Monday, October 31, 2011

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies

This is a drive-by post! We went to Durham, NC, to spend Parents and Family Weekend with our son at college (Sob...this is his last year), so I haven't been home in days. Thus, I'm just passing along a recipe I'm dying to make! I've been saving it, hoping to bake these and tell you about them. But alas...I can't be Superwoman. So here you go. I subscribe to Martha Stewart's Cookie of the Day emails (thank you, Tina, for putting me on to this!), and this one caught my eye. There's a link below if you'd like to check out her site and get on her mailing list. (No, I don't get any kickback from it.) :)


Makes 16
            8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
            6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
            2 cups all-purpose flour
            1 teaspoon baking powder
            1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
            1/2 teaspoon salt
            1 3/4 cups sugar
            4 large eggs
            1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
            1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
            1/4 cup vegetable oil
            1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
            1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
            1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts
.                 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper; butter lining.
.                 Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.
.                 Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.
.                 Divide batter between two medium bowls (about 2 cups per bowl). Stir chocolate mixture into one bowl. In other bowl, stir in pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top  with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don't set.
.                 With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with nuts.
Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New England Roasted Potato Slices

I just love potatoes. Oh, I love them so much. there is nothing you can do to a potato to make me not like it.

This recipe (or nearly this) was one I found in the Yankee Magazine cookbook or in the magazine. And it's a family favorite because, well... It's easy and wonderful.

Take nice baking potatoes.

Wash them. Leave skins on. Slice into thinnish chips.

Now here's the fun part:

Dip each chip in butter. You can sprinkle them with garlic, salt, and/or parmesan cheese. Or leave them plain, just buttered.

Lay on cookie sheet. (I use several and fill the oven)  Roast at 375 degrees until golden brown and the smell is intoxicatingly good.  (See, I can use adverbs with "ly" over here and no one will yell at me.)

These have rosemary garlic seasoning with salt and pepper:

They are amazing. And the only time you spent was slicing and dipping the potatoes. Easy-peasy. 
Eat. Eat a lot. Because all you did was dip them in butter and bake them, and the fact that they're THIS GOOD is like a miracle, so you should respect that and eat tons of them.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  The FDA has determined that the consumption of potato products in excess is likely to produce symptoms of celtimania. These symptoms include but are not limited to the urge to smile at strangers, dance a jig or reel in public places, raise a brew to wet a baby's head (also known as celebrate a birth, an ancient tribal process) speak with a brogue and wear really cute layered clothes accompanied by sweaters. If any of these symptoms should appear, be assured the FDA has determined they are not life-threatening and may actually make you popular among your peers. Although you are sure to embarrass your children.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Roasted Fall Veggies

The Belle, here. And I admit the idea for this post was spur of the moment. It came to me on Wednesday afternoon right after lunch. Thus, the one awful photo for this blog post. :)

We chatted about roasted veggie a couple of weeks ago. Someone mentioned radishes, and it gave me the idea for this lunch that turned out so delicious I decided to share. Here's what was left after I'd eaten:

The photo is a bit bare and looks like someone pigged out (no comment, Ruthy! It was all I had for lunch!). And, yes, I did pig out. Here's what I cooked (one on the list you won't see at all because it's gone!)

1 butternut squash peeled and cubed (I only prepared half. I roasted the other half in the skin to mash later for butternut soup)
1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed (I only had a little bit of eggplant, so I ate it all!)
1 yellow summer squash or zucchini (or both), halved and sliced
1 bunch of radishes, green stems removed, cut in half

Place on cookie sheet and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning salt and toss around to coat. (Use your hands, it makes a great moisturizing scrub--my extra tip for the day. You're welcome!) :)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 20-30 minutes (until the thicker vegetable pieces are soft).

Enjoy as a vegetarian meal or a side dish. Believe it or not, the radishes weren't spicy at all!

What veggies do you like to roast?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Proper Care and Feeding of Climbers

Life is more than food!

Here are three of the monsters I've helped raise.  Taylor, Kyle and Casey.

They're brats, yes. I mean WHAT ARE THEY DOING ON THE ROOF???

It starts here. In the kitchen. On the table.

This is 'Lijah. He is 18 months old.


Oy vay. Who is watching these children????

Oops. No one!  ;)

Well, when a case of NEW BOOKS COMES IN,
Especially with a cute hero like Matt Cavanaugh...

Oh my stars.Raising climbers...  The best thing to do is teach them how to FALL WITHOUT DYING.

