Category Archives: Recipes

“Homemade” Holiday Spice Cake


Homemade is not exactly accurate.  This cake is made from a box mix but I sorta think if you have to get the mixer out and turn the oven on it’s *almost* homemade.  Be prepared for a super easy cake recipe…  Here goes…

  1. Buy a boxed yellow cake mix.  They run anywhere from 1 – 2 bucks.  I’ve always heard you should keep a box on hand – they can be used for tons of dessert recipes.
  2. Follow directions on box…
  3. Here is my special part…. Remember when I bought that pumpkin pie spice a couple weeks ago?  Well, I added a tablespoon of the pumpkin pie spice and a splash of vanilla.  Then mixed…well, Milo mixed.


After it’s well mixed, pour into your greased and floured pan & bake according to directions.  We used a bunt cake pan because I think it looks prettier in our cake dome.  Seriously that is the only reason.  Ha!


Let your cake cool on a rack… While it’s cooling make this super easy caramel sauce that I mentioned in the pumpkin cheesecake post.  It’s Pioneer Woman’s and it is AMAZING.  That post that I linked to Pioneer Woman’s sauce is almost 2 years old but I was watching her Thanksgiving special earlier this week and she made the exact sauce and jarred it for all of her holiday pies!  It’s SO yummy.  Learn to make it and pour it on ALL THE DESSERTS!



Here is the hard part… After you make your caramel/brown sugar sauce, let it cool.  It’s SO hard to wait.  I actually coated my cake with a bit of it while it was a little warm because I wanted some to soak in and keep the cake moist.


Jar the rest of the sauce and use it for subsequent pieces of cake.  It makes for such a pretty presentation.


Told y’all it was easy.  It reminds me of the Cinnamon Cream Cake from Corner Baker… or that Amish friendship bread that I LOVE to eat with my morning coffee.  Have you had that?  Someone gives you some “starter” mix and it sits on your counter for a few days then you make friendship loaves and continue to pass around the recipe/starter.  I think it’s been around for a gazillion years… now I want some of that.  I’m going to have to go look on Pinterest to see if I can make a starter…  I haven’t had it in a while.

P.S.  Pumpkin Pie Spice doesn’t taste like pumpkin…it’s just a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.  You have to use it in conjunction with actual pumpkin to make a pumpkin pie/cake/cheesecake etc.

P.S.S.  I’ve had this cake mix in the pantry for a few weeks.  When I was at the grocery store last weekend they had boxes of spice cake in their holiday baking section… So I guess you could make it even easier by just BUYING a box spice cake mix… who knew.  But I think it’s still a good idea to have the plain cake mix and then you can use your spice cabinet to create whatever flavor your in the mood for!  Plus, having to actually measure out that tablespoon of pumpkin spice makes it feel a little more homemade, right?  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

P.S.S.S.  Found this link to the starter for Amish Friendship Bread.  This is just the starter, once the starter is ready you can use your favorite Friendship Bread recipe.  I’ve never made the starter, it’s always been given to me… I may try it… supposedly because it is made from this “starter” or sourdough process it has some pretty great health benefits.

Until next time,



The Easiest Pumpkin Cheesecake you will EVER make…


Over the last couple of weeks I’ve studied SEVERAL pumpkin pie recipes.  And yes, many of those were Martha Stewart’s.  But I’ll be honest, I don’t do complicated recipes with tons of ingredients that I will only use once.  I did consider these two though:

Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Those were the easiest ones I could find and they still seemed a bit arduous and I would have had to buy quite a few ingredients.  That second one is close to the one we ended up going with except I simplified it even more.  I combined about 10 different recipes I read through so I can’t really credit anyone except my sheer laziness.  You don’t even have to bake this cheesecake – just refrigerate it for a couple of hours.  SO friggin easy – my kids needed no help making this.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 8 oz package of cream cheese – softened
  • 1 cup of pumpkin puree (I used the Libby’s)
  • 1 cup of Whip Cream (you can add more if you like – depends on how fluffy you like your cheesecake)
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 9 inch Graham Cracker Crust – there are lots of easy recipes on how to make these, but I just bought one.  Again… laziness.
Milo is anxiously awaiting his turn to use the mixer... He isn't into sharing that responsibility.

