Monday, September 27, 2010

Cranberry Spice Coffee Cake/Finnish Coffee Cake

I use the Finnish Coffee Cake recipe regularly, but variated it for the fall season with Wildtree's Cranberry Spice Blend.

Finnish Coffee Cake

1 &1/4 cup sugar - I used Evaporated Cane Juice Crystals
1 cup oil - I used 2/3 cup Wildtree's Natural Grapeseed Oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1-3 tsp. cinnamon

In place of brown sugar and cinnamon - I used 4 Tbsp. Wildtree's Cranberry Spice Blend

Optional glaze: 2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tsp. vanilla
Hot water to mix to desired consitency.

For Cake: Mix together first five ingredients. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, soda and add to first mixture. Pour 1/2 of the batter into a greased 9X13 pan. If using brown sugar and cinnamon, mix together and sprinkle half of this over batter. If using Cranberry Spice Blend, sprinkle 2 Tbps. over layer. Repeat layers. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Poke holes in cake while still warm and drizzle glaze over top.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mexican Lasagna

This is one of my new favorites for potluck lunches. It is so easy and I know that most likely it will be unique. People are always asking for the recipe.

Mexican Lasagna
2 pounds ground beef
1 can (16 ounces) refried beans
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
5 Tablespoons Wildtree taco seasoning or 1 package taco seasoning of your choice
2 Tablespoons salsa
(I also add a Tablespoon of Wildtree's Jalapeno Pepper Blend)
12 ounces uncooked lasagna noodles (I use whole wheat)
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese - divided
1 jar (16 ounces mild salsa) I use 1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes and Wildtree's Fiesta Salsa Mix
2 cups water
2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
1 can (2 and 1/4 ounces) sliced black olives, drained
3 green onions, chopped

In large skillet, brown beef and drain. Stir in the taco seasoning, refried beans, chilies, and 2 Tablespoons salsa. (And Jalapeno Pepper Blend or hot peppers if you are using.)

In a greased 9X13 baaking dish, layer a third of the uncooked noodles and meat mixture. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese. Repeat layers twice.

Combine jar of salsa with water and pour over top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 for one hour. Remove from oven and top with sour cream, remaining cheese, olives and onions and return to oven uncovered for 10 - 15 minutes. Let stand 10-15 minutes before cutting.

Quick Cocoa Sheet Cake

This is one of my favorite stand-by recipes when I need a quick easy delicious dessert. It calls for regular unsweetened cocoa, but I use Hershey's special dark cocoa powder in the cake and in the peanut butter frosting recipe. It's all the rave anytime I serve it.

Fills a sheet cake or jelly roll-sized cake pan. Also makes great cupcakes.

Quick Cocoa Cake
3 cups flour
4 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's special dark powder)
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups water
1 cup cooking oil (I use Wildtree's butter flavored grapeseed oil and reduce to 2/3 cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with mixer and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Can top with any of your favorite frostings, including German Chocolate. My favorite is the chocolate peanut butter recipe below.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting (Make 1/2 a recipe or put the extra in the fridge for later use.)
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use the Hershey's special dark for this too)
cream these ingredients together then add
5 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 to 1 cup cream or milk.

Use only enough cream to make it desired spreading consistency.  Spread over cake. Can top with chopped Butterfinger bars or Reese Cups.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Cheesy Spinach Calzones

Cheesy Spinach Calzones
My modifications below recipe

1 package (10-ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 8-ounce package cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
4 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 chopped green onion
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 13.8-ounce package refrigerated pizza dough
1 egg white
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Method: Grease a large cookie sheet and set aside. For filling, combine spinach, cream cheese, 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, green onion and pepper. Set aside.

Unroll pizza dough on lightly floured surface. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knive, cut into four even pieces. Spoon filling (divided evenly) onto one side of each piece of dough and fold over, carefully pinching the edges. (You can use a fork and a Tablespoon of water to seal the edges if needed.) Brush tops with egg white and remaining Parmesan cheese.

Place on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until nice and golden brown.

You can also divide the dough into 25 three-inch squares for appetizers, fill and bake.

My modifications: I use Wildtree's Quick and Easy Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Mix and add 1/4 cup of Wildtree's Alfredo Mix to the filling. It makes it extra cheesy and gives it gourmet flare. Instead of brushing the tops with egg white, I use Wildtree's Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil.

English Carrots

I will post the recipe from the cookbook then add my Wildtree modifications.

English Carrots

4&1/2 cups (1&1/2 pounds) sliced carrots
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons chopped onion
2 Tablespoons prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
1/4 cup crushed Saltine crackers (about 7)
2 teaspoons melted butter

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook carrots in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain. Place in 1-quart casserole dish. Combine mayonnaise, onion, horseradish, salt and pepper. Mix with carrots. Mix cracker crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on top. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes until hot. Serves 4-6.

