Homemade sauerkraut, my flat belly secret

I hope that got your attention! Yes, I believe eating a little of my homemade sauerkraut every day helps keep my tummy flat. I will explain why and show you how I make my own sauerkraut.

Food fermentation has a long history

Humans have been fermenting food since an estimated 10,000 BC. The reasons for this were to preserve food and enhance the nutritional benefits.

Just about every culture has traditionally used fermented foods in their diet, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, natto, cod liver oil, high meat and, of course, sauerkraut.

Americans do not typically eat fermented food. In fact, most of us tend to treat our stomach like a garbage can and just eat anything without regard to the effect it will have on our bodies.

I want to have a long and healthy life (and fit into my size 4 jeans) so I decided to make fermented food part of my diet. And of that list, sauerkraut appeals to me the most.

The nutritional benefits of sauerkraut

Something magical happens when you mix cabbage, salt and water together in an anaerobic environment. It produces lovely probiotics, enzymes and vitamin K2, to name a few. All these things are good for gut health and your overall health because if your digestion is messed up, you won’t be healthy.

When your digestion works properly, you won’t have gas, bloating, heartburn, etc. 

And you get all this good stuff for just pennies a day compared to buying nutritional supplements.

Making sauerkraut vs buying it

You don’t have to make your own sauerkraut but you’ll save a lot of money doing it and you can customize it to your taste.

If you’d rather buy sauerkraut, make sure to get it from the refrigerated section. Any sauerkraut that is shelf stable has been pasteurized which kills all the probiotics.

I could make vats of sauerkraut for what one jar from the store would cost. And here’s how I make it.

How to make sauerkraut

You will need a 64 oz mason jar with optional plastic lid, glass weights* (optional but highly recommended), large knife, cutting board, large mixing bowl, water, sea salt and cabbage (slightly over 4 lb).

*You need some kind of weight, not necessarily these, but these are perfect!

64 oz  mason jar, plastic lid and glass weight
64 oz mason jar, plastic lid and glass weight

This basic recipe makes about a half gallon of sauerkraut.

Cut cabbage into thin strips. Save one leaf (cut into a circle) to fit inside the jar as floater control.

circle of cabbage
Cut a circle of cabbage to control floaters

Discard the core.

Put cabbage into mixing bowl with about 1T of salt. Knead and massage cabbage with your hands for a total of 10 minutes. 

Sliced cabbage with 1T sea salt
Sliced cabbage with 1T sea salt ready for kneading

After five minutes you can add extra spices or veggie slices if desired.

garlic, onion flakes, red pepper flakes
I sometimes add crushed red pepper, garlic and onion flakes

Transfer cabbage into mason jar and use your fist to press out all the air. Pour in the liquid from the cabbage.

cabbage kneaded for 10 minutes
Cabbage after 10 minutes of kneading
Tamping down the cabbage with my fist to remove air
Tamping down the cabbage with my fist to remove air
cabbage pressed into mason jar
All the cabbage pressed into mason jar. This was a little smaller batch.

Add the floater control circle and put at least one glass weight on top. You may need to add extra brine to completely cover the cabbage and weight.

Adding cabbage circle to jar
Adding cabbage circle to jar
Glass weights keep cabbage under water
Glass weights keep cabbage under water

The recipe for brine is 1T sea salt to 4 cups of water (I use filtered water). Save extra brine in the refrigerator.

leftover brine
Save leftover brine in the refrigerator

Leave 1 to 1½ inches of space from the top of the jar. The liquid is going to rise during fermentation.

Lay the lid on top but don’t screw it on. This is just to keep bugs out.

Lid placed on top of jar and put inside bowl
Lid placed on top of jar and put inside bowl

Put the mason jar on a plate. Cover the jar with a clean cloth and set aside out of direct sunlight for 7 to 14 days. (Longer in cooler temperatures.)

Put a clean towel over the jar
Put a clean towel over the jar

Check sauerkraut every day to make sure there’s still enough liquid. Sometimes after the liquid rises it will begin to evaporate and you need to add more brine.

Bubbles produced during fermentation
Bubbles produced during fermentation

When the sauerkraut is ready, remove the glass weight and cabbage circle. Now you can screw on the lid and place the jar in the refrigerator. This will keep up to a year.

remove and discard cabbage circle after fermentation
After fermentation, remove and discard cabbage circle

Watch my video on how to make sauerkraut

See me make sauerkraut step by step

So there you have it! I eat about ¼ cup each day. Being a low carb food, it fits well into my keto diet.

Sauerkraut finished and ready for the refrigerator
Sauerkraut finished and ready for the refrigerator

I hope you’ll enjoy your sauerkraut and good tummy health!

My cold brew coffee recipe

No doubt about it, cold brew coffee is really hot right now. For me there’s nothing more refreshing than cold brew coffee poured over ice with billowing swirls of half and half.

Iced coffee is my favorite drink and I used to just make it in an electric drip coffee maker and then refrigerate. But I started noticing a bitter taste no matter what type of coffee I used. So I went on the hunt for a better brewing method.

