Does Anyone Love Caramel as Much as Me?

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I love all things caramel. And this snack definitely satisfies. Caramel Crispix even gets bonus points in the summer because you don’t have to heat up the oven and the house making it. Did I say the main ingredient is cereal so you can eat it for breakfast? Ding, ding, ding, extra bonus points! Make a batch today.

Caramel Crispix

  • 9 – cups Crispix cereal
  • 1 – cup brown sugar
  • ½ – cup margarine
  • ½ – teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – cup light corn syrup
  • ½ – teaspoon baking soda

Spray the inside of a large, heavy–duty, brown paper grocery bag with cooking spray.  Pour the cereal into the bag.  Line a large cookie sheet with 2 layers of wax paper.  Spray the top layer of wax paper with cooking spray.

Put the margarine, corn syrup, and brown sugar in a 4–cup glass measuring pitcher and microwave the syrup on high for 3 minutes.  Stir the syrup and microwave it again for 1 minute.  Remove the syrup from the microwave and stir in the salt and soda.  Keep stirring as the syrup foams up and turns light golden brown.  Pour the syrup over the cereal and stir it a little without getting burned.

Loosely, roll the top of the bag closed and microwave the bag of cereal on high for 1 minute.  Put an oven mitt on each hand to remove the bag from the microwave and shake the bag upside down and sideways.  Shake the bag of cereal gently so the bag won’t tear.  Microwave the bag for another minute.  Shake the bag again and dump the cereal onto the cookie sheet to cool.  Even though one batch seems like a single serving, try not to eat all of the cereal before breaking it up in a bowl to share.  Store any leftovers in a Ziploc bag.

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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Family, Friends, Food, Fun. I love Christmas! Families gather around the world to revel in  the joy of the holiday season and family fellowship. Friends party and exchange gifts. Cards and family newsletters are sent to all the wonderful extended families. Lurking in the background of every event is the best food EVER. December is the month of candy making, bread baking, cupcaking, diet forsaking, tastebud waking, leftover taking, and overstuffed stomach aching. December is also the month of peppermint – drinks, candy, ice cream. For years, December was the only time you could find peppermint chocolate chips in the grocery store, which is why peppermint brownies were considered a Christmas treat. These brownies are a huge hit at any gathering.

Christmas Peppermint Brownies

Brownie:

  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 – teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1¾ – cups Hershey’s chocolate–flavored syrup
  • 4 – eggs
  • 1 – cup flour
  • ½ – teaspoon salt

Filling:

  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ – teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 – cups powdered sugar
  • 4 – drops green food coloring
  • 1 – tablespoon water

Frosting:

  • 9 – tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 – 10 ounce bag mint chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 13x9x2 pan. In a large mixing bowl with the mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, salt, vanilla, and chocolate syrup. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour. As soon as the flour is moist, turn the mixer on medium and beat the batter for 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the brownies for 30–40 minutes, until done. The brownies may look wet in the middle so use a toothpick to make sure they’re done. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature. It’s ok if the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan as they cool.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and powdered sugar. Beat in the water, peppermint, and food coloring until the filling is creamy and turns a soft green. Spread the filling evenly over the brownies, just to the edges. Refrigerate the brownies at least 2 hours, until the filling is set.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and mint chocolate chips, stirring occasionally. Do not boil the chocolate. When the butter and chips are melted, remove the pan from the heat and cool the chocolate for at least 30–60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread the frosting over the green filling and refrigerate the brownies until the frosting is set. Store the brownies in the refrigerator.

Gorge the Gourd!

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Isn’t it a little backwards that we gorge on pumpkin before Halloween? Shouldn’t we be gutting all of our carved pumpkins on November 1st and baking those wonderful pumpkin pies? Well maybe that’s the logical way, but honestly we just can’t wait any longer. The cool Fall air kindles that pumpkin craving. Just look around. We have pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pancakes… pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

I have some terrific pumpkin recipes in my cookbook. If you love pumpkin, you will love every one of those recipes. Today, I’m sharing a simple snack for that pumpkin fix. I know you will enjoy it.

Fall Dip

  • 1 – 3.5 ounce box butterscotch pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon allspice
  • 1 – 5.1 ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ – teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 – 15 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin
  • ¼ – teaspoon ginger
  • 1 – 16 ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pudding mixes with the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Blend in the pumpkin with a mixer on low speed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the Cool Whip until the dip starts to thicken. Put the dip in a nice bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Serve the dip with animal crackers or graham crackers.

Tasty and Beautiful Don’t Always Take a Lot of Time

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Isn’t this pork tenderloin beautiful? And it tastes, Oh Soooo Good! But then, pork tenderloin tastes good roasted with just salt and pepper. Today I preheated the oven to 325. Then I placed the tenderloin with salt and pepper in a roaster with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and a splash of diet Coke. That’s it! Push in the meat thermometer and cook to 170. About halfway through, I stirred the cranberry sauce and spooned it over the roast. Pair this with a salad and you have a whole meal, easy on the calories and your time. It may take a little over an hour to cook, depending on the size of your roast, but during that time you can get stuff done around the house, watch TV, or work on your taxes like me. Enjoy.