Because they already know how to climb.

See, they start out like this. Now this looks nice, doesn't it?
Grandpa holding baby at a wedding.
Peaceful. Serene.
And then it morphs to THIS:

 On the roof.
In the dark. 
Because Emma wanted to be CLOSER to the moon.
So her Daddy took her up there because he's a climber.
And climbers beget climbers.
It's quite Biblical, don't you think?

So really, you can feed climbers anything.
Mostly they like chips and dip.
But who doesn't?

The point here is that it's okay to talk about lots of things in a cafe.
Up to and including dealing with children who are born with a death wish.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Missy, here. The year before last, we spent Thanksgiving with my husband's side of the family. Actually, with his brother-in-law's family. They had a fig tree, and I had my first ever fresh fig. Or should I say figS--plural!

Oh my goodness,  they were so amazing. Forget turkey and dressing. I just about filled up on figs. I was so excited the other day when I got an email from Martha with a link to fig recipes. I found this amazing one and thought I'd share it with you. I haven't made it yet, but I plan to soon. Figs are in season right now so shouldn't be too hard to find.

So what about you? Have you tried fresh figs?

Open-Faced Fig Sandwiches with Arugula and Parmesan


Serves 6.
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound fresh figs (any type), halved lengthwise
  • 2 ounces walnuts, toasted (1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 6 slices rustic whole-wheat (or white) bread
  • 2 ounces baby arugula (about 3 cups)
  • 1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese (1 cup)


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Combine sugar, cayenne, and teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until light gold, about 12 minutes. Add 1/3 of the figs, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon sugar mixture, and cook, stirring often, until sugar caramelizes, about 10 minutes. Let cool slightly, then pulse onion-fig mixture and walnuts in a food processor. Add pepper and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. (Spread can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
  3. Place remaining figs, cut sides up, on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining sugar mixture. Roast until tender and caramelized on cut sides, about 10 minutes.
  4. Spread 3 tablespoons onion-fig mixture on each slice of bread. Top each with arugula, cheese, and several warm fig halves, and cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chocolate Mint Brownies

I love turning a simple mix into a crowd pleasing treat.

For this simple treat I use two packages of brownie mix. I usually use Pillsbury, Ghirardelli or Duncan Hines.

Mix brownies according to the directions on the box. Simple, right? Some eggs, some oil, a little water. I do a double batch because

A.  I can.

B.  They inhale them like air.

C.  They freeze beautifully.


Prepare brownie mix according to fudge-like brownie directions. (Really??? Did I need to tell you that? If you wanted cake, you'd use a cake mix, right???? Cake-like brownies?  An insult of the highest order!)

Cut in half (or don't, but I like them spread out a little more: 

8 oz. or so of Hershey's Mint Chocolate Kisses/Truffles...

How cute and happy do these guys look????

You can use Andes Candies... Or any nice minty-chocolatey goodness...

Bake according to package directions. For a smaller, deeper pan, they'll take longer to bake.

Once done, remove from oven. Spread another 8 oz. (more or less) of mint chocolate candies over the top. Allow to soften. Spread.

This is your frosting.

It is like the most deliciously easy and wonderful frosting ever. Because it's candy.

Talk about a win/win!  ;)

Cut when cool. (Of course we don't wait until they're cool Who could? But it sounds professional, doesn't it?)

Like Mary C. said last week about cake mix cookies, a good base mix is a TREASURE in the pantry. Mostly because I'm always forgetting things I've promised to do. Bring. And sometimes people, well...

They die. And I might not have a ton of extra time on hand. Grrrr............

But with a few extra mixes on hand, I can 'send a dish'....

Because that's what buddies do, right?

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Survived Roasting Garlic!

Missy, here. Some of you may remember last week when we got to talking (in the comments section) about roasting garlic. Well, after trying it years ago and stinking us out of the house--literally (we actually had to turn on the fans and leave), I decided to give it another go. Thanks to Jan's encouragement, I went back to that day's blog and followed her directions.

I had success!

Well, it wasn't instant success. I cut the wrong end of the head of garlic the first time so it just fell apart (above). :) I went ahead and wrapped the pieces up, and it roasted just fine, though. :)

The wrong cut made the cloves fall apart. But I used it anyway.

So, take a whole head of garlic and cut a thin slice off the pointy end (not the root end). Like this...

Then place the head cut side down on a small square of foil and drizzles with olive oil.