Through a lot of trial and error, I finally devised an easy method for making cold brew coffee without the mess.

The benefits of cold brew coffee

The main benefit of cold brew coffee is the taste. It’s mellow and smooth, not sharp or bitter, because less acid is released.

The next benefit is that less caffeine is extracted with this method. That might not be considered a benefit by some but it probably should be.

Too much caffeine is bad for your adrenal glands, and that’s a concern for me. So I use half decaf to bring the caffeine level down even more.

My half decaf blend

Equipment for making homemade iced coffee

Only a couple of things are needed for making cold brew coffee at home that you might not already have: a 64 oz wide mouth mason jar and this metal filter.

Finding this filter was a game changer. It strains out all the sediment without having to use an additional paper filter inside.

cold brew coffee filter and jar
Cold brew coffee making supplies

It’s also nice to buy plastic lids for the mason jars. I prefer those to the two-part metal lids that come with the jars.

You probably already have a funnel which helps when transferring the brewed coffee into a storage vessel of your choice.

How strong do you like your coffee?

Before getting to the recipe, you need to determine how strong you like your coffee and I have a little test to help you figure that out.

Using a Mr Coffee-type drip maker as an example, if you use one scoop of coffee for two cups of water, then follow the recipe below for regular strength coffee. If you use one scoop of coffee for one cup of water, then double the amount of coffee. The filter can hold up to 2¼ cups of coffee grounds.

My recipe for cold brew coffee (one gallon)

Use one cup of coffee per gallon of water.

One cup of coffee in the filter
One cup of coffee in the filter

Place the metal filter in the mason jar and put one cup of coffee inside. Take a one gallon bottle of water and pour water over the grounds until you reach the top of the jar. Put the remaining water aside until the next day.

Pouring cold water over coffee grounds
Pouring cold water over coffee grounds

Put a lid on the jar and stick it in the refrigerator. Let brew for 12 to 24 hours. I go up to 24 hours. Beyond that it starts to get bitter.

Coffee ready to brew in the refrigerator
Coffee ready to brew in the refrigerator

And that’s it, simple as can be.

Twenty-four hours later, I take the jar out and balance the filter on the jar to let the coffee drip out.

Coffee after brewing for 24 hours
Coffee after brewing for 24 hours
Draining the coffee filter
Draining the filter

After a few minutes, I take the filter to my trash can, dump it out then rinse it.

Then I put a funnel into the plastic gallon water jug and pour the brewed coffee inside where it mixes up into the perfect strength, ready for drinking.

Pouring brewed coffee into plastic jug
Pouring brewed coffee into plastic water jug

If you don’t want to store yours in a plastic jug, you can get glass carafes. I just find this method more convenient and there’s one less thing to wash.

Cold brew coffee stored in plastic gallon jub
Cold brew coffee stored in plastic gallon jub

As soon as I’m finished making one batch, I rinse out the jar and repeat.

How long can you keep cold brewed coffee

I would say the coffee is fine for at least a week, maybe even ten days, in the refrigerator. Always keep it refrigerated so things don’t start growing in there.

I keep about a week’s worth on hand. I usually make coffee for four days in a row, then I wash everything in the dishwasher so it’s ready for the next time.

cold brew iced coffee
Cold brew iced coffee

Colorful brownie pop bouquet

My niece just celebrated her 21st birthday and I wanted to give her a little homemade treat along with her gift, so I made her this festive bouquet of brownie pops.

This fun bouquet is a little different because the whole thing is edible except for the container and sticks. And I was able to make it for around $20, much less than it would have cost from a bakery.

How to make a brownie pop bouquet

This is what I bought/gathered together for the project:

  • Brownie mix
  • Ingredients for chocolate buttercream frosting (butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla)
  • White chocolate candy melts
  • Assorted candy sprinkles
  • Paper straws (they were colorful and solid, and cheaper than cake pop sticks)
  • Large 42 oz bag of M&Ms (instead of styrofoam) for the bouquet part
  • Large recycled glass jar to hold the M&Ms
  • Ribbon for decoration
  • Cardboard, paint, glitter and bamboo skewer for “21” decorative pick

And here’s what I did.

I made fudge brownies from the brownie mix. I prefer coconut oil over vegetable oil, but you can use what you like.

ingredients for fudge brownies

Fudge brownie ingredients

Then I made my own chocolate buttercream frosting using very little liquid so that the brownie pops would hold together really well.

Ingredients for chocolate buttercream frosting

Ingredients for chocolate buttercream frosting

Chocolate buttercream frosting recipe
2 sticks butter
1 lb powdered sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
Milk to slightly thin out frosting

I don’t like store bought frosting and this is easy to make. You just cream the butter with the sugar, then add the other ingredients a little at a time until you get the right consistency.

Stiff chocolate buttercream frosting for brownie pops

Stiff chocolate buttercream frosting to mix with brownies

I mushed up the brownies leaving the hard outside edges behind. I used my mini chopper but I could have just used my hands. The end result was a very sticky and gooey ball of chocolate goodness.