International Women’s Day – My Story

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We’ve come a long way, Baby! Even in my short 62 years, lifestyles have changed so much. I still remember the hassle of hose with girdles and garter belts, pantyhose, and seamed stockings. Way back in the olden days, women were required to wear dresses to school and work – and we were not allowed to go bare-legged so the solution was to wear some kind of hosiery everyday. We would stand behind trees as the winter wind whipped up our dresses while waiting for the school bus to pick us up. It wasn’t until my Senior year in high school that the dress code was dropped and we could wear pants.  What a relief. In the workplace, pantsuits were allowed, but some companies still required dresses. And you certainly could not show up for a job interview wearing pants. I still cringe just thinking about all those days strapped into uncomfortable underwear. Men have no idea what it’s like, and back then they sure didn’t care.

I grew up in the Midwest and when you say Illinois, people always think of Chicago, The Windy City. Next door to Chicago, is Milwaukee. It’s pretty windy there, too. I did some computer work for St. Joe’s Hospital. One Monday morning, I flew to Milwaukee, picked up my luggage, and headed for the taxi stand. I could see it was windy, so before I stepped out the door I gathered the edge of my dress in both hands, along with a suitcase, garment bag, and briefcase. Despite holding my dress in both hands, the wind whipped my dress over my face as I walked out of the terminal. So embarrassing! And to make it worse, the cab driver let me know everyone noticed. I never travelled in a dress again. My company continued to insist that I travel in a dress, even when I showed them an article written about travel guidelines suggesting women never travel in nylons. I found another job and that company doesn’t exist anymore – these two facts are not related.

In celebration of all women everywhere and their stories, here are some chocolate cookies that just melt in your mouth.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

  • 6 – tablespoons butter
  • 2 – tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 – 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ – teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 – 12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • ¼ – teaspoon salt
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1½ – teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 – eggs
  • ½ – cup flour

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, chocolate squares, and 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and set it aside for later.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and eggs for about 2 minutes. Blend in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. By hand, stir in the melted chocolate, flour, and chocolate chips in that order. Cover the cookie dough and chill until firm – at least a couple hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a melon–baller, drop balls of dough 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies 10–12 minutes, until puffed. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Shop My Small Business

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Friday, November 25, 2016, is National Shop Small Business Day. A business doesn’t get any smaller than an independent, self-publishing author. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, my cookbook would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen, beginner cook or seasoned chef. You can find Caveman Chemistry, Bringing Science Back into Cooking on lulu.com, coil bound or paperback bound. Take a look, I think you’ll like it.

Breakfast Casseroles

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Breakfast casseroles are great. You build them the night before and then slip them into the oven in the morning. So handy, and Oh So GOOD!

When I was in high school, we lived in the #1 hog producing county in the US. And when the wind was right, you knew it. Sure hog farms can have a bad smell from time to time, but the ham, bacon, sausage, roasts, and ribs we get make up for any discomfort from the smell. Growing up with pigs, it’s no wonder we used pork to make some of our best breakfast casseroles. Since I moved to Texas, I have added a little jalapeño to spice it up. This is one of my favorite breakfast casseroles.

Sausage Potato Breakfast Casserole

  • 1 – 2 lb. bag frozen Southern–style hash browns, thawed
  • 1 – pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 – tablespoons butter
  • ½ – teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 – small onion, chopped
  • 1 – 16 or 32 ounce tube ground pork sausage
  • 1 – 8 ounce package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 – 8 ounce bag shredded cheddar cheese, I like more
  • 1 – teaspoon thyme
  • 1 – 8 ounce bag shredded mozzarella cheese, or more
  • 1 – teaspoon basil
  • 9 – eggs
  • 1 – tablespoon freeze-dried red jalapeño
  • ½ – cup half-n-half, milk, or cream
  • 1 – pinch paprika

Spread the hash browns in a 13x9x3 lasagna pan. Salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the onion and mushrooms in the butter with the thyme, basil, jalapeño, paprika, cayenne, and garlic salt. When the onion is soft, brown and crumble the sausage with the onion and mushrooms. Add half of the cheeses to the sausage and cook until the cheese is melted, stirring occasionally. In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and half-n-half. Pour the eggs over hash browns. Top the potatoes with the sausage mixture. Cover the pan and refrigerate the casserole overnight. Some people like to put the sausage mixture on top of the potatoes and then pour the eggs over everything.

Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 1 hour, until brown and bubbly. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the casserole and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 10 more minutes. This is one of those great recipes you can really customize to your own tastes. You can add bell pepper or hot peppers. You can add more eggs if you like it to be more like an omelet. You can stir the potatoes and sausage together before you add the eggs. The only thing I wouldn’t do is add more milk. It makes the casserole too runny. Add more cheese; you can’t have too much of that.