 cups of heavy whipping cream at high speed until thick. Peaks should form. Add in 2/3 cup of sugar while mixing. Frost cake sides first, end with top. 

Refrigerate this cake for optimum taste, texture and to keep from possibly poisoning anyone you love. 

Also:  Some folks add fresh fruit to their cannoli cakes. Fresh fruit, cheese filling and whipped cream can never be considered BAD. So feel free to add pitted sweet cherries, sliced bananas, slivered almonds, sliced peaches, etc. The fruit/cream/cheese mix is a very continental blend and delicious in its simplicity.

My bad!!!  I forgot to do a final pic of the cake and this is the last slice... listing slightly like the Leaning Tower in Europe!!!  But you get the idea, right???  You get the idea while I get a fork!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Hearty Beef Recipe

Missy, here. I'm doing this post ahead of time since I'll be in Dallas, Texas, for the ACFW conference when you're reading this. Since I may not be around much today, I thought I'd just share hearty beef recipe I created last week. I hunted for a recipe I'd seen made on Food Network but couldn't find it. I figured I'd watched enough shows that surely I could figure out how to cook some beef stew just from memory. :)


Missy's Beef Stew

I had a pack of stew meat (chuck) in the freezer that I thawed out.

Put a little oil in the pan and heat on medium high heat. Add the beef and sear each side until you get good caramelization (only about a minute each side since the beef is cut in small pieces. Don't cook it through!).

Remove to a bowl.

Add chopped onion to the pan (that now has nice brown bits from cooking the beef) and stir, cooking until translucent. Then add any other vegetables you'd like to include. I wanted sliced carrots but only had a bag of julienned ones so I added a hand full of them. I also had a few fresh mushrooms leftover to add. Cook until softened.

Then add about 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar or red wine. Let cook for a couple more minutes while scraping the bottom of the pan, to deglaze.

Add about half a small can of tomato paste for richness. Then pour in about half a box of chicken or beef stock (I only had chicken). Return the meat to the pan, cover, and then simmer on low until tender (at least 2-3 hours for the chuck).

I decided to serve on polenta, made according to package directions. It was tasty!

Well, I hope I'm getting to see some of our regular blog visitors in Dallas! For those of you who couldn't come to ACFW this year, I hope you'll hold down the fort and have a nice chat at the cafe!

Oh! A recipe preview!

In case you want to make the recipe that I'll be sharing next week (my daughter's birthday cake), then be sure to buy these ingredients at the grocery this week:

1 package cream cheese (I used "light" and it was fine)
1 tub of CoolWhip (you'll need 2 cups)
1 box Devil's Food Cake mix
1 package Oreos
Semi-sweet bakers chocolate or chocolate chips
staples like eggs, oil, sugar, butter

Sounds amazing, doesn't it? :)