Two Irresistible Holiday Treats

This is sort of a re-post.  Originally posted on my “chatty” blog Lake Mary Musings, I decided awhile back that I would move the recipe posts from that blog to this new blog.  These make wonderful gifts during the holidays…hostess gifts, for example, or teachers’ gifts…bosses’ gifts, employee gifts…etc.  But make enough to keep at home!

Did you know that the first known use of the word chocolaty was in 1926?  I didn’t either until I decided to look up a proper spelling. says you can spell it either chocolaty or chocolatey.  The bit about its first known use was interesting, I thought.  However, they do not expand on where it was used or who first used it.  Fodder for another post, perhaps.

Cashew Clusters

These are Cashew Clusters.  I love them.  Luckily, this delicious confection is simple to whip up.  A friend of mine actually brought some of these to a card party a couple of weeks ago.  She was kind enough to share the recipe…don’t know where she found it, though.  It’s probably decades old and I’m just now finding out about it.

Here’s how to make them:


1 (12-oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (12-oz) pkg. butterscotch chips
2-1/4 cups granola
2 cups cashew pieces

Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips in a glass bowl in the microwave.  It only takes a minute or two…try one minute then stir and add another minute.   Or you could melt them in a saucepan but slowly so they don’t scorch.

Add the granola and cashews.  Mix thoroughly.

I have a mini-muffin tin which I lined with those tiny paper cupcake liners.  I dropped about a teaspoonful of the mixture into each of the paper liners.  You wouldn’t need those, of course.  Just line up the papers on a tray and fill them that way.

About the granola.  I bought just a plain granola without raisins or spices.  You could use any kind you like, however.  I wanted the cashews to take center stage.

Believe it or not, I bought the granola, took it home and made these clusters before I even realized that the granola is made very near where my sister and brother-in-law in Washington live!  In the Skagit Valley of Washington state.   I’m just pleased as punch about that.

That’s it!  I’m going to package some of these up in small boxes lined with parchment, tie with pretty ribbons and bells and give as little gifts.

This next recipe is a popular one for Holiday treats.  It’s called by many names but are quite simply Peanut Butter Bonbons.

Peanut Butter Bonbon

The recipe is from   of The Virtual Goody Plate.  I think you should pop over there for the actual recipe because her bonbon is dusted with edible star glitter.  Yes, it is – you’ve gotta see it!  I don’t have edible glitter on mine, of course, but you can bet that as soon as I can get to a Michael’s (a craft shop here in the States) I’ll be picking up a bunch.

And her recipe is printable, too.  In fact, that’s how I stumbled upon her blog…she and I both figured out how to put a printable button from the  Food Bloggers Unite! website.

“There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.” – Anonymous

Apple Pie Bars

This is a great recipe that I was lucky enough to get from a friend when we lived in Omaha.  No idea where it came from originally but it’s a keeper.

Everyone loves apple pie, don’t they?  But one apple pie for a house full of guests doesn’t go very far.

Since this is baked in a rectangular baking pan or cookie sheet, you can cut it into as many pieces as you like…12 gigantic, 18 large or 24 smaller portions.  Top with a scoop of ice cream or cinnamon-spiked whipped cream.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

What you need:

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening (such as Crisco)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 egg, separated

8 cups peeled & sliced apples
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Dash of vanilla or almond extract (or lemon extract would be good, I think)

What you do:

  1. Combine the flour, 2 Tbsp sugar and salt.  Cut in the butter and shortening with a pastry blender (or use a food processor).  Put the egg yolk in a measuring cup and add milk to equal 2/3 cup.  Add to flour mixture and blend together.  The dough will be sticky so turn it onto a floured surface and form into two flattened rectangles.  Chill for 15 or 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the apples, 1 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. When pastry is chilled, roll out one portion on a floured surface.  Fit onto a large baking sheet.  I used an 11″ by 15″ baking dish.*
  4. Roll out the second portion of dough.
  5. Sprinkle the pastry on the baking dish with two or three handfuls of cornflakes and place the apple mixture over that.
  6. Top with the remaining pie crust.  If you’ve used a baking sheet, you can crimp the edges like you would for a pie.  If you’ve used a baking dish, just tuck the edges in around the filling.
  7. Beat the egg white until stiff and brush over the top crust.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for one hour until the filling is bubbly and the crust has browned nicely.
  8. Blend the powdered sugar with the vanilla or almond extract and enough water to make a drizzling consistency.  Let the bars cool for a few minutes and then drizzle with the glaze.

