Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

A week or so ago, I saw a pin floating around on Pinterest that said something along the lines of "Thank you, Pinterest, for making me feel creative when I've actually been sitting at the computer for three hours." Let the record show that this recipe is adapted from one I found on Pinterest!

I am so not a slacker!

This came from this recipe at myrecipes.com, but I had to do some significant adjusting because I just didn't have all the ingredients. What you see below is my version I rarely do that when I'm baking, but I have to say the experiment worked pretty well. It's a tad dry, but that probably has as much to do with the fact that I'm still trying to get used to a new oven and all its quirks. Hey, if nothing else, I used up the bananas that were going to go bad, and I feel confident that the entire loaf will be eaten!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

3-4 mashed ripe bananas
1/2 c no sugar added applesauce
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp allspice
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat together banana, applesauce, peanut butter, butter, and eggs, using a mixer on low speed. Add sugar and brown sugar and beat until blended. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice until just blended. Spray a 9x5 bread pan with cooking spray. Bake for 1 hour 5 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. (dark pans may require less cooking time). Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Serves 12.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mexican Grilled Cheese

Don't run away screaming when you find out what's on this grilled cheese. Promise? Okay. Good.

I adapted the recipe from Jana Laurene's blog, which has been making the rounds on Pinterest. I have made these a couple of times, and learned a few things in the process. First, I have never been a fan of plain avocado, and even though I salted it to death, that part was still a little bland. So I tried it with my homemade guacamole (recipe here), and oh my word, it is heavenly!!!

Second, cook the bacon in the skillet, and wipe 95% of the fat out. Cook the grilled cheese in what's left. It adds to the sandwich, I promise.

Third, use a sweet, crispy apple - like Honeycrisp or Jazz. You really want that sweetness to offset the other flavors.

It's complex, but delicious. You gotta try it.

Mexican Grilled Cheese


sourdough bread
spray butter
apple, thinly sliced
pepperjack cheese

Cook bacon in large skillet until browned. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Wipe out most of bacon fat, leaving a tiny amount to cook in. Spray one side each of two slices of sourdough and lay in skillet, sprayed side down. Layer enough pepperjack to fully cover each slice of bread. Spread guacamole on one piece. Press apple slices into guacamole. Layer bacon over apple, and turn the other piece of bread over the bacon. Cook the whole thing over medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is browned. Then enjoy the heck out of this awesome grilled cheese!


Funny how taste buds can change with age. I had always been the person to have the kitchen hold the guacamole. That nasty-looking green stuff reminded me a little too much of the contents of a dirty diaper. Ew.

But not long ago, I tried the creamy guacamole concotion at Abuelos, and kinda fell in love. Then I had some homemade guacamole at a friend's house, and I decided I was hooked. But neither Jeff or I liked the store bought stuff, so I began the quest to make my own. I think this is perfect, so I will share! (Don't you feel lucky?)

Keep in mind that this is to taste; you might want to add more salt, less cayenne, more lime - I suggest starting with the amounts below, then adding to taste once it is all mixed up. Since I started with fairly conservative amounts, it should be adjustable for everyone. I mix this up in the container I plan to store it in, so it doesn't make much of a mess - just the cutting board, knife, fork, and bowl. Can't beat that!


1/4 red onion, finely chopped
7 grape tomatoes, finely chopped
juice of half a lime
dash cayenne
1 tsp Kosher salt
3 avocados

Combine red onion, tomatoes, lime juice, cayenne, and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Cut avocados in half, remove the pit, and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Using a fork, mash avocado into onion mixture until desired consistency (I like mine really mushed, but others like big chunks.) At this point, you may want to add more lime, salt, and cayenne. Add it a little at a time until it suits you. Store in fridge.

Pumpkin Pie Cake

This cake is out of this world, especially when it is warm out of the oven. It's ten times better than plain old pumpkin pie, and it has practically no calories. Okay, so maybe I exaggerated on that last part, but you can just have a Diet Coke to compensate. :)

Pumpkin Pie Cake

1 29-oz can pumpkin (not pie filling)
4 eggs
1 13-oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 c chopped nuts

1 c melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together pumpkin, eggs, evaporated milk, and spices in a large bowl. Pour into an ungreased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture, then sprinkle nuts over cake mix. Pour melted butter over top. Bake for one hour. (It won't look done, but if goes longer, it will dry up.) Serve plain or with Cool Whip.

