Category Archives: cooking

Best Ever Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Homemade Chocolate Syrup Recipe

There are just some things that taste better when they are homemade. Chocolate syrup is one of those things. It’s richer, sweeter in a better way, thicker, and more chocolaty with no aftertaste than the ones sold in stores.

I like making it on a regular basis and finding ways to switch it up. The original recipe calls for vanilla, but I have added cayenne pepper or cinnamon or almond or even coconut flavors to the syrup. Really, this is just a decadent topping for anything you can think of: cakes, ice cream, pies, milk, cocoa, coffee. It’s so good and easy to make. I hope you find it useful!

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

1 Cup cocoa

2 Cups Sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 Cup water

1 Tbsp vanilla

Add all ingredients except the vanilla and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes (stir it all the time!) and then remove from heat. Once it’s cooled enough not to burn you, stir in the vanilla. That’s it! As it cools, this becomes a luscious syrup consistency that is so much better than the squeeze bottle you buy at the store.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup

Homemade Chicken Soup

If I had to grab just one of my kitchen appliances with a minute’s notice, it would be my pressure cooker. I use it at least two or three times a week and helps me get dinner on the table in record time. Now that it’s winter and of course everyone is sick, we eat quite a bit of chicken soup, and the pressure cooker is the perfect way to make it. This soup takes 30 minutes to make and tastes as if I cooked all day. It’s perfect.

Pressure Cooker Chicken Soup

Place frozen 2-3 pound chicken into the pressure cooker with 1/2 cup water. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Release pressure and set aside chicken. To the broth, add:

1/2 cup raw brown rice

Your favorite vegetables; I used a handful of baby carrots, two handfuls of baby kale, 10 Brussels sprouts cut in half, 1 cup leftover sweet corn from last year’s garden

Separate chicken from bones and return to pot

Add enough water to cover, making sure you don’t overfill (my cooker has markers on the inside, which I filled to the 8 cup mark)

Pressure cook on high for 15 minutes

Release the pressure quickly and it’s ready. The broth is rich and flavorful, the vegetables are done perfectly, and the chicken still has plenty of taste. It’s truly an easy way to make a meal.

If you save your bones from previous chicken dinners and cook them for the first 15 minutes, the resulting broth is basically free and full of nutrition. It’s another way to stretch your budget and still eat well.

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Nuts

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Nuts

These little gems are awesome! I never knew how easy it was to make glazed nuts, and wanted to use up the last of the nuts in the cupboard from our gluttony around the holidays. Now, we can eat these by the handful, or chop them up and top a cake or ice cream with something with a little bit of zing. I have had excellent luck getting my little chefs to eat salad with these added to the top. On to the recipe!!

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Nuts

1 cup raw almonds
1 cup pecans
1 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Stir after the first 10 minutes.
Pour baked nuts over parchment until cool.
Store in a glass jar, although they won’t last long.

Amazing 1 Hour Dinner Rolls

dinner rolls

Light and fluffy dinner rolls are perfect for any meal. These also make the best slider rolls. Once you see how easy my 1 hour dinner rolls are to make, you will never resort to plain old white bread again.  The only tip I have is not to rush the recipe. It truly does take an hour for the dough to rise and become light and airy. It’s worth every minute.

1 Hour Dinner Rolls

Makes 2 dozen

1 Tablespoon + 2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cup warm milk
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 cups flour

In a mixing bowl, place warm milk, yeast and sugar.

Let stand for 15 minutes.

Stir in salt, butter and flour.

Let stand for 20 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Punch down, and form into balls the size of an egg(makes 2 dozen)

Place rolls onto a greased cookie sheet for single rolls, in an 8X8 pan for soft sided rolls with brown tops.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes.

For soft rolls, brush with butter as soon as they are removed from the oven.