*NOTE:  It’s tricky getting the pastry onto the pan without tearing but not to worry…you can just press it together wherever it pulls apart.  Also, after I roll out the second crust, I cut it in half and put half at a time on the filling.  After you brush the crust with the egg white, you’ll never know.

Improvise this recipe any way you like…add chopped pecans to the filling, perhaps?  Or dried cranberries…that would be good, I think.  It’s delicious just the way it is, of course.

Bon Appetit!

Granola Bars – No Baking Required

These bars don’t have granola in them per se but they do have granola ingredients so that’s what they’re called.  It’s a recipe that I’ve adapted from dash magazine which comes with our newspaper, periodically.  I guess you could say it’s a periodic periodical – ha!

They’re very good.  I made them last week and have had half a dozen people try them and give me feedback.  Everybody has asked for the recipe so here it is.

What you need:

2 cups flaked cereal (I used Special K with red berries)
2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips    (I used dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped mixed nuts
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup corn syrup  (I used light)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

What you do:
1) Coat a 9-inch square pan with cooking spray.
2) Mix the cereal, oats, raisins, chocolate chips, and nuts.
3) Mix the dark brown sugar and the corn syrup in a small saucepan over low heat until it comes to a boil.
4) Stir in the peanut butter, canola oil and vanilla.
5) Pour the peanut butter mixture over the cereal mixture and stir until well combined.  Scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and press down firmly and evenly.
6) Cool and cut into bars.

Makes 12 bars.

The original recipe called for chocolate covered raisins and peanuts but, as often happens in my house, I didn’t have either one.  So I used the golden raisins, chocolate chips and mixed nuts.  This is just another illustration of how you can adapt a recipe to suit yourself.  For example, if you like coconut (and I do) you could add coconut.  I love a recipe like that!

 Dash says you can freeze them for up to three months if you wrap them well.  Personally, I don’t think they’d last that long.

Kale & White Bean Soup

Update 3/16/12:  I shared this recipe in February through a Linky on the Gooseberry Patch blog.   But I forgot to link to it, here.  My apologies to Gooseberry Patch who so graciously posted my link.

A week or so ago we drove up to Meadow Farm Foods in Fergus Falls, MN.  Meadow Farm is a wonderful family owned store that sells natural foods and spices.  I could browse around their cozy shopping aisles all day.

They were celebrating their fall Open House and had prepared lots of samples of their excellent natural foods for everyone to try.

This soup was one of the offerings and it was SO delicious!  The recipe was available for anyone who wanted it…I did.   Yesterday, I prepared it and although I made a few necessary changes (see *), it was essentially the same.

Kale and White Bean Soup

What you need:
1 lb. dried white beans (Great Northern, cannellini or navy)*
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cups chicken broth
2 quarts water (divided)
1 (3-by 2-inch) piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind*
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay  leaf (not California)*
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary*
1 lb. smoked sausage (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound kale (preferably lacinato) stems and outer ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped*

What you do:
Place beans in a pot and cover with water by two inches.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand, uncovered for 1 hour.  Drain beans in a colander and rinse.

Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low head, stirring occasionally until softened (4 to 5 minutes).  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute.

Add beans, broth, 1 quart of water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary.  Simmer, uncovered until beans are just tender (about 50 minutes).