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

I got this recipe from a Taste of Home cookbook years ago, and these are officially my favorite cupcakes ever. The PB cups act as a frosting, so these are a nice quick & easy option. I actually prefer the Wal-Mart brand PB cups to Reese's, because I think the smoother texture of the peanut butter works better for this particular recipe. (Don't be hating, now!)

Peanut Butter Cup Cupcakes

1/3 c shortening
1/3 c peanut butter
1 1/4 c brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c milk
16 mini PB cups

Preheat oven to 350. In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Fill paper-lined muffin cups with 1/4 cup batter. Unwrap peanut butter cups and place in center of batter till the top of the cup is level with the batter. Bake 22-24 minutes or until toothpick inserted at an angle toward the center comes out clean.

Butterfinger Cake

This bad boy is rich! It is one of those that tastes better the longer it sits in the fridge - assuming, of course, that it lasts that long.

Butterfinger Cake

1 German chocolate cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
3 large butterfinger bars, crushed
8 oz Cool Whip

Prepare and bake cake as directed. Remove from oven and punch holes in cake with the handle of a wooden spoon. Pour milk over cake. With oven turned off, place cake back in oven for a few minutes until milk soaks into cake. Sprinkle candy bars over cake. When cooled, top with Cool Whip. Refrigerate.

Mississippi Mud Cake

I've found that there's more than one version of Mississippi Mud Cake. Ours is more like a brownie loaded with marshmallows and a thick layer of frosting. If the frosting is warm enough, it should be pourable. This will make it much easier to frost the cake. We like to use more than 12 marshmallows, though - in fact, we usually cover the cake in them!

Mississippi Mud Cake

2 c sugar
1 c shortening
4 eggs
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2 c chopped pecans, divided
12 (or more) large marshmallows
1 box powdered sugar
1/3 c cocoa
1 c butter or margarine, melted
1/2 c evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 300. Cream sugar and shortening in a large bowl. Using a mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa, and salt. Stir into first mixture. Stir in pecans. Pour into a greased and floured 9x13 pan. Bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place marshmallows on cake. Bake 10 minutes longer at 350. Remove from oven. While cake is still warm, mix remaining ingredients and frost cake.

Dad's Favorite Chocolate Cake

This is the cake Dad likes best. His mother made it for years, and she always called it "Mrs. Pace's Chocolate Cake." Doesn't matter what you call it - it's rich and tasty and ooey gooey. :) Dad likes it with buttercream frosting; I personally prefer chocolate. You can use whatever you like.

Dad's Favorite Chocolate Cake

3/4 c water
1/2 c cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
2 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 c flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together water and cocoa. Stirring frequently, cook until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool while mixing remaining ingredients.

In a medium bowl, beat together sugar, eggs, and oil. Sift in flour, soda, and salt. Stir in well blended. Pour in lightly greased 9x13 pan. Bake 30 minutes.

Apricot Nectar Cake

We've made this many times over the years, and although you could use other types of nectar, apricot is definitely my favorite. It can be a little difficult to find, though - usually it's with the fruit juices, but I have found it in ethnic foods a time or two.

The cake can be baked in an angel food cake pan, bundt pan, or, as we prefer, a 9x13 cake pan. You may need to adjust times accordingly. Either way, it comes out ridiculously moist and delicious.

Apricot Nectar Cake

1 pkg lemon cake mix
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 can apricot nectar, divided
4 eggs
1 c powdered sguar

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine lemon cake mix, sugar, vegetable oil, 1 cup of apricot nectar, and eggs. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. For angel food pan, bake 25-30 minutes. For 9x13, bake 30-35 minutes. Allow cake to cool 15 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar with approximately 1/4 c apricot nectar to make glaze. Add nectar or powdered sugar to achieve desired consistency. Pour over cake. Allow to sit an hour or so before serving.

Peanut Butter Crunch Cake

This cake doesn't have frosting, and it doesn't need it. It had a streusel-like topping and is delicious warm.