Pull the sides up and wrap it in a little bundle. Place the bundle on a baking sheet. I roasted three bulbs. Figured I might as well make plenty while I had the oven going.

Roast in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then open the foil and see all the yumminess inside! Yes, the house smelled like garlic. But it was mostly pleasant and made me crave Italian food.

Here, above, I flipped over one of the heads and could see all the nice caramelization.

Then you're ready to squeeze the softly roasted garlic out into a bowl. Once you've squeezed it all out, just toss the outer part. (Would it be called husks? Skins?) Oh, well, you know what I'm talking about. Make sure you don't get any of the papery part in with the garlic. :)

Mash and use as desired. Jan says she mixes it in with mashed potatoes. I had leftover Italian food from eating out the night before, so I knew I wanted to make dip for the Italian bread. I took a cue from one of our favorite restaurants and mixed some of the roasted garlic with olive oil and parmesan cheese. I also like to add salt and pepper. YUM!

Do you dare to try it? :) I have more in the fridge. What should I use it for?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Throw The Canned Frosting Away...

Hey, simply Saturday here, and this five minute recipe DOES NOT taste like chemicals, is amazingly good AND...

It's chocolate. Dark chocolate. Amazingly dark-n-sweet chocolate.

Need I say more?


1/2 Cup butter (1 stick) (Using Crisco is fine... it gives a different flavor, but comes out very nicely)
2/3 Cup Hershey's cocoa
Dash salt
3 Cups Powdered sugar
1/3 Cup milk (depending on how you like your consistency, more may be needed)
1 Teaspoon vanilla

Melt 1/2 cup butter in microwave or on stove top.

Add 2/3 cup Hershey's baking cocoa and a dash of salt


Stir in 3 cups powdered (confectioner's or 10X, whatever you call it in your corner of the world, it's all the same thing!) sugar with milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Whisk until well blended. Frosting thickens slightly as it cools... If it's too thick, add a little more of the milk until it's the perfect spreading consistency.

Literally five minutes. Maybe. IF YOU'RE SLOW....

Glossy... rich....dark....delicious!
 And again, this is something that freezes well. You can have it on hand 24/7... but if you can't stay away from it, that might be a really BAD idea!  ;)  I use this frosting on everything from cakes to cupcakes, as a topper for peanut butter cookies (in place of the Hershey's Kiss because the kiss gets too hard... This frosting sets up well and holds its shape, but doesn't mess with the texture of the cookie) (yes, I did just say that)...

Also to top cream puffs. For Boston Creme Pie I use this recipe and thin it slightly to coat the top layer of cake.

(Okay, I'm here in Tulsa, tucked away in the Biz center trying to upload the pic of the chocolate cake I made before my flight out on Thursday. It is not cooperating. Grrr.... But if you envision a yellow cake of delicious texture and moistness (straight from a Duncan Hines box, LOL!) and this homemade dark chocolate frosting topped with festive fall sprinkles in orange, yellow and brown... That's what the cake looks like! Obviously my photo is not pleasing this computer... but you guys have GREAT IMAGINATIONS!!!  I love that about youse!)

I love to talk about recipes in my books. Have people see kitchen scenes. Or gatherings where folks bring all kinds of amazing goodness to share. I'm doing a Thanksgiving gathering for next year's holiday book and if you guys have great "dishes" you'd like to see in a the book... Something people would bring to a northern pot luck type Thanksgiving dinner... let me know! I'm writing the book now so I've got playing room.


You can either tell us about it here or e-mail me at my loganherne g-mail account. I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Quick! Something for Company!

Missy, here. I'm late. Closed my computer around 10 or 10:30 pm last night, planning to read. Said out loud to myself as I closed my laptop, "I feel like I'm forgetting something." (Yes, The Belle talks to herself. And about herself in third person.)

Well, I did forget something. I forgot to do this post! :)

So, I'm thinking this would be a good time to talk about what you do when you need to quickly throw something together if someone drops by your house. Or if you make last minute plans to have company.

Now, I can't begin to help you with what to do with the mess around the house, because mine is always in a state of mess. But maybe I can offer an idea of something quick and easy to serve to hungry guests.

Cheese and Crackers

We always have tons of cheese around here. And usually have some semi-fresh crackers. I'd suggest slices of cheddar or colby. Or even better, goat cheese! Set on a nice platter with crackers surrounding it. Also, I love cheese and crackers with strawberry jam. You can add a bowl of jam to the platter as well.