1 Hour Dinner Rolls

Late Summer Rhubarb Crisp

If you shop with a tight budget, and only go once or twice a month to the store, there are inevitably going to be times when the larder is becoming bare and still it isn’t Grocery Day. With experience, these times become a day or two at most, but it is always nice to have someone up the proverbial apron sleeve, to make a meal feel special, without a lot of extras that you may be out of.

Tonight, I made rhubarb crisp for just that reason. It was served with homemade whipped cream, and was a big hit all around. There are fancier versions (like the photo of Raspberry Rhubarb Crisp above, by Vegan Feast Catering)  But I am a huge fan of the Dump and Pray Philosophy. I know how it is supposed to look in the pan, and sprinkle or add, until I get there. Fortunately for this blog post, I measured just for you. Here is my recipe:

Simple Rhubarb Crisp

4-6 cups chopped rhubarb-measured loosely, it doesn’t matter as long as your baking pan is 1 inch full of pieces.

1 box red jello -raspberry, strawberry, it doesn’t matter

1 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup flour

1 cup whole oats

cinnamon/nutmeg if desired


In a baking pan (I use 9X 13 inch cake pan) add the rhubarb. I like to do this with frozen rhubarb, partially thawed. The rhubarb will be juicy as it thaws. Break it up, so it evenly covers the pan.

Sprinkle sugars/jello powder/flour/oats over all.

Sprinkle with cinn/nutmeg

Place pats of butter evenly over the entire pan.

Bake 375 for 30-45 minutes, or until hot in the center and topping is slightly browned and bubbling on the edges.

Serve over ice cream or with whipped cream. Delish!!


Crockpot Summer Supper

Today’s crockpot summer supper, is a recipe that came about in a convoluted fashion, as so many scratch recipes do.
My garlic cloves were overpowering the rest of the fridge contents, and it is so hot, that heating the oven just seemed wrong.
I came up with this recipe originally as a way to eat wild game that was too gamey on its own. It is a wonderful base for beef as well, and tonight’s dinner proves it.
Quick and easy, place your ingredients in the crockpot and walk away. No miss, no fuss.
Crockpot Beef
1 frozen beef roast 3-4 lbs
1 pkg onion soup mix or your favorite seasoning
1 can tomato paste
Garlic cloves (use plenty, they sweeten as they cook)

I start with a frozen roast and cook it all day on high. If hubs is late, I turn it off and keep it covered.

Serve with greens from the garden and a crusty bread. Leftovers are even better!

Brownies 101

Basic Brownies

Brownies are something that should be in everyone’s basic cookbook. I have a stack of really different brownie recipes, including one from my Uncle John, so rich you line the pan with foil and dump the whole mess out onto a plate afterwards.

This brownie recipe is well loved in our house. I like it because of the simplicity and how easy it is to substitute ingredients. It also has the benefit of handling change well. It takes only a bit of cocoa powder to make a fairly rich flavor, and you can sprinkle on all sorts of things before baking. We have tried coconut, candy bars, marshmallows, nuts, flavored baking chips, Fat sea salt (yum!). The brownie is the foil for experimentation, and that makes cooking fun!

Yesterday, I made them with peanut butter chips. They were a reward for the men going out and changing the oil on the Suburban for a couple of hours with their dad. In 100 degree heat, they are all crazy.

The recipe:

The Basic Brownie

1 cup butter, softened (I have also used coconut oil)

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1.3 cup cocoa

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 tsp salt

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla, beat well

Add cocoa, flour, salt and beat until combined

Spread into a greased 13 X 9 inch pan (I sprinkle with coconut or peanut butter chips here), bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes before cutting (this step is essential, or you end up with delicious glop)