Milo is anxiously awaiting his turn to use the mixer… He isn’t into sharing that responsibility.

Here’s what you do.  Mix the two sugars & cream cheese until creamy.  You may have to scrape your beaters a couple of times.  Just make sure they are mixed well.  Then add your pumpkin, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice and mix some more. Then put the mixer away…lol  Carefully FOLD in your whipped cream.  Spread mixture into your graham cracker pie crust.  Refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours.

It will be fabulous when you get it out of the fridge and you can eat it just like that…however… you HAVE to make this easy homemade caramel sauce.  It’s from Pioneer Woman and SOOOOOO easy. I could eat it by the spoonfuls!  We made it and then spooned it on when it was still warm on our pumpkin pie after the pie had chilled.  I took the rest and stored it in a small mason jar and when we eat subsequent pieces of pie we’ll just spoon it on.  Or put it on your ice cream… or just eat it straight out of the jar.  I was totally doing that earlier…

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of half & half or heavy cream (like Pioneer woman, I only had heavy cream on hand so I used that.  I’m sure either would be fantastic though.)  I keep heavy cream on hand for mashed potatoes, people that are visiting that like it in their coffee etc.

Here’s what you do:

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and heat on medium (maybe medium low depending on your stove) for about 5-7 minutes.  Serve!  I told you it was easy!  Cady and I were dying at how yummy this stuff is…

I’ve had some dang good cheesecakes (the pumpkin cheesecake at Cheesecake Factory is to die for…) and I hafta say… This one rivals those.  And I’ve also made cheesecakes the long drawn out way before… You know with the spring form pans and eggs and baking and cooling and crossing your fingers your top doesn’t crack…  Put this on your holiday table, people will appreciate it.


This may not have been EXACTLY a Martha Stewart post, but it was a Martha Stewart moment.  We made something delish, even put our own spin on it.  Enjoy!


Sugar cookies with my little man… (Martha and Me Series)

To see all of my Me and Martha posts, click here.

I had an unexpected “free” evening this past week.  Wednesday nights is generally my women’s bible study but we took the week off since several of us were out of town.  With a little extra time on my plate, I decided to do some baking with Milo.


I love cooking with my kids and do it often.  I actually have no memory of cooking with my mother at all.  My parents divorced when I was 5 and I lived with my Dad.  My dad was NOT a cook – I’m not even sure what we used to eat.  It always worked out, but I think we had a lot of hot dogs and tv dinners and drive-thru – which was fine with me!  I sort of remember my mom cooking before they divorced but I never remember being part of it.  My paternal grandmother, Elinor, was somewhat of a rustic cook.  She did lots of canning and jamming.  She cooked eggs and bacon every single morning.  It is such a comforting feeling to wake up to the smell of eggs & bacon and coffee brewing.  And I do remember her and my aunts all working for hours on Thanksgiving and Christmas to prepare large meals for the whole family… My maternal grandmother, Ruby Lee,  wasn’t really a cook either.  She was a single woman for most of her life – a career woman actually.  She was one of the first women in her area to attend college and was a well-known bookkeeper in a small town in Louisiana.  I went to live with her my sophomore year of high school and lived with her (or nearby) until I was finished with college and in my 20s.  She would roast chicken from time to time or make noodles or dumplings but not very often.  In fact every single Sunday after church we’d head over to the Piggly Wiggly (which at some point became a Brookshire Bros.) and hit up the buffet for our lunch.  I don’t have any recollections of her baking anything…pies, cookies, cakes – nada…  She loved Little Debbie snack cakes though and ALWAYS had a nice supply tucked away in the bread box.  I remember we would have the missionaries over once a month for dinner or lunch.  She’d have me make them grilled cheese sandwiches every time.  She used to say it was because everyone loved my grilled cheese sandwiches but now I think it’s because she didn’t want to cook! That memory makes me giggle. My grilled cheese sandwiches are not that great, not bad, but not great.  So anyway, I have always made an attempt to really cook with my kiddos.  I want them to have those memories with their mama that I long for.