I added the frosting to the mixture, one part frosting to two parts brownie dough, again using the mini chopper to blend them together. (This is when I wish I had a food processor!)

To form the pops I took a large spoonful of dough and rolled it around in my hands until it was nice and smooth and roundish.

The goal was to make them all the size of a golf ball. There was enough dough to make 20 pops but I only used 12 for the bouquet.

The pops were placed on a tray lined with wax paper and stuck it in the refrigerator for about an hour to firm up.

Brownie pops before sticks added

Brownie pops before sticks are added

When the pops came out of the refrigerator, I made holes in them using one of the paper straws. I tried to make the holes about ¾ of the way through. At this point chilled pops were very solid.

Brownie pops with holes for the sticks

Brownie pops with holes for the sticks

I melted the white chocolate candy melts in a teeny tiny crock pot. They could also be microwaved or heated in a double boiler. The crock pot got very hot after a while and I had to keep turning it off and then back on to regulate the temperature.

Candy melts in mini crock pot

Candy melts in mini crock pot

I dipped one end of the paper straw into the melted chocolate and pushed it into a brownie pop. 

Putting frosting "glue" on the end of a paper straw

Putting frosting “glue” on the end of a paper straw

I left the pops on the tray until all the sticks were inserted. I put them back in the refrigerator again for just a few minutes for the candy to set up.

"Gluing" sticks into brownie pops

“Gluing” sticks into brownie pops

Before decorating I made this stand from a clean cardboard box to hold the pops while they were drying. I taped the box together then punched holes in it for the sticks.

Makeshift brownie pops stand

Makeshift brownie pops stand

Then came the best part—decorating!

Before I dipped each one, I did a little reshaping with my fingers. They had gotten a little flat on top plus they weren’t exactly round to begin with.

I rolled each pop around in the melted chocolate until it was completely covered. Then I twirled and tapped to remove excess chocolate before sprinkling the top with assorted cake sprinkles.

Swirling brownie pops in melted chocolate

Swirling brownie pops in melted chocolate

This is kind of tricky and after a while you get the feel for it. If you don’t remove enough excess coating, it will slide off when you put it in the holder, along with the sprinkles. If you wait too long and try to remove too much, the coating hardens and the sprinkles won’t stick to it.

Here’s a tip for adding the sprinkles. Put a little dish underneath the brownie pop to catch the sprinkles that fall off and also to keep them from rolling all over your counter.

Assorted colorful brownie pops

Assorted colorful brownie pops

I noticed that as these were drying, some of them developed cracks. All I did was smear a little melted chocolate over them with a spoon and topped with more sprinkles.

Finally it was time to arrange these babies in a bouquet. I filled the jar with M&Ms. Fortunately there were some leftover for the chef!

Edible base for brownie pops

Edible base for brownie pops

Then I just stuck 12 of them in, inserted the “21” pick and tied a ribbon around the jar.

"21" decorative pick for brownie bouquet

“21” decorative pick for brownie bouquet

If you want to know how I made the pick, please ask me in the comments.

And here is the finished colorful brownie pop bouquet. I recommend keeping it refrigerated.

Brownie pop bouquet for 21st birthday

Brownie pop bouquet for 21st birthday

So cute and delicious. I had a couple leftover for myself. I liked biting through the hard candy shell into the smooth and creamy center. Mmmm…tasted like chocolate truffles.

And my niece loved her bouquet, I think even more than the actual gift!

Authentic Lebanese hummus recipe

My friend Suzie is from Lebanon and she makes the best hummus I’ve ever had. So I asked her for the recipe and I’m sharing it with you.

People like to put their own spin on hummus and add different things that aren’t part of the traditional recipe. I must confess I fell into that category, mostly because I didn’t know any better. Hummus should have a creamy, delicate chickpea flavor enhanced with tahini, lemon and hints of garlic.

Having tasted Suzie’s recipe, which she assures me is authentic, I will never be satisfied with anything else.

Authentic Lebanese hummus

authentic lebanese hummus ingredients

Ingredients for authentic Lebanese hummus

2–15 oz cans of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2T (heaping) tahini
3T water
Juice of 2 lemons (about ½ cup)
4 cloves garlic, diced
Salt to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, parsley flakes, ground cumin, a few whole chickpeas for garnish

Preparation

Reserve a few whole chickpeas for garnishing later. Mash one of the beans with a fork to see how soft it is.

mash chickpea with fork

It should mash easily and have the consistency of mashed potatoes. If not, the rest of them need to be boiled.

Say what? Whoever heard of boiling canned chickpeas, but Suzie says they have to be really soft or the hummus will be grainy, and nobody wants that. She buys the Mid East brand from the Arab market because they’re always soft enough.

Mid East brand chickpeas, tahini and olive oil

Suzie’s favorite Mid East brand chickpeas, tahini and olive oil.
Photo credit: SM

Put the chickpeas in a pan along with the water from the can and boil for five minutes.

Boiling canned chickpeas for hummus

Boiling canned chickpeas

Mix tahini with the water in a small bowl.

Tahini mixed with water

Tahini mixed with water

Juice the lemons into a measuring cup.