Dip and Crackers

I keep dip mixes on hand that I buy at a local gift shop (they make great hostess gifts as well). One of the yummy ones I have on hand right now is made by Wind & Willow. It's called The BLT Cheeseball & Appetizer Mix. You just stir the mix with cream cheese, sour cream and milk. It's so good with crackers!

Veggies and Ranch Dressing

Pour out some baby carrots. Slice some celery, cucumber, squash, bell peppers or any vegetables you have on hand. Arrange on a platter with a bowl of Ranch dressing in the center.

Chips and Salsa

I have a chip and dip tray I made at a ceramics party. It has a well in the center for the salsa. I surround with tortilla chips. Nothing's easier!

Queso Dip

Brown 1 pound of ground beef. Cut up one box of Velveeta into chunks. (I heat it in the microwave to start it melting). Put both ingredients in the slow cooker and add one jar of salsa. Heat. This makes a great party dip for tortilla chips.

Okay, your turn! What do you do in a pinch when company shows up?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bread Pudding: Another Use for Leftover Bread!

I grew up on bread pudding. My mother would make a vanilla spice version and a dark chocolate version. And then she'd make "butter balls".... A butter ball is simply one part butter to three parts sugar.... You soften the butter, add in the sugar, mix with fork until the butter is evenly distributed. And then you form it into little balls and use these to plop into your piece of steaming hot bread pudding.

Like I mentioned to Belle yesterday, I throw old pieces of bread into a gallon ziplock bag and freeze them to use for stuffing. Bread pudding. Bread crumbs. It's easy and costs nothing, right?  For stuffing and bread pudding I like firmer bread. If it's soft bread, I lay it out on the counter to dry overnight. Toughen it up a little, so it doesn't get so soggy.

So here's Ruthy's Maple Bread Pudding:  (very much like a baked French Toast)

Simple ingredients. A bunch of broken, old, dryish bread.... :)

6 eggs
1  1/2 Cups Milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 Tablespoon vanilla
Maple syrup or Maple cream (yes, the real thing!  Oy!)

Whisk eggs.

Add in milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. Whisk until the ingredients are well blended.

Now the fun part! Press a lot of broken bread:

Yup, just like this bowl of mixed deliciousness!  I don't use donuts or cake in bread pudding. Their texture is too soft and it comes out too soggy for me. But others like it softer like that, so it's your preference. I have old apple fritters in here, though, and they work great. Much denser texture than traditional donuts or fried cakes. If I'm keeping sweet bread in the freezer, I toss them in a separate gallon freezer bag because I DO NOT like my fish fries coated with cinnamon raisin bread. 'Sall I'm sayin'!!!

Push bread into custard mix until it's really stuffed. The more bread, the firmer the final "pudding".

Fill baking dish halfway with bread/custard mix. Dab on bits of maple cream or drizzle with maple syrup.
Add the second half over the first and do the same. I used maple cream in this one, but it's pricey... I buy it for the little ones. They love it on bagels... Amazing stuff! But maple syrup works just as well!

Bake at 325 degrees until firm and golden. I steam bake it in a 13 x 9 pan of water. That keeps the edges from getting browned and keeps the "pudding" moist but allows it to cook. Okay, I'm going to show you this next pic BUT DO NOT LOOK AT MY OVEN!!! WOULDN'T YOU THINK ANYONE WITH A SELF-CLEANING OVEN WOULD JUST DO IT ONCE IN A WHILE????

Note the "Spice of Life" Corning Ware that I got for a shower gift decades ago. Isn't it pretty? I still love it today, although it's the only one of that design I have left... But I love it!

And here is the finished product about 45 minutes later!

You can also make this more sliceable by baking in a 13 x 9 inch pan, but then you need to have a larger oven pan for the water and not everyone has nice big flat pans. All you have to do is adjust the cooking time.

I love old-fashioned desserts....

But I love new-fashioned ones just as well, LOL!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Comfort Food

It's the Belle, here. And I'm sad to say it's turning cold in Georgia. Dropping from the 80's to 50's! So I thought I'd share some good, cold-weather comfort food: My dad's spaghetti recipe. I usually call it Frank's Spaghetti (but then the kids had to say, "You don't call him Frank. You should name it Papaw's Spaghetti.) So here, I present to you...