My Modifications:
I use 1 Tablespoon chopped onion and 1 Tablespoon Wildtree's Onion and Chive Blend and 1 Tablespoon horseradish and 1 Tablespoon Wildtree's Cranberry and Horseradish Blend. It just spiffs the dish up a little bit. I often use whole wheat Saltines.

How NOT to make dinner

So this evening was one of those disasters, but not because the food didn't taste good. I had hamburger browning on the stove top for hamburger gravy (you know, that old-fashioned dish that could feed an army for real cheap,) and I placed a big pot of potatoes on the back burner. I turned the burner on high to get the potatoes boiling because the intent was to have mashed potatoes and hamburger gravy for supper.

Well... I walked upstairs for a minute, came back down and was standing next to the stove when an empty 9X13 glass pan (also on the stove top) exploded right next to me. It sounded like a gun shot. I almost crumpled to the floor, but there was glass everywhere so I refrained. Of course our 22-month-old son and the family dog came running to see what was up. I had turned on the wrong burner for the potatoes and instead turned on the one under the empty glass dish.

I ended up throwing out the food because there were glass shards in everything. Instead of hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes, we had egg and cheese sandwiches with fresh garden tomatoes on homemade whole wheat bread with homemade basil pesto mayo. Not bad for not even having a plan B.

Next time I'll think twice about which bottom I'm lighting a fire under!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened ( I used 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup buttered grapeseed oil)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use JIF natural peanut butter)
1 cup granulated sugar (I use evaporated cane juice crystals)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla (I always use pure vanilla and prefer Mexican vanilla. You don't have to use as much if you use Mexican vanilla.)
1&1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I always use unbleached when using white flour)
2 cups rolled (Old-Fashioned) oatmeal
1 cup chopped cocktail peanuts or chocolate chips (I use dark chocolate chips)

Method: In large mixing bowl beat butter and peanut butter (and grapeseed oil if using) on high speed with electric mixer until combined. Add sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in flour and stir in oatmeal and chocolate chips or peanuts.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or until edges are set.

Healthy choices made easy

It really is the small stuff that matters. Making small healthy changes can add up to a big difference overall. I like having something sweet on hand for dessert, but don't want to compromise my commitment to healthier choices. Besides using all-natural seasonings and spices (Wildtree makes this SO incredibly easy) I am also learning about other alternatives when it comes to baking and cooking.

One thing I have been using in place of white granulated sugar is evaporated cane juice crystals. I buy it at our local indoor Farmer's Market and it is relatively inexpensive. Obviously, raw sugar is another good choice, but that can get pricey if you bake often.

According the the World's Healthiest Foods Web site, evaporated cane juice is healthy alternative to regular sugar. While they are bother made from sugar cane, the evaporated cane juice does not go through as much processing as regular sugar. Visit and type in evaporated cane juice for more information. The only thing I've noticed with the cane juice crystals is that is has a slightly stronger taste so I have not used it to sweeten iced tea, but use it regularly for baking.

Since we ended up at a birthday party last evening (where I ate way too much) I made the Salmon and Asparagus tonight. I will post the recipes under the "Recipes" tab on my blog. I also made Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies with a few minor adjustments to the original recipe to make them more healthy. You can find that recipe under the recipe tab too. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bathing suit debacle

Clothing hides a LOT! I found that out today when I tried on a plethora of bathing suits. I thought I was being liberal when I chose the sizes and I picked out a lot of different styles that I thought might work. But alas, I was unsuccessful in finding something suitable.

My first clue that I was going to walk away disappointed and depressed was when I tried on the first one and could hardly hoist it past my thighs. Each one from there on out only inflicted more insecurities. I tried one-pieces and tankinies (even I wouldn't want to see myself in a real bikini). The one-pieces either revealed every abdominal roll (I think they might have even created rolls just to make me feel bad) or I poured out at the top and for the tankinies either the bottoms worked and the tops didn't, or vice versa.

So maybe I need to crank it up a notch and forget the baby steps in my "getting fit" goals! I think I'm going more for toddler steps today. So look out summer and pool season, I am on a mission and I will sport a bathing suit and a few short weeks without shame.

Dinner tonight is Seasoned baked Salmon and asparagus with Tuscan grapeseed oil.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Baby Steps

So maybe I don't get hardcore exercise yet, but I am sticking to my walk/run routine. I comfort myself by saying, "I may not be at the gym, but at least I am not sitting on the couch or in front of the computer." I also consider the fact that I am pushing a baby stroller with a toddler inside (even though he is a peanut) and trying to hold back a 90-100 pound dog that wants to eat or play with every other dog we pass along the way. That, my friends, has to help burn calories. We even walked in sprinkling rain this evening.