Dice the garlic.

Four cloves of diced garlic for hummus

Four cloves of diced garlic

Instructions for Lebanese hummus

Drain the boiled chickpeas and begin blending them in a food processor or mini chopper like mine. (Using a mini chopper I have to do this in batches.)

Chickpeas in my mini chopper

Chickpeas in my mini chopper

Throw in the garlic and some salt and add the tahini/water mixture along with some lemon juice. Put enough liquid in until the blended chickpeas become the consistency of yogurt.

You may not need to use all of the lemon juice. Taste it as you go along. I ended up not using 1 or 2 tablespoons. But you may need to add more water until the consistency is right.

blended chickpeas for hummus

Put the hummus in a bowl, smooth out the top and make a little swirl with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the reserved chickpeas on top. Garnish with extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of chopped parsley (dried or fresh). Then just around the outside edge sprinkle a little bit of ground cumin. Not too much because you don’t want it to overwhelm the chickpeas.

Hummus garnished with olive oil, parsley flakes and ground cumin

Hummus garnished with olive oil, parsley flakes and ground cumin

Hummus garnished with olive oil, parsley flakes and ground cumin

Now serve with some nice, soft pita bread or raw vegetables. Many times I’ll have hummus as a light lunch with carrot sticks.

Hummus on pita bread

Hummus on pita bread

This is so good you might end up eating the whole thing. But just in case you don’t, you can freeze the leftovers.

Try this for yourself and let me know what you think!

My favorite yellow squash recipes

This year I planted my first vegetable garden in many years. My motivations were to save money on food and be able to eat nutritious organic vegetables within minutes of harvesting. One of my choices was yellow squash because it’s low carb, easy to grow and has lots of vitamins.

I was so excited watching the little sprouts rise out of the ground and couldn’t wait for my babies to start bearing fruit. I resolved to keep on top of the situation by picking the squash while they were still quite small.

Every day I got such satisfaction watering the plants and charting their progress: the first leaf, the first blossom, the first tiny squash developing. I longed for the day when I could start harvesting.

Well that day finally came and nearly every day afterward I’d pick four or five little squash and sauté them up for my dinner. Things were under control. I got this, I thought.

Then the inevitable happened. Not content to stay neatly in their little plot, virtually overnight my babies had grown into monsters, seemingly bent on world domination. They began choking out my other vegetables, spilling out of the garden and marauding across the sidewalk.

And with it came squash. Lots and lots of squash. I gave away as much as I could but was still left with a small mountain. By this time I was ready to find some new recipes for all that squash, and here are my favorites—roasted yellow squash and jalapeño soup, tamale squash pie casserole, and pepperoni pizza squash.

Roasted yellow squash jalapeño soup

Roasted yellow squash jalapeno soup

Roasted yellow squash jalapeno soup

Ingredients

1½ lb yellow squash, cut into ½” slices
3 jalapeños
1 chopped onion
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
1T ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1½ cans of chicken broth
4 to 6 oz half and half
olive oil
salt and pepper
sour cream and chives to garnish

Instructions

Place the squash, jalapeños, onion and garlic and in roasting pan. Drizzle with olive and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 425° for 30 to 45 minutes, until they look like this.

yellow squash jalapeno soup2

Roasted squash, jalapenos, garlic and onions

Peel the skin off the jalapeños. You can also scrape out the seeds if desired. Put all the vegetables in a saucepan with cumin, oregano and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Purée the vegetables with an immersion blender. Add the half and half. Turn the heat back on until soup starts to bubble.

Pureed yellow squash jalapeno soup

Pureed yellow squash jalapeno soup

Serve with a little sour cream on top and a sprinkling of chives.

Spicy yellow squash jalapeno soup topped with sour cream and chives

Spicy yellow squash jalapeno soup topped with sour cream and chives

Tamale squash pie casserole

For this recipe I used squash instead of corn and it came out great! This tamale pie is a little bit spicy and very cheesy.

A slice of tamale squash pie

A slice of tamale squash pie

Ingredients

1 lb hamburger
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
black pepper
1 to 2T chili powder
1 lb yellow squash, sliced
1 7-oz can green chilis
1 lg can olives, sliced
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp cayenne pepper
olive oil
grated cheese

For the corn meal topping:

¾ cup corn meal
2 cups water
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chili powder
1T butter
grated cheese

Ingredients for tamale squash pie

Ingredients for tamale squash pie

About a pound of squash for tamale pie casserole

About a pound of squash for tamale pie casserole

Instructions

Cook the onions in a large skillet with olive oil. When they start to brown add the hamburger, garlic, salt and pepper. I also threw in a few jalapeños for good measure.

Browning the meat, onions and garlic with a few jalapenos

Browning the meat, onions and garlic with a few jalapenos

When the hamburger is cooked, add the chili powder and cook for about a minute. Then add the squash, green chilis, olives, tomato sauce, sugar and cayenne pepper.

Vegetables added to browned meat

Vegetables added to browned meat

Simmer for 25 minutes then stir in a generous amount of grated cheese.