Eat Local: Really Local

After enjoying one last Food Preservation class at our local community college, I started to really think about the idea of eating local.  For many of us that is easy to do in thesummer. We all know about farmers markets and the like. Even walmart isoverflowing with so called local produce.
I am talking about digging a little deeper (no pun intended), and try to eat seasonally all year round. 
Despite what you may think, thewinter has plenty of variety for cooking. Root vegetables have  beentucked away in the yukky veg category and that’s too bad. They have a naturalsweetness that is enhanced after a cold spell. They keep well and are flavorfulas well as colorful. I like to use winter squashes as sweet ingredients and allof them pair well with maple syrup-a warming, winter sweet. I also use them as a side dish. Rich in Vitamin A, they can certainly add a nice dose of flavor to a heavier winter meal. I make roasted or even fried winter squash fries and chips. They taste better than white potatoes, and the family asks for them now. Try making Homefries with half winter squash and half white potatoes, along with your onions. Really delicious!
You can use the things you stored from the summer, combined with winter offerings, and have a full range of foods ready tobe eaten. I will never forget the discussion I had with a conceited person inthe Ag business who told me he had the right to eat whatever he wanted, wheneverhe wanted. I asked him what made him so special and he replied that it was hisright..His Right.
So the people who don’t have the money to eat tomatoes inDecember, don’t have that right? Ghaaa…some peole need a good smack with aturnip. That’s all I have for tonight. I get too worked up about elitism whenthere are hungry children in my own town who watch the corn trucks drive by, heading to the ethanol plant. 
Do you use your local vegetables all year? What do you eat in the winter? Share in the comments! 

Do Not Be Afraid Of Cooking

Do not be afraid of cooking. So many times I hear people say “Oh you are such a greatcook!” Or that they cant possibly cook. I always wonder about that. I mean, whatis there but something tastes good or it doesn’t? I don’t know many things thatdon’t come with some sort of recipe attached to them, either verbally from thegifter or on the label..You simply follow the recipe and watch what happens.Then the next time you tweak to make it work better for your taste.
I don’t know how many times I have taken the heat out of arecipe for my family. My  husband’s tastebuds are dead due to a lifelong addiction to chewing tobacco, and he has to usestraight up super hot sauce on every conceivable thing (no lie) but babies can’ttolerate that . So I remove the heat and slowly build up as they growolder. I do have one child who can’t tolerate any heat-even black pepper as aseasoning. I am not hip to what that means for digestion, but he is a teenagerand just in the last 6 months has been able to at least be open to trying hotthings. Of course, his idea of hot is sort of silly for even the baby, but weall grow at different paces right? J

Anyways, Do not be afraid to screwing up food! Just playwith heat temperatures, cutting sizes, seasonings and when  you do eat, really sit and taste what you areeating. Have you ever heard that a cook is never happy with what they make?Except for on FoodNetwork, but that’s not real.
Of course they are not happy! A cook always tastes what theycan do to either improve or tweak what they are eating. That doesn’t mean theydon’t enjoy what they are putting int heir mouths (heck I love it when someoneelse cooks-even a restaurant), but cooking evolves every single day for aninspired cook. One who is not afraid to make a mistake and then move on fromit.
One of my favorite things to read when I was younger was theinside cover of many cookbooks for the substitutions section. That was whereyou could go if you were out of eggs perhaps, or find out that you couldsubstitute an egg with ground flaxseed and water or something.
That is where I learned that you could make buttermilk by mixing milk and vinegar. Who knew? I have only had access to real buttermilkwhen I make butter from our goat’s milk and have it left over. In no way doesit resemble that thick weird stuff in the carton at the grocery store..I amnot sure whose brilliant scheme it was to thicken buttermilk. 
I digress. The point of today’s post is to not be afraid offood. It is there for the cooking, marinating, growing eating, making mistakeswith. Where do you thing recipes come from?There are no new recipes..cooks just mess around with things they like to eatand write them down.
I know writing my books, that I shared hundreds of recipeswith the publisher. Almost 400 of them actually. The hardest part of sharingwas that many times what I cooked was jotted down on the back of a scrap paperand god forbid I measured…I had to make so many things just to measure them tosend in to the publisher. It was tedious. But now, I can simply cook out of mytwo books and have a fairly wide range of my regular recipes turn out time andagain. Of course I play around with the tried and true ones still..that isbecause I am a fearless, rebel cook.