Peanut Butter Crunch Cake

1 pkg. Duncan Hines Moist yellow cake mix
1/2 c brown sugar
1 c chunky peanut butter
1 c water
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer to use mini chocolate chips)
1/2 c peanut butter chips
1/2 c chopped peanut

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9x13 pan. In a large bowl, use a mixer to combine cake mix, brown sugar, and peanut butter at low speed until crumbly. Reserve 1/2 cup of the mixture. To the remaining mixture, add water, oil, and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in 1/4 cup each of the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Pour batter into pan. Combine reserved mixture and remaining chips; sprinkle over batter. Bake 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Miss Frances' Blueberry Surprise Cake

One summer I interned at a Wal-Mart Distribution center in South Carolina. The customer service coordinator was Miss Frances, a precious older lady who liked to bake. She brought this cake in one day, and it is to die for, I promise.

Miss Frances' Blueberry Surprise Cake

1 can blueberry pie filling (Lucky Leaf, heavy syrup)
3 c. sifted cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c sugar
1 c butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 c. cake flour
3 tbsp butter
1/4 c sugar

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9x13 cake pan with foil and generously grease the foil. Sift flour once. Add baking powder, soda, and sugar and sift into mixing bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat well to blend. Spread half the batter evenly in prepared pan.Spoon pie filling on top, spreading gently but evenly. Spread remaining batter over pie filling as evenly as possible. Combine flour, butter and sugar to make a crumb topping. Sprinkle evenly over batter. Bake 45 minutes. Cool in pan before serving.

Gooey Butter Cake

This is a classic, made popular again by Paula Deen. Personally, I prefer my version to the slabs you buy at Wal-Mart, but hey - that's just me. :)

True story - this is the first cake I ever made by myself. I was about eleven years old, and I was so proud of my handiwork. I popped it in the oven, and waited... and waited... and waited... An hour later, it still wasn't done, and I couldn't figure out why.

That was when Mom kindly reminded me that you actually have to turn the oven on before items inside will get warm. :)

Gooey Butter Cake

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 stick melted butter
8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened to room temp
1 box powdered sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350. Mix cake mix, one egg, and butter. Press into a 9x13 cake pan (light sprayed or greased). Cream together cream cheese, powdered sugar, and eggs. Pour over cake layer. Bake 30-40 minutes, or until slightly browned.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Taco Stuffed Peppers

I needed a freezer-friendly recipe for a friend who'd just had a baby, and amazingly, I didn't have a single dish that fit that bill for the hot summertime. Everything I freeze is what I consider a winter dish - soups, chilis, etc. After a little digging, I finally settled on stuffed peppers, but I knew I didn't want to make the standard tomato soup version. I lumped together ideas from several different recipes and came up with this version. The picture only shows four peppers - I could have easily filled six. I had a little leftover filling, and it was wonderful on baked potatoes.

Taco Stuffed Peppers

6 bell peppers, any color
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c. cooked rice
3/4 c. salsa or picante sauce
1/2 packet taco seasoning
1/2 c. shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a large skillet, brown beef and onion. Meanwhile, cut tops off peppers and scoop out seeds and membranes. Rinse thoroughly and drop in boiling water for no longer than two minutes. Remove with tongs and set upside-down to drain.

Once beef is cooked, drain excess fat. Stir in rice, salsa, taco seasoning, and cheese. Spoon into peppers. (If desired, top with extra cheese.). Place peppers in a cake pan lined with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. If tops are becoming too brown, lightly cover with foil.

Once cooled, these can be frozen. Wrap individually in foil or freezer paper. To reheat, microwave on high for 5 minutes, or bake 30 minutes at 425.

Serves 6.

Nutella-Mocha No Bake Cookies

I confess: I have never been a fan of no-bake cookies. I know that's probably sacrilege at its worst, given that no-bakes are nothing more than a combination of the two greatest foods in the world - peanut butter and chocolate - but it's true. I just didn't care for them.

Lately, though, no-bakes have been popping up on Pinterest (you can follow me @ mandalee65). So has Nutella. And so has this funky coffee thing.

So I got to wondering... what if I swapped out the peanut butter in no-bakes for Nutella, and added instant coffee in place of some of the cocoa? In my head it sounded divine, but I wasn't sure it would play out that way in my mouth.

But oh, I was so right. Holy cow, they are incredible! So naturally, I must share. :) The only change I will make is cutting the butter down to 1/2 cup instead of one full cup.