Adding grated cheese to tamale squash pie

Adding grated cheese to tamale squash pie

Ten or 15 minutes before the meat mixture is done, start cooking the corn meal in a pot with water, salt and chili powder. Stir constantly until it starts to thicken up. At that point add butter.

(I actually used organic polenta because I couldn’t find organic corn meal. The polenta is a coarser grind than corn meal and has more texture. Why organic? Because it’s non GMO.)

Adding butter to cooked corn meal

Adding butter to cooked corn meal

Add even more cheese.

Putting cheese into cooked corn meal

Putting cheese into cooked corn meal

Spread the corn meal over the meat.

Note: If you’re not using an oven-proof skillet, you’ll need to transfer the meat into a buttered casserole dish.

Cooked corn meal goes on top of meat mixture

Cooked corn meal goes on top of meat mixture

Top with—yes—more cheese. I probably use about 8 oz of cheese altogether.

Cheese goes on top of the corn meal

Cheese goes on top of the corn meal

Pop the casserole in the oven at 375° for 40 minutes. This is what it looks like when it’s done. Saucy with a thin crunchy shell on top from the melted cheese.

Tamale squash pie casserole

Tamale squash pie casserole

Let it cool for a little bit before serving.

A serving of tamale squash pie casserole

A serving of tamale squash pie casserole

Pepperoni pizza squash

This is by far my favorite recipe with all the flavor of pizza and none of the carbs. It’s so good I don’t even miss the crust, and the quickest to put together of the three recipes. The amounts are left off because you can make as little or as much as you want.

Pepperoni pizza squash

Pepperoni pizza squash

Ingredients

yellow squash cut into slices
marinara sauce (my favorite one is Bertoli Organic Olive Oil, Basil & Garlic)
quattro formaggio grated cheese
pepperoni slices
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves (optional garnish)

quattro formaggio and pepperoni

Quattro formaggio and pepperoni

Instructions

Sauté the squash in a frying pan with olive oil, salt and pepper until browned.

Sauteed yellow squash

Sauteed yellow squash

Transfer to a baking dish to cover the bottom in one layer.

First layer: squash

First layer: squash

Put enough marinara sauce on top to cover the squash.

Second layer: marinara sauce

Second layer: marinara sauce

Then sprinkle with cheese.

Third layer: cheese

Third layer: cheese

Top with pepperoni.

Fourth layer: pepperoni

Fourth layer: pepperoni

Bake in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Baked pepperoni pizza squash

Baked pepperoni pizza squash

Garnish with basil leaves torn into pieces if desired.

I’m eating this whole thing!

The perfect bite

The perfect bite

Heaven!

Too easy spicy baked chicken

I always keep a bag of frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs on hand for those times when I don’t feel like cooking something elaborate. Today is one of those days when I want something tasty without dirtying up a pan. This dish goes from freezer to plate in an hour.

I just put a piece of foil over the toaster oven baking sheet, throw two pieces of frozen chicken on top, and season. The real magic is in the seasoning, and this is my latest favorite combination of flavors.

hot sauce, sea salt, smoked paprika, ground cumin

Hot sauce, sea salt, smoked paprika, ground cumin

Directly on top of the frozen chicken I squirt some Tapatío hot sauce followed by sea salt, smoked paprika and ground cumin. In the toaster oven it goes, 350 degrees for one hour.

Frozen seasoned chicken thighs on foil

Frozen seasoned chicken thighs on foil

One hour later, cooked spicy smoky chicken

One hour later, cooked spicy smoky chicken

The hot sauce is tangy and the paprika is sweet and smoky, kind of like a barbecued potato chip. Altogether, it’s really good.

Sweet potatoes with garam masala

Sweet potatoes with garam masala

To go with it I’ve got some leftover sweet potato. I microwaved it, topped it with butter, salt and garam masala. It tastes a little like pumpkin pie and for some reason I’m really liking it with the chicken.

Here’s the completed dish

I poured some of the juice over the chicken. Yum-my!

Baked spicy chicken with sweet potatoes

Baked spicy chicken with sweet potatoes

You should give this recipe a try when you want something fast and fuss-free.

Butterscotch pots de creme in 5 minutes

Faster than you can say “instant pudding,” you can make butterscotch pots de creme from scratch, without a double boiler! It’s insanely easy to do and it only involves a blender and a microwave.

This is a variation of a recipe by the Pioneer Woman for chocolate pots de creme. Oddly enough, her recipe does not use any milk or cream, which I guess makes it “faux pots,” or something like that.

Anyway, I found her recipe when I was searching for a quick yet impressive dessert for a dinner party. It calls for chocolate chips, but I only had butterscotch chips so I used those with some half and half.

Check it out.

Ingredients to make butterscotch pots de creme

butterscotch pots de creme ingredients

Quick butterscotch pots de creme recipe

  • butterscotch chips, 12 oz
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup of half and half, scalding hot
  • whipped cream, lightly sweetened
  • vanilla cookie (optional) for garnish

Put the butterscotch chips in a blender. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla. It’s very important that the eggs are room temperature. Mix the butterscotch chips and eggs together until they are well blended. Heat the half and half in a microwave until scalding hot (about two minutes). Remove the cap from the blender lid. With the blender running, pour the half and half slowly into the blender. Blend thoroughly, about two minutes. Pour immediately into demitasse cups or dessert dishes. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream and vanilla cookie if desired.