Meanwhile, brown sausage (if using) in a heavy skillet over moderate heat.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in the kale, sausage and remaining quart of water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender…about 12 to 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

*A couple of notes:

  1. I used Great Northern beans.
  2. I spent $15.00 on a chunk of  Parmigiano-Reggiano just to get the rind!  I know…crazy!  That’s one of the drawbacks of living in a small community.  You might be able to buy just the rind at a whole food type of market.  Luckily, you can freeze it and use it more than once.
  3. I’m not sure what type of bay leaves I have but I’m certain that they’re not the California variety.  I bought them in bulk at Meadow Farm.   There’s a good explanation of the differences at Help With
  4. I used dried rosemary since my fresh rosemary plant bit the dust awhile back…same amount.
  5. The kale that I used was not lacinto.  I know that because it had green and white leaves and lacinto (or Tuscan kale, as it is known) has dark blue-green leaves.  I didn’t chop the leaves because they weren’t large in the first place).  You can read more about all the varieties at World’s Healthiest Foods

Now about Meadow Farm Foods…coincidentally, it’s owned by our sister-in-law, Joan. She and her late husband (Jack’s brother) founded it 30 years ago. In fact, the Meadow Farm Foods 30th Anniversary celebration was just last month and it was so much fun!

People come from all over when Meadow Farm has an open house.  You can read all about it if you click on the “Our Story” link on their webpage.

Jack drives to the Twin Cities every two weeks to pick up supplies for the store at various locations. One of the stops is at a working flour mill called Swany White which is in Freeport, a small town between here and Minneapolis. There’s also a bakery in the little town of Albany that supplies Meadow Farm with frozen bakery items all ready to pop in the oven and bake.
If you want to send someone a gift of Minnesota products, you should check out the lovely gift baskets they prepare each year. They sell hundreds of them!

Quick & Easy Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

The October issue of <a href="http://tinyurl cytotec”>Dash has an interesting recipe for Oatmeal Banana Pancakes that starts with a mix.  As someone who hasn’t used a pancake mix for years, I hesitated to try this but decided that, in a pinch, it might come in handy.  IF it’s tasty, that is.  So I bought a small box of Hungry Jack Complete Pancake Mix and whipped up a batch.

My hungry Jack liked them so it’s a keeper.  They were light and fluffy.  Just right.

Here’s the recipe…the italics are my notes/adjustments/additions:

2 cups Hungry Jack complete pancake and waffle mix
1-1/3 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked quick oatmeal
1 large ripe mashed banana
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Stir pancake mix with water until smooth.  Add oatmeal, banana, vanilla extract, and walnuts.  Fry pancakes on a greased, heated griddle until golden brown on both sides.  Serve hot with maple syrup.

I added the vanilla to balance out the banana and enhance the flavor of the walnuts.  I like bananas and I like them in baked goods but sometimes they’re just a little too “banana-y”, in my opinion.  1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla was just right, I think.

It would be interesting to try this with my old favorite Betty Crocker homemade pancake recipe…just throw in the oatmeal, banana and nuts.

Minnesota Apple Pie

I made an apple pie, today, using a blend of good old Minnesota apples…half were Honey Crisp and half were Harrelsons.   Usually my pie apples are strictly Honey Crisps but I had both varieties so decided to see if they would complement each other.  Good decision!

Wow, is it ever good!  I must confess that I did use a ready made pie crust – Pillsbury makes a great refrigerated crust (2 crusts) that you just unroll one of the crusts onto the pie plate, fill it up and place the second crust on top, cut little vents and pinch the edges closed. Easy as pie!

But if you insist on making your own pie crust, try the recipe for Flaky Pie Crust that I’ve written for this Squidoo article.  It’s excellent.

I used my old faithful apple pie filling recipe from my old faithful Betty Crocker cookbook that I’ve had forever.

Making apple pie from fresh apples isn’t difficult. The hardest part is peeling the apples and when you really only need five or six you can’t exactly complain. Here’s the recipe for the filling. It’s for a 9-inch pie.

Whichever pie crust you choose, here’s a great tip for keeping the bottom crust from getting soggy:  Beat an egg white until frothy and brush it onto the bottom crust before you add the fruit filling.  I also prick the bottom crust with the tines of a fork before brushing it with the egg white.  Reserve the rest of the egg white for brushing on the top crust before baking.