Papaw's Spaghetti

First, gather your ingredients. My dad usually makes massive amounts and freezes, but I usually cook for 4 to 6. For a crew my size, you'll need 1 pound of ground beef. One or two large cans of whole tomatoes (San Marzano are the best!), depending on how tomato-y you like your sauce. And 2 packets of spaghetti seasoning. Chop one half of a green bell pepper. As you can see, I only had a red pepper when I made this, and it was just as good. Also chop about a half a large onion.

Oh, and you'll need garlic. I like to buy the jars of minced or chopped garlic for convenience. The day I made this, I had to get dinner on the table quickly so grabbed the jar.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, add onions, peppers and garlic. Cook until softened.

Add the ground beef and packets of spaghetti seasoning. I have a handy tool (from Pampered Chef) that I use to break up the beef. You just mash as you twist, and it breaks it up nice and small!

I usually buy lean beef so there's nothing to drain. If you use higher fat meat, drain off the grease. Then add the canned tomatoes and break them up with the same tool. Mash until you have the texture sauce you prefer. (My dad actually puts the tomatoes in the blender, but I don't like the extra dishes to wash. :)) Then let simmer while you cook the spaghetti noodles. Give angel hair pasta a try if you're in a hurry.

Don't forget the garlic bread! Around here, we use old hamburger and hotdog buns to help clean out the pantry. Spray with olive oil (see my nifty refillable sprayer!). Sprinkle with garlic salt and broil until golden.

Voila! A nice, hearty, homey dinner.

What's your favorite dish on a cold day?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Talk About "Salad" Days, LOL!!!

Okay, so I talk big. We know that. I talk about all the things I LOVE to eat...



Ice Cream.....


Oh, Yum.

But the truth is MUCH MORE BORING.  Yes, you've heard of Tuesdays With Morrie, right? Well, this is Tuesday with Ruthy and first... No one dies.

Now that right there should make you feel better, right?

But this is a look-see into Ruthy-reality. Because I might talk a good line.. But... Yes.. It's true...

I eat a lot of salad. But not your typical twigs and dark greens and iceberg. Oh, yuck. Here is a Ruthy salad that lives in my refrigerator, step by delicious tummy-filling step. Because the problem with most salads is that you feel like you ATE NOTHING an hour later. That doesn't happen with this baby!

Okay, we start with a thick layer of cole slaw mix. You can use store-bought OR chop up your own cabbage and carrots... In summer I chop my own because the bags of pre-cut ferment too quickly.
I am SO NOT into sauerkraut salad.

Then we add a layer of broccoli slaw:

Broccoli slaw is cole slaw made with broccoli stalks. So crispy, wonderful and marvelous. I love this stuff.

Now I toss in some cukes...


That's the basic mix that I keep on hand. I usually have enough for 3 or 4 days... And then I doll it up when I'm starving and want to eat a small child or a 3 lb bag of M&M's...

So now I make it today's version of lunch...

Blogger ate my interim picture. See??? Even Mr. Blogger gets hungry!  So I layered on shredded sharp cheddar cheese, sliced grilled chicken from Saturday's barbecue with the kids, sunflower seeds and pepper parmesan dressing made by mixing up Hidden Valley Ranch dressing regular recipe with about 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese and a whole bunch of freshly ground pepper...

The rest of the salad base stays in the fridge... For tomorrow. And the next day. If I have it mostly ready, I don't eat the whole bag of M&M's...

Or the small child.

So that's the reality. That's the truth.


(But I do sneak M&M's now and again. Just because!)

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Did It! Kale Chips!

Missy, here. I finally made the kale chips that Valerie and Mary recommended last week. I thought I'd share!

I got one bunch of curly kale. Washed it. Then laid it out on paper towels to dry. I actually ended up pretty much hand drying the leaves so I didn't have to wait.

Then I broke it into bite-sized pieces and placed in a large bowl.

The video on YouTube (Thank you, Mary!) said to sprinkle on 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (I use Kosher salt). I LOVE olive oil. In fact, I could just about drink it from the bottle (my favorite is Colavita). So I got carried away and probably used more like a tablespoon plus. It was really more than I needed. I also over-salted. So follow the directions and measure out 2 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. salt! :)

Then dig in with your hands and rub until all the leaves are totally coated and shiny.

Place in a single layer on two baking sheets.

Bake 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

When they come out, they're a little brown around the edges. They're crunchy and yummy!! I'll do this next time I'm craving a salty snack. Thanks to you ladies for sharing!

Does anyone else have a suggestion for a healthy alternative to snack cravings? Or gosh, who says it has to be healthy?? ;)