Step 1: Put butterscotch chips in a blender

butterscotch chips in blender

Step 2: Put eggs, vanilla and salt in with the butterscotch chips and blend

Make sure the eggs are room temperature

eggs and butterscotch in blender for pots de creme

The eggs will cook with the addition of the hot half and half. You need to pour it in slowly so the eggs don’t scramble.

Step 2: Add the scalding hot half and half

Pour slowly through the lid while the blender is running

pouring cream in blender for butterscotch pots de creme

Step 3: Pour into dessert cups

Leave room for whipped cream!

butterscotch pots de creme without garnish

Put in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Step 4: Garnish with whipped cream and a vanilla cookie

butterscotch pots de creme

This is a very sweet dessert, so when I made the whipped cream for the topping, I only used a smidgen of sugar (1T per cup of cream) and added a pinch of salt.

When chilled, the pots de creme do not set up thick like pudding. The texture is thin, truly like a little pot of cream!

Baked chicken with homemade pesto

Here’s a really simple recipe with just two main components, chicken and pesto.

I’m always looking for ways to use the abundant basil growing in my yard. My favorite thing is to make homemade pesto. And I discovered it’s really delicious on baked chicken.

A generous coating of pesto seems to insulate the chicken and makes it come out extra juicy and flavorful. Even after baking, the pesto retains its fresh basil taste.

Spaghetti and pan roasted broccoli florets complete the meal.

Homemade pesto recipe

Ingredients for pesto

ingredients for homemade pesto

A few simple ingredients make an aromatic pesto:

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese that you grate yourself
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put pine nuts in the blender

pine nuts in blender for pesto

Add fresh basil

basil in blender for pesto

Consider growing your own basil. It can be kept in a pot indoors or planted in your garden. Either way, it’s very easy to grow. I love being able to go to my garden any time I want to pick fresh basil!

Pour in the olive oil

adding olive oil to basil for pesto

Invest in a good quality extra virgin olive oil. As you can see from the first picture above, I buy Kirkland Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Costco. It’s very reasonably priced and has an intense olive taste. And unlike many olive oil brands out there, it’s been proven to be 100 percent pure extra virgin olive oil.

Next comes the garlic

chopped garlic in blender for pesto

Okay, I cheated here a little bit and used chopped garlic in a jar.

Grated parmesan cheese

parmesan cheese in blender for pesto

I recommend buying chunks of parmesan cheese and grating it yourself. I grate mine, put it in plastic bags and store it in the freezer.

And finally, salt and pepper

parmesan cheese in blender for pesto

I use either kosher salt or sea salt.

Blend everything together

blending pesto

This takes a minute or two. You may have to stop a couple of times and push the basil down.

The final product

fresh homemade pesto in blender

Look at that gorgeous color!

Now grease a baking dish with olive oil

grease pan with olive oil

Place the chicken thighs in the pan

raw chicken in baking dish

Put salt and pepper on both sides. I like using chicken thighs because they tend to stay moist even if you bake them for a long time.

Coat the chicken generously with pesto

chicken coated with pesto before baking

You may not need to use all of the pesto. If you have any left over, it’s great on eggs, sandwiches and salads.

Place the chicken thighs into an oven preheated to 375 degrees. Bake for about 90 minutes. Chicken is done when the juices run clear.

The chicken is ready

baked chicken pesto

Dinner is served

pesto chicken, spaghetti and broccoli

To finish the plate I added whole wheat spaghetti and pan roasted broccoli, with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. I put some of the pan juices over the spaghetti and chicken.

Simple, tasty and healthy. What more could you ask for?

pesto chicken with spaghetti and broccoli

Super easy caramel apple dump cake

If an apple cobbler and a dutch apple pie got together, they might taste something like this Caramel Apple Dump Cake.

I love experimenting with dump cake because it’s so quick and easy to make and it always turns out great. If you don’t have time to make an apple pie or apple cobbler, you can prepare an apple dump cake in no time at all. You might even decide you like it better!

So follow along with me as I show you how to make a Caramel Apple Dump Cake.

Why dump cake is an easy dessert recipe

For those who don’t know, dump cakes are so named because you just dump the ingredients in layers into a pan. You don’t need a bowl or a mixer, just the one pan that you are going to bake in. That’s it! One baking pan, five ingredients, 50 minutes in the oven and you have a scrumptious dessert suitable for any occasion.

What you need to make caramel apple dump cake

caramel apple dump cake ingredients

Pictured here are all the ingredients you need to make a Caramel Apple Dump Cake. Crushed pineapple, spice cake mix, butter, chopped pecans and caramel apple pie filling. Note: I didn’t have crushed pineapple so I whizzed up the slices in food chopper.

You also need a 9″ x 13″ baking pan coated with cooking spray.