First you need pastry for a 9-inch, 2 crust pie. (Either Pillsbury or your homemade…see above)

Then, combine:
3/4 cup sugar (I used raw sugar)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of Kosher salt
6 cups thinly sliced pared tart apples
2 or 3 tablespoons cold butter

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Stir together the sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt; mix with the apples. Turn the filling into the bottom  pie crust, dot with the butter and cover with the top crust. Cut some slits into the crust.  Seal the edge and either flute with your fingers or with the tines of a fork.

Brush the top crust with the reserved egg white and sprinkle lightly with sugar.  Raw sugar is my sugar of choice for this.

Cover the edge with a strip of aluminum foil or pie crust shields to prevent over browning. You can remove the foil the last 15 minutes or so before the pie is finished.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until the crust is brown and the juices begin to bubble through the slits in the crust.

I usually check it at about 30 minutes just to see how it’s doing. If I’ve forgotten to put the foil on the crust edges, I will do it then. But that’s really asking for burnt fingers – ha!

Cool on a wire rack. Delicious served either slightly warm with vanilla ice cream.  It’s just as good after it has completely cooled…your call.

Make Your Own Faux Shake ‘n Bake

I do not remember where I got this recipe but I do know my children were all small and they’re not anymore!  In fact, my children have children!

So it’s in the “oldie but goodie” category.

Because you make this yourself, you know there are no preservatives or ingredients that you can’t pronounce!

If you do make it, either divide it up into twenty portions and store in the freezer or take out a portion each time you use it.

IMPORTANT: Don’t just use the whole thing and save the rest.Take out just what you need for each batch of chicken.  You don’t want chicken (or fish or whatever) juices to get into it or you could end up sick as a dog.

Enough for 20 recipes of Oven Fried Chicken

4 cups flour
4 cups cracker meal
4 Tablespoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
3 Tablespoons paprika
1/4 cup oil

Mix thoroughly. Store in refrigerator.

To prepare, you’ll need 3 to 4 pounds of chicken pieces.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Wash, pat dry and roll in the shake and bake.  Arrange skin side up in a baking pan and bake for 30 to 45 minutes (turning once) until nicely browned and juices run clear.

You’ll find other “Make Your Own…” recipes <a href="http://www.squidoo navigate to these”>HERE.

Pepper Steak As You Like It

It was so hot the day before yesterday that the last thing I wanted to do was cook.  But we had gone out for dinner on Tuesday night for BOGO burgers at a newly re-opened lakeside restaurant here in Alexandria (Bug-A-Boo Bay) and I just knew getting Jack to spring for dinner, again, would be a lost cause.

I had a bit of sirloin steak in the freezer and hadn’t made Pepper Steak for ages so decided it would be just the thing…wouldn’t take a lot of time, therefore wouldn’t heat up the kitchen much.

Once again, I used what I had…the basic recipe is delicious but I needed to improvise since I had a little of this and a little of that.  I only had one green pepper so added the celery to increase the crunch factor.

The “as you like it” phrase is apt because you could use red, green or yellow peppers…you could add mushrooms…you could use regular tomatoes and quarter them.



1 pound boneless sirloin steak – about 1 inch thick
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 clove minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper

4 Tablespoons lite soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup fresh or canned bean sprouts
1 cup grape tomatoes
1 or 2 green peppers, seeded and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup celery, sliced on the diagonal

3 Tablespoons water
1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch

3 or 4 green onions or chives chopped


Melt the butter in a heavy skillet.  Add the garlic, salt and pepper.  Brown the beef on all sides.  Mix the soy sauce and sugar and add to the skillet.  Cover and cook over high heat for five minutes.

If you are using canned bean sprouts, rinse and drain them well, then add to the skillet along with the tomatoes, green pepper and celery.  Cook an additional five minutes.

Blend the cornstarch with the water…add to the skillet and stir until the sauce has thickened.