And as far as food and eating habits go, I have been trying to train myself before I take a bite to stop and think about what I'm doing. "Am I really hungry?" "Is this a healthy choice?" "Is is really worth it?"

Sometimes, yes, it IS worth it! Two bites of delectable strawberry cheesecake left here by our friends can be my compromise. I'm enjoying some "naughty" food, but not consuming two slices at one time like I would like to do. 

I'm getting there - its all about baby steps!

Aphrodisiacs or not...

Shenandoah Journal, The (Dayton, VA) - Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Author: Regina Cyzick Harlow
A Valentine's dinner doesn't have to break the bank at a high-end restaurant. While dining out can be a nice break from monotony, an easy-to-fix meal at home can be just as special. Knowing what to fix can make all the difference in how the rest of the evening unfolds.

Although certain foods are not scientifically proven to be aphrodisiacs, most women insist that eating them evokes romantic thoughts. The Web site lists 20 ingredients that you might want to incorporate into your recipes this Valentine's Day.

The list of foods include oysters, chocolate, artichokes, avocados, honey, asparagus, strawberries, caviar, truffles, cappuccino, radishes, tomatoes, grapes, garlic, onions, vanilla, basil, wine, potatoes and pine nuts.

Following are a few suggested uses for these ingredients. There are many Web sites with recipes that use these ingredients and in fact, some foods even have their own site, including honey and asparagus.

Drinks: Hot chocolate, cappuccino, wine, strawberry basil lemonade

Appetizers: Hot artichoke dip, guacamole, dinner rolls with cinnamon-honey butter.

Main dishes: Asparagus chicken casserole, oysters on the half-shell and caviar.

Side dishes: Mashed potatoes with fresh pressed garlic or asparagus and onion casserole.

Salads: Add a combination of chopped avocados, onions, radishes and pine nuts to a tossed salad. Make a tomato, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella salad sprinkled with balsamic vinegar or create an asparagus and avocado salad with white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar with fresh mint. A grape salad with cream cheese, sour cream and sugar topped with brown sugar and nuts is a sweet and refreshing salad alternative and could also be used as a dessert.

Dessert: Brownies with vanilla ice cream.

If I were trying to include all of these ingredients for our Valentine's dinner just for fun, I might come up with something like this…

Oysters and caviar, potatoes with garlic, onions, artichokes and asparagus, a salad with radishes, tomatoes, avocados, pine nuts and basil, and wine. For dessert; brownies, topped with vanilla ice cream, strawberries, grapes and honey and a cappuccino.

But for someone who cooks for my family every night like me, the best aphrodisiac is when my husband says "Let's order take-out," or "Go sit down and put your feet up while I wash up the dishes."

Dirty secrets, clean tricks...

I might throw occasional homemaking tips and articles into this blob, but this is probably the only laundry advice you'll ever receive from me. Laundry duty has always been my arch enemy and continues to be even after writing the following article, which I hoped would help.
Dirty secrets, clean tricks: laundry tips from a novice washerwoman
Shenandoah Journal, The (Dayton, VA) - Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Author: Regina Cyzick Harlow
When my editor asked me to write a column on laundry tips, I chuckled.

When I told my husband, he laughed outright.

He knows my strategy is to wash and dry clothes on Monday, use clothes out of the dryer until Wednesday, move the clothes to a laundry basket until Saturday when I finally get around to folding them or I need the dryer for another load of clothes.

I humbly admit I have never been an authority on laundry. During most of my childhood, we used an old-fashioned wringer washer, two washtubs and a clothesline. My family of seven children had no problem dirtying enough clothes for six to eight loads every Monday and Friday.

Granted, there was an art to our laundry system back then. Since all the laundry would be washed in the same water, we sorted the clothes in piles from dirty to dirtiest.

Each pile would be placed in the machine, put through the wringer into the rinse tub, swished around, then through the wringer again into the softening tub. After one final time through the wringer, into the basket they went. Several of my siblings nearly lost a finger, and almost an arm, between the tightly rolling wringers.

Clothes were hung on a line to dry, with the exception of dresses, which swung on hangers from a chain draped between the columns of our front porch. Since there were five women who wore dresses daily, washdays provided quite a display. Our house was often identified in the community as "the one with the dresses hanging on the front porch."

That was the extent of my laundry training. I didn't learn about fabric care, the difference between cold and hot water washing or even stain removal.

Now I have a family of my own and a super capacity, commercial quality, high efficiency washer.

But I'm still learning through trial and error.