Caramel apple dump cake recipe

  • 20 oz can of crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 21 oz can Caramel Apple Pie Filling
  • 1 box of spice cake
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans
  • 1 stick of butter cut into thin slices

Layer the crushed pineapple in the pan. Cover the pineapple with the caramel apple pie filling. Spread the dry cake mix over the top of the pie filling. Spread the chopped pecans over the cake mix. Cover the cake mix with thin slices of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 48 to 53 minutes. Bake until the crust is brown, but not too dark.

Step 1: Spread the crushed pineapple over the bottom of the pan

Be sure to spray the pan with cooking spray first

crushed pineapple layer for apple dump cake

Step 2: Spread the caramel apple pie filling over the pineapple

apple pie filling layer in apple dump cake

Step 3: Layer the dry cake mix over the top of the apple pie filling

cake mix layer of apple dump cake

Step 4: Add a layer of chopped pecans over the dry cake mix

pecan layer of apple dump cake

Step 5: Spread thin slices of butter over the top of the pecans

butter slices on top of apple dump cake

The finished caramel apple dump cake

After baking for about 50 minutes

serving of caramel apple dump cake

How’s this for an easy dessert? I recommend serving the Caramel Apple Dump Cake while it’s still warm. It can be served by itself or made extra special by adding a scoop of softened vanilla ice cream.

Want a bite?

closeup of caramel apple dump cake

Fresh out of the oven, this Caramel Apple Dump Cake will delight your taste buds. The caramel apple filling has just a hint of cinnamon and brown sugar. The pineapple blends in so nicely with the apples and adds a subtle tanginess. All the juices have bubbled up and the butter has melted down through the cake mix to form a soft crust/topping with the chopped pecans for texture.

Enjoy!

Cake help: Chocolate brownie disaster

Help! How can I fix these sunken brownies?

So here I was, baking chocolate brownies for Christmas gifts. They looked great and smelled great when I took them out of the oven. A few minutes later, my brownies sank in the middle.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if I’d made them for me. I’d just eat the evidence and no one would be the wiser. But I had a party to go to and no time to make anything else. I had to make these brownies look good fast using what I already had on hand.

Find out how I fixed this brownie disaster.

Help for uneven cakes and brownies

sunken browniesI used a brownie mix and followed the instructions for fudge brownies. They’re meant to be gooey in the middle, kind of like a flourless chocolate cake. In my experience it’s pretty normal for the center to be lower than the sides.

A lot of times you can trim the top of a cake or brownies to even them out, then top them off with a thick layer of frosting. But my brownies were too sunken in the middle to even out that way. The center was about an inch lower than the sides.

So I decided to turn them into “filled” brownies.

My quick solution for sunken brownies

Make a filling for the center

fixed sunken browniesI decided the best way to salvage my brownies was to fill the center. All I had on hand were ingredients to make buttercream frosting and M&M candies for decoration. So I made a filling from a mixture of brownie crumbs and chocolate frosting.

I trimmed around the edges of the brownies and made crumbs from the trimmings. Then I mixed the crumbs with about an equal amount of homemade chocolate frosting which is similar to making cake pops. Sounds a little funny but it tastes good.

I spread the filling in the center, sealed the cut edges with a crumb coat, then frosted and decorated. See my step by step photos below.

Trim off the brownie edges

trim edges off brownies

Take a knife and slice off the edges of the brownies.

Brownies after edges trimmed off

trimmed brownies

After the edges are trimmed off, it’s more even but there’s still a depression in the center.

A bowl of brownie trimmings

bowl of brownie trimmings

These are trimmings from five pans of brownies.

Make crumbs from the brownie trimmings

brownie crumbs

My mini chopper turns brownie trimmings into crumbs super fast.

Add brownie crumbs to homemade chocolate buttercream frosting (recipe below)

add brownie crumbs to frosting

Make about an equal amount of frosting to the amount of crumbs you have.

Basic buttercream frosting recipe

Cream one stick of butter. Add one pound of powdered sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla and a few tablespoons of milk or water to thin the frosting.

For chocolate buttercream frosting, mix in powdered cocoa along with the powdered sugar. I don’t measure this; I just go by how it looks, but I think you need ½ to ¾ cup of cocoa powder.

The finished brownie crumb filling

brownie crumb filling

Here’s what the filling looks like after mixing the brownie crumbs with the frosting. It’s very thick and will do a beautiful job of filling in the sunken brownies. It might look a little strange but, trust me, it tastes really good!

Fill the center of the brownies and add a “crumb coat” to the cut edges

cake help brownie10

I just made a glaze with powdered sugar and water to spread over the cut edges of the brownies. This helps seal in the crumbs before adding the frosting. I probably would have skipped this step if I was going to be using chocolate frosting. But since I wanted to do white, any chocolate crumbs would really show.

Add edible glitter to frosted brownies

edible glitter on frosted brownies

I frosted the brownies with white frosting and sprinkled with edible glitter.

Frosted and decorated brownies. Disaster averted!

frosted and decorated filled brownies

White frosting, a little edible clear glitter and some M&Ms are the finishing touches to these rescued brownies.