Serve with steamed rice and sprinkle with the green onions or chives.

Inspired by a recipe in my very old copy of Craig Claiborne’s The New York Times International Cookbook.

Crispy Crunchy Creamy Coleslaw

There’s something about coleslaw that gives any summer holiday meal that summer holiday appeal.   Especially the 4th of July in the USA.  Coleslaw, grilled burgers or chicken or barbecue ribs, and Cowboy beans or good old Boston Baked Beans and/or corn on the cob are the summer celebration foods of choice for most Americans.

Coleslaw with a creamy dressing is one of my favorites.  Being lactose intolerant has been a bit of a challenge for any creamy or dairy based dressing.   Here’s my version of this classic salad and I can say with some assurance that you can’t tell it from it’s “real cream” based cousin.

For the salad:

4 cups of finely shredded cabbage (or prepared coleslaw veggies)
1/4 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped green apple (with peel)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews – reserved (optional)

For the dressing:

1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons raw agave nectar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Toss the vegetables together in a large bowl.

Blend the dressing ingredients and pour over the vegetables.   Toss to combine.  Refrigerate for about an hour or so.  Sprinkle with the cashews just before serving.  The cashews really make this salad special.

The salad will seem a bit dry, at first, but let it marinate and it’ll be perfect by the time you sit down to eat.  And to be honest, I think it’s better the next day.

A couple of notes:  By now you probably realize that I love recipes that can be modified.  This is another example.

The dry mustard gives it a bit of a kick which is nicely balanced by the sweetness of the apples and the agave nectar.  I used 1/2 teaspoon but if you want less heat, just 1/4 teaspoon will be about right.

Regular yogurt is a little softer and creamier than the Greek but I prefer the Greek.

I’ve made this with red Delicious apples for a little sweeter version.  And honey would be a fine substitute for the agave nectar.  I just happen to love the mildness of the agave so always use that.  Sometimes I use light agave and sometimes I use the raw agave.

You could add grapes (red, green or purple) halved and tossed with the apples; substitute the cashews with chopped walnuts and you’d have a version of Waldorf salad.  How about adding 1/4 cup of raisins?

You see where I’m going with this.  Just remember that the more veggies and fruits you add the more dressing you’ll need so adjust accordingly.  .

Summer Sangria

This is a mighty refreshing beverage to enjoy over the Independence Day weekend.  It’s a delicious sangria recipe from my daughter Stefani’s collection of party treats.   It’s colorful, full of fresh fruit and easy to prepare.

I don’t know the origin of this recipe (pre-Stefani) or I’d give credit where credit is due but it’s a keeper.

Here’s the recipe:

1/4 cup brandy
2 Tablespoons orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier.  (Triple Sec works, also.)
2 Tablespoons Amaretto
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup sugar

Fresh fruit which you have cut in pieces.

I used 1 Granny Smith (tart green) apple, 1 peach, 1 kiwi and a handful of freshly picked strawberries.

Stefani used 1 granny smith apple, 2 peaches and a handful of cherries cut in half.  You could use grapes or any other fruit that appeals to you.

1 bottle of red wine (use a good one that you would drink just as it is).
1 bottle sparkling strawberry flavored water.

Mix the sugar, brandy, Grand Marnier and orange juice.  Add the fruit and marinate in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

A couple of hours before you are ready to serve, add the wine.  Chill again.  Remove from the refrigerator about an hour before serving (although you can certainly serve it cold).  When your guests arrive, add the sparkling water and serve.

Garnish with fresh fruit on little skewers, if you like, and serve!

This recipe is perfect for modifying…for example, if you prefer a white wine just substitute that for the red.  The fruits could be pears, pineapple, kiwi, apples…whatever!

An assortment of cheeses and crackers plus a glass of sangria is fun and festive.

Rock on!

NOTE:  I first published this recipe on <a href="http://www navigate”>Lake Mary Musings last year about this time.  Now that I have this food blog, I’m moving and modifying those posts little by little.