I tried those new laundry sheets with pre-measured detergent, fabric softener and anti-static all in one. The pre-measured detergent became a problem when I wanted to wash a small load or stuff the washer to capacity.

I also unintentionally covered one of my white shirts in bright yellow pollen while working in the flowerbed and instead of trying to remove the stain before washing it, I am now working at it two washes later with little to no hope of ever removing the stain.

But after snooping around for laundry tips on the Internet, I found I might have reason to hope. I even found some great tips and laundry recipes in my "Mennonite Country Style Recipes" cookbook by local homemaker Esther H. Shank.

Although I doubt I'll ever become obsessed with laundry care, I might at least learn to care about laundry.

So besides the obvious garment testing for color fastness and using cold water for darks, here are a few tips that might help you (and me) the next time we run into a laundry debacle.


Always put detergent into the washer and let it dissolve before adding clothes.

Place delicates in a pillowcase and tie the end before machine washing to eliminate some of the roughness of the wash cycle.

Stain Removal

Use an old toothbrush to rub stain remover into the fabric.

To take care of deodorant stains: Use an enzyme detergent or a detergent with bleach alternatives. Apply pre-wash spray every third or fourth washing to prevent deodorant stains. Sponge white vinegar on the stains, wait 30 minutes, then launder garments in hottest water safe for the fabric.

Sprinkle a generous amount of cornstarch or baby powder on grease stains, let sit for a few minutes, then brush off powder and wash garment.

To prevent bleeding of colors and brighten dark clothes, add a scoop of regular salt or Oxi Clean with every load.

When all else fails, Esther Shank says to take the stained item outside at night and lay it on an area of clean grass where the sun will hit it first thing in the morning. Let the dew settle on the garment and the next morning the sun will magically take the stain away. (Make sure to discuss your need for plenty of dew and sunshine with the weatherman before hand.)


Include a few tennis balls in each dryer cycle to reduce drying time and fluff clothing.

Pour a few capfuls of fabric softener on an old dishtowel and throw it in the dryer as a fabric softening sheet. Add more softener every 10-15 loads or when you start noticing static. (Use a towel that is distinct from your other laundry.)

When using a clothesline, always hang clothes inside out to prevent fading from the sun.

To avoid unsightly marks, place clothespins in less obvious places such as the underarm of the garment.


For stubborn creases, sponge crease with white vinegar and press with warm iron.

To remove burnt starch on iron, rub iron with aluminum foil.

These tips were taken from, and Mennonite Country Style Recipes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Vegetarian Taco Salad

Vegetarian Taco Salad

6 cups torn lettuce
1 cup black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 cup sliced black olives, drained
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup or more of sliced or cherry tomatoes
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared Ranch dressings
1 teaspoon Taco seasoning

Take whole wheat tortillas and cut them in eighths.
Pour grapeseed oil in skillet and brown tortilla pieces.
Serve on the side. 

Mall Walking Disaster

So this blog is supposed to be about food, right? Well, kind've. But it's also about taking steps towards a healthier lifestyle and I did that today, or at least I tried.

I am trying to establish routine exercise and one way I do that is by walking. Typically, I have our son in his stroller and our dog on a leash and we briskly walk (and sometimes meander) through the streets of our small town. But today it was raining.

In a moment of brilliancy and dedication to my cause, I decided to take son and stroller to the mall for several laps. I have never been a "mall walker" and was completely unprepared for the traps that laid wait.

We entered the doors next to Auntie Ann's Pretzels! First big mistake. The mall had just opened for the morning and the ovens were baking the salty, yeasty, puffy, crusty treats and the heavenly aroma permeated the entire east end of the mall.

Determined not to succumb to my screaming senses and walked purposefully forward. My next entrapment was stopping to admire the skinny jeans that would have looked so good on me, oh, maybe six sizes ago. Then the bookstore coffee shop, and finally, Victoria's Secret! The sign out front read "Hello Bombshell." I couldn't stop the mental tirade towards the perfectly shaped models that followed and comforted myself with the obvious... "The flaws on the women are airbrushed out!" "They are fakes!" "Oh yeah? Well I used to be a bombshell too!"

I continued walking, reassuring myself that post-baby bodies are intertwined with the sacrifices of motherhood. My identity is not measured in pounds or clothing sizes. My life is much more than "perfect bras" and fashion statements.When I passed the sign the second time around and read, "Hello Bombshell," I said to the model, "Why thank you very much" and my son and I went and ate a freshly-baked pretzel.

*Note: The pretzel was my "naughty" food for the day. I shared it with my son and we drank water instead of the sweet tangy lemonade that I much prefer. Dinner tonight will be "Vegetarian Taco Salad." (And no, I am not a vegetarian, by any stretch of the imagination. Just trying to cut out red meat a little bit.)