Brownies topped with a pretty bow. A simple gift of brownies looks special with a pretty bow on top.

wrapped brownies

These brownies are now ready for the party!

More ideas to disguise sunken cakes and brownies. Turn them into a decadent dessert!

My brownies were so sunken in they almost looked like tart shells, and that gave me an idea. Why not add some no-bake fillings and make something really special. So here are some ideas to get you started. I’m sure you can think of more:

  1. Black forest brownies. Spread a can of prepared cherry pie filling on top of the brownies, top with whipped cream or Cool Whip, garnish with chocolate sprinkles
  2. Boston cream brownies. Make vanilla pudding and spread on top of brownies. After the pudding sets up, melt 2 oz of chocolate chips and drizzle over the top.
  3. Chocolate chip cream cheese brownies. Mix 8 oz cream cheese, 14 oz sweetened condensed milk, ¼ cup lemon juice and 1 tsp vanilla together. Pour over brownies and cover the top with chocolate chips.
  4. Chocolate and peanut butter fudge brownies. Mix one at a time: 1 lb powdered sugar, ½ cup peanut butter, 6T butter, 1/4 tsp salt, 4 tsp milk and 1T vanilla. Spread over the top and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
  5. Triple chocolate brownies. Make chocolate pudding and cover the brownies with it. Let the pudding set up and sprinkle chocolate chips all over.

Some brownies don’t need rescuing. These recipes are supposed to be foolproof.

You can’t beat the convenience of a boxed brownie mix and most people think the flavor is just as good as homemade. But if you’re ready to ditch the mix and make brownies from scratch, here are some really decadent brownie recipes.

Turkey soup from leftover turkey

Use Thanksgiving leftovers to make turkey soup

Thanksgiving’s over and you’re left with a few turkey scraps and the carcass. You might be tempted to throw it out, but don’t! That bird still has one more trick up its wing. Here’s an easy soup recipe you can make with your leftover turkey and carcass.

If you’re just too tired to think about cooking something else right now, no problem. Just wrap up the turkey carcass and scraps and put them in the freezer for a couple of weeks and come back to this recipe. Otherwise, let’s get started making a hearty turkey soup.

My original recipe from Thanksgiving leftovers

Stretch your food dollars and make homemade turkey soup

I’m lucky enough that I don’t have to make Thanksgiving dinner, and even luckier that my hostess sends me home with the carcass and some leftover meat. So I came up with this turkey soup recipe that’s foolproof and tasty every time. And you wouldn’t believe how wonderful it smells while it’s cooking! Savory poultry seasoning is the key.

And you’re not limited to just using turkey leftovers at Thanksgiving. This is a great recipe to make year round using leftover chicken carcasses. Think about those yummy rotisserie chickens you can get at the market, Costco or Sam’s Club. Wrap up the carcass and stick it in the freezer. When you get two or three of them, go ahead and make this recipe. You’ll get a few extra meals from those $5 chickens. How’s that for stretching a buck!

homemade turkey soup from carcassIngredients

  • Turkey carcass and leftover turkey (cut into chunks)
  • 12 oz carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1½ onions chopped
  • 5 stalks of celery sliced
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2½T poultry seasoning
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ stick of butter (2 oz)
  • ¼ to ½ cup of regular or whole wheat flour

Instructions

  1. Place the turkey carcass in a large pot along with the vegetables, rice and seasoning. (The leftover turkey meat, butter and flour will be used later.) Put enough water in the pot to nearly cover the turkey carcass. Bring to a boil and cook for about an hour. The veggies should be tender.
  2. Remove the turkey carcass from the pot and take the meat off the bones. Put the turkey scraps back in the pot along with the leftover turkey meat.
  3. In a small frying pan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook 3 to 5 minutes to make a roux. Gradually add some broth into the roux and stir all the lumps out. When the roux is about the thickness of gravy, gradually add it into the soup. Mix well and cook until the broth is thickened, about 15 minutes or so. Add more salt and pepper if desired.

Poultry seasoning, the key to a flavorful turkey soup

Poultry seasoning, a blend of sage, marjoram and thyme, makes a tasty soup with leftover turkey. Here’s a good recipe to make your own poultry seasoning blend with spices you probably already have in your cupboard.

Pictorial for making turkey soup from a carcass

Put the turkey carcass, spices and vegetables in the pot with enough water to almost cover the carcass.

Turkey carcass prior to making soup

Turkey carcass prior to making soup

Remove the carcass after boiling for an hour and take the meat off the bones.

meat removed from turkey carcass

Meat removed from turkey carcass

Make the roux. This is what it looks like after cooking for about five minutes, prior to adding broth.

Making the roux for turkey soup

Making the roux for turkey soup

Add broth to the roux until it’s about as thick as gravy, then mix the roux into the soup.

Roux with broth added

Roux with broth added

Cook the soup for about 15 minutes after adding the roux.

Homemade turkey soup

Homemade turkey soup

Time to eat!

Savory turkey soup from leftover turkey

Savory turkey soup from leftover turkey