This is a classic sugar cookie recipe from pg 41 of Martha Stewart’s Handmade Christmas. (click to enlarge if you need.)


I halved the recipe because it was most likely going to just be me and Milo.  It doesn’t make a ton though.  I think making the whole thing would be fine – you might just have 2 batches to bake.  But NO WHERE near 7 dozen… I’m not sure cookies could be that small!  And if they were, that would make me mad!  kidding.  Also, the first thing the recipe says is preheat your oven to 350.   Don’t do that.  You won’t be baking for a couple hours (the dough has to chill).

So first thing is cut up your butter into a bowl (2 sticks for whole recipe; 1 stick for half).

Then add your sugar. (3/4 cup for whole; 6 tablespoons for half)


^ Milo’s favorite part is counting out scoops of whatever ingredient is needed.  He’s really good about getting good scoops too!

Next beat the butter and sugar for a couple minutes until smooth.  You’ll probably have to clean out your beaters a couple of times.

yep, my 3 year old knows how to use a beater :)

yep, my 3 year old knows how to use a beater 🙂

Next up separate 2 yolks (1 if your halving the recipe) from your eggs (I obviously did this part).  Add the yolks and beat again for a couple of minutes.  Then add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tablespoon orange liqueur or cognac and beat again. I just added the tsp of vanilla cause we don’t have liqueur or cognac.  Next up add 2 1/2 cups (or 1 & 1/4 if your halving) of flour.


Then add 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and a pinch of salt.  We added slightly under a tsp of baking powder (since we were halving).


Then beat again.  Start on low speed and work your way up until it’s dough consistency.  Then put down some plastic wrap and pile your dough on top.


Then refrigerate for at least an hour.


After an hour or so we got our dough out and at this point I preheated the over to 350.  Then I put parchment paper on our cookie sheet and also a piece down on the counter with some flour.  I rolled the dough out pretty thin and let Milo (with some instruction) cut with the cookie cutters – the third project we’ve used them on.


At this point you can brush them with an egg wash (1 egg yolk & 1 tablespoon of cream), or you could decorate with royal icing or whatever you want.  I bought colored sugar topping because I knew Milo would love it.


Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Ours must be “big” because it took nearly the whole 15 minutes.  When you see them start to turn golden, they are done.


Fun, huh?  Such an easy peasy recipe – I mean a 3 year old can do it!

The last thing you do is enjoy those cookies.


Ours were pretty much gone within a few minutes.  I think we’ll make them again this weekend because they are simple and we obviously have all the ingredients.  I think cooking and crafting with your kids (even if it’s a nephew or niece) is so important. They will cherish those memories forever and hopefully pass them on to their kiddos.


Family Time – Apple Pie and Game Night (Me and Martha Series)

To see all posts from my Me and Martha series, click here.

Sundays in the Me and Martha series is dedicated to Family Time.  This Sunday was even better because it’s a holiday weekend (Matt and I took Columbus Day off) and also Alyssa is in town for the weekend.  It’s been a packed weekend and since we will be at the Stare Fair of Texas all day Monday, you probably won’t hear from me again until Tuesday.

We watched movies, shopped, and ate lots of yummy foods.  I thought I’d share a couple of recipes from Martha Stewart’s book Special Occasions.  This one is a little over 20 years old.  It gives you full menu ideas for different celebrations throughout the year (Easter, Fourth of July, Graduation).  I thought I’d pull a couple of recipes out that would be fun this time of year.  I chose the rustic artichoke & shallot puff pastry appetizer and also an apple tart.

The puff pastry recipe was easy enough.  We don’t eat a lot of artichoke.  I had to use frozen and I think it would have turned out better with fresh but they were still really yummy!


What I LOVED about this dish is that, of course, I used my fall cookie cutters!  And I also loved the puff pastry.  SO easy to work with and makes your appetizer look so elegant.  I had never used it before.  I will most definitely use it again.  We still have half a box left and I’m going to make breakfast puff pastries this week.  Bacon and egg and cheese on tops of some cut out pastry.  I think the kids will love it.

The second recipe we tried was the apple tart (we made ours more of an apple pie because I don’t have a tart pan but still…).   We will DEFINITELY make this one again.  It’s all simple ingredients and EASY.  The girls started by peeling and quartering a bag of granny smith apples.