Nutella-Mocha No Bake Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
1/2 c. Nutella
3 c. quick-cooking oats

In a double boiler, heat butter, sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and coffee granules until thoroughly dissolved and right to the point of boiling, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in Nutella until melted. Add oats. Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with wax paper. Cool in refrigerator, then store in airtight container with wax paper between each layer of cookies.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Chocolate Gravy

I think this must be an Arkansas thing - I've never heard of it or seen it anywhere else. Nanny made it for us when we visited, and it was such a treat. She didn't leave a recipe, so Mom had to figure it out herself. Thankfully, she did, so this treat wasn't lost to us.

Chocolate Gravy

1 c sugar
3 heaping T cocoa powder
2 T flour
dash salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 c water

Whisk together all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir over medium heat until slightly thickened. Serve immediately with biscuits and butter.

Crispy Coated Chicken

This is a quick & easy recipe - but leftovers aren't great, so only make as much as you need.

Crispy Coated Chicken

1 pkg. onion soup mix, crushed
2/3 c. fine dry bread crumbs
dash pepper
1 egg or 2 egg whites
2 T water
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 T margarine, melted (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Combine soup mix, bread crumbs, and pepper in a small bowl. In a second bowl, beat together egg and water. Dip chicken into egg, then coat with crumbs. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet. Drizzle with margarine. Bake 30 minutes, or until juices run clear.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Red, White & Blue Salad

I don't often post salad combinations (I feel weird calling a salad a "recipe"), but this is one of my very favorites, and truly worth posting. I'm not going to bother with amounts, because it just doesn't matter. Add as much or as little as you want. This is delightful when summer berries are at their best.

mixed salad greens (spinach, arugula, etc)
strawberries, sliced
bleu cheese crumbles
cooked chicken, diced
bacon or real bacon bits
olive oil
white balsamic vinegar
1 packet splenda
black pepper
kosher salt

Top the greens with the berries and bleu cheese. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook chicken and bacon together until heated through. Transfer to salad. In the same skillet, add equal parts olive oil and vinegar (careful - it tends to splash. You may need to lift the skillet off the heat entirely.) Stir in splenda packet until dissolved, and add fresh ground pepper and kosher salt to taste. Drizzle evenly over salad.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Strawberry Daiquiri Cake

Okay, so this is almost the same thing as the Lemonade Cake, but the taste is so different that I thought it warranted its own post. :)

Strawberry Daiquiri Cake

1 strawberry cake mix (I like Duncan Hines)
6 oz. frozen strawberry daiquiri mix, thawed (Bacardi)
3/4 c. powdered sugar
8-oz tub Cool Whip

Make cake according to directions. Allow to cool 15 minutes, then poke holes all the way through with a knife. Whisk together daiquiri mix and powdered sugar until smooth and pour over cake. Refrigerate until absorbed into cake, then frost with Cool Whip. Store in refrigerator.

Monday, August 1, 2011

State Fair Subs

I think this recipe came from either a Taste of Home or Quick Cooking book. Jeff can't get enough of these. It's a great cold-weather sandwich, suitable for football parties and the like.

State Fair Subs

1-lb loaf French bread
2 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t salt
1 lb sausage
1 lg onion, chopped
2 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400. Cut bread in half lengthwise. Hollow out top and bottom of loaves, leaving a one-inch shell. Cube the bread you just cut out. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, pepper, and salt. Add bread cubes and toss to coat.

In a large skillet, brown sausage and onion. Drain excess fat. Add to bread mixture, stirring gently. Spoon into bread shells and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Wrap in foil, allowing a pocket at the top so the cheese doesn't stick. Bake 20-25 minutes.

Mrs. Betty's Strawberry Cake

A super-sweet lady at Mom's church brought over this cake after Mom had surgery. It was a fantastic cake, and I promptly had to get her recipe. The note on the recipe said that it was best the longer it stayed in the fridge, but I wouldn't know - I think it only lasted two days!

Mrs. Betty's Strawberry Cake

2 c. self-rising flour
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. canola oil
1 c. milk
1/4 c. mashed sweetened strawberries
1 sm box dry strawberry jello

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients and pour into greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

1/2 stick softened margarine
3-4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. mashed sweetened strawberries

Mix all until smooth - may need to add powdered sugar or strawberries to get an appropriate spreading consistency. Ice cake and store in refrigerator.