Applesauce Cake

This weekend we close the door on one chapter and then open the door to the next.
We’re closing on the townhouse tomorrow!!!! Holy cow, it’s really happening!! We are packing and throwing out junk and just this past week I started packing up the kitchen. I wasn’t sure where to begin because I use everything and still need a lot of it out, but I gotta start somewhere, and Mike’s been asking me if I started packing up yet. Okay, okay, so I guess for a week we’ll have to live on processed food, but I had to bake one more thing in the kitchen, this applesauce cake.
It’s been a while since I made it. It was another one of those 13×9-inch baking dish cakes that my mom enjoyed making. There were so many other baking dish cakes she made, I should turn this into a series or something!
I think I mentioned this before, but I LOOOOOOOOOOVE applesauce! I use it in cookies and box cake mixes. What I love about using it as an ingredient is that it not only leaves your cakes moist, but it eliminates the use of oil, which is fattening, and I just don’t like using it in my desserts much. But anyway, this cake is another one of those quick baking dish cakes my mom made a lot of. Alex loves it, too! For her sake I omitted the nuts and added a little more raisins.
Celebratory cake? I think so. Here’s to a new chapter in my little family’s life in our new house!

APPLESAUCE CAKE
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped nuts*
1/2 cup raisins
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13×