We put 3 apples aside for the topping.  Once the girls finished peeling and quartering the apples, I put them in a pan and we coated them with sugar and lemon juice and butter (the amount the recipe called for).  They roasted at a low temp for 2.5 hours.  Once they were done, I let them cool then blended them up.  Martha said use a food mill or food processor.  I don’t have either of those, so I used the blender!  lol, it worked fine.  You could also just use your potato smasher because I think lumps might be a good thing if you are NOT determined to make this a traditional tart.  After I pureed the apples, we dumped them in the prebaked pie crust (there are also directions on simple pie crusts in the book – we bought the premade dough and put it in our own pie plate).  Last, we thinly sliced the remaining peeled apples and placed them on top.  We broiled the whole thing for around 10 minutes then coated the top with the apricot glaze.  The glaze was so easy.  It was apricot jam, brandy (which we sub apple juice for) and lemon juice.  It turned out LOVELY.  I mean, seriously!  We were all like, we totally made that and it’s beautiful!


We paired it with vanilla ice cream (still no blue bell here in Texas, but it’s coming soon) and a great card game.  If you love the tartness of granny smith apples this is the dessert for you!  My kids loved it.  I’m not a big apple person but I even liked it.  I think we will definitely make this again and I’ll try it with a sweeter variety of red apple and maybe even add a little cinnamon.  If it were up to the rest of the fam, they wouldn’t change a thing.


I love preparing food with my family and then sitting down to enjoy it together.  When you look at the pages of many of Martha Stewart’s entertaining books, they can be SO intimidating.  But I studied several in this book and found ones that we had 99% of the ingredients and that weren’t too complicated and went for it.  You can even modify them slightly to fit your family’s tastes.  The important part is finding something new (or a new process) and trying and also including the fam.  Win, win.  (recipe pic below…)



Biscuit Pot Pie


This is an old recipe that I have been making since the big kids were little bitties. It’s cheap and easy – the 2 things I like best about recipes! You’ll need:


  • 2 – 3 chicken breasts (cooked – I slow cooked mine from frozen all day in the slow cooker)
  • a bag of mixed veggies (your choice).  I get mine out when I start this process so they start thawing.
  • can of cream of chicken soup
  • can of cream of potato soup
  • can of biscuits (regular or grand)
  • about a cup of milk
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup shredded cheese (optional)
  • butter for your dish (also not required)

First up, preheat your oven to whatever the biscuits require.  Butter your baking dish.


Add half your biscuits to the bottom.


Bake until golden brown.  I forgot to take a pic of the dish with the baked biscuits in the bottom.  You’ll have to take my word for it.

While your biscuits are baking.  Heat your 2 soups and a soup can of milk in a saucepan.


Then stir in your cooked chicken…


Then add your veggies…


Then sprinkle in some cheese if you’d like… totally optional…


Mix it all up and it when it’s thoroughly heated, pour it into your baking dish…


Top with the remainder of biscuits… (flatten them out a little)


Bake for allotted time on your biscuit can – I reduce the heat slightly.  You don’t want the biscuits to get too done on the top and raw in the middle.  You may want to check the biscuits when you get the dish out to make sure they aren’t gooey in the middle.  If they are, reduce heat and put them back in for a bit.  Time & temp varies depending on ovens & the type of biscuit you buy.


Then eat it up!


Our favorite Asian noodle slaw salad


This is a super easy dish to make and is great for potlucks…  I love it in the summer, but honestly, I love it in colder months too…  You may think you won’t like this, but you will… trust me.  I think it’s been around for FOREVER so you may have seen a few versions.  This is the way WE like it…

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 2 packs of chicken Ramen Noodles
  • 2 bags of broccoli slaw (around 16 – 20 oz.)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • dried cranberries
  • sesame seeds

(Some people like to have green onions in theirs… or peanuts instead of sesame seeds… or NO cranberries – but this is the way we really love it.  You can customize those little things to make it  a dish you love too!)

First crush up the ramen noodles in their bag.  Not TOO hard or they’ll explode.  A few whacks is usually good – you just don’t want the noodles to remain in that big block.  Then add the noodles to a big bowl (just the noodles, put the spice packs aside).


Next dump in your broccoli slaw.  You can find the broccoli slaw in the salad bag section of the grocery store.  The recipe I was originally given called for 16 oz of slaw (or 2 bags)… I can’t seem to find smaller bags of the broccoli slaw so I just get the 12 oz bags and dump in a bag and a half.  The other half bag I always use for our fish tacos the same week.


Next, in a SEPARATE bowl, mix the following.


2/3 sugar, 1/3 apple cider vinegar, 1/4 veggie oil

Also dump in the spice packs and stir well.


Pour the liquid mixture over the slaw mixture.


Most of it will settle in the bottom on the noodles.  That’s ok.  I like to leave it like that.


Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for several hours (preferably over night.)  I general will stir it during it’s stay in the fridge, but if you don’t – it’s ok.


Once the noodles are soft enough, stir and then add the cranberries and about a cup of sesame seeds before serving.  YUM!  It keeps well and we also like it on the second day!


Our favorite easy chicken salad

It’s hot y’all.  This week in Texas, every single day is in the triple digits.  Tomorrow is supposed to be 106.  Dumb…  Anyway, because it’s so hot we try not to cook a ton this time of year.  I try and plan uncomplicated recipes that require very little ovening – ha, ovening.  That is totally a word.  We have a lot of grilled hot dogs, tacos/nachos, sandwiches, easy pastas, etc.  One of our favorites is this super easy chicken salad.  I’ve had tons of chicken salads and honestly, I love them all!  The kids don’t like a ton of veggies so in ours I leave out onions & celery.  Sometimes I sneak in a tiny bit of celery but usually I leave it out because I have to add it to the list to remember to buy it and I never do.  And when I do I only use one stalk and the rest goes bad.  I’ve read thru tons of chicken salad recipes and most of them also call for a TON of mayo.  I had one at a potluck that was so YUMMY and when my friend got me the recipe it called for a cup of mayo and 3/4 cup of miracle whip!!! NOT Kidding!  That’s like 1.5 cups of mayo (I sorta consider miracle whip mayo… although I won’t eat it…)  Another one I liked had half a bottle of caesar salad dressing – I liked that one but the kids weren’t big fans. So here is ours, easily adaptable and perfect for hot day lunches when we are mainly hanging in the pool!

Matt grills up 3 chicken breasts.  I don’t even marinate them first.  I didn’t get a picture of our grilled chicken but you get the idea.  You could also sauté or bake it, whatever you choose, but like I said – we grill a lot in the summer because it’s so easy.  I cut the chicken into small bite size pieces – you can shred it if you prefer.

Next I halve/quarter a cup to a cup and a half of grapes.  We always have grapes on hand because they are a popular summer snack!


Then I add a half cup to 3/4 cup of pecans. I love pecans and like my chicken salad crunchy so the more the better.


Next up cranberries… I get this size bag and add half.  This bag will allow me to make chicken salad twice.  That giant bag of pecans above lasts many times…


Then mayo… Although most recipes call for a ton of mayo, I don’t like that much.  Honestly I add 3 – 4 tablespoons then stir and then add a little more if needed.  I don’t like it yucky wet with mayo.  I also use light mayo – helps on the calorie intake and our family doesn’t notice the difference.  Add a little at a time and stir until you get the consistency you like.


Lastly, (not pictured) I sprinkle on Lawry’s seasoned salt and garlic powder.  I told you I make it with stuff I always have on hand.  We pile it on to Hawaiian rolls or croissants or if we are feeling particularly healthy, lettuce.  It’s actually a pretty healthy meal because it has low fat mayo (and not too much), nuts, fruit and grilled chicken.  Best part about this recipe is you can change it up depending what you have on hand.  You could use apples or walnuts or slivered almonds or whatever.


I snapped these pics with my iPhone while prepping and it still only took me 5 minutes.  I then forced the kids in from the pool to eat.  It’s THAT easy. Not pictured: the big bag of ruffles we put in the middle of the table when we have this – I can’t have chicken salad samiches without ruffles… it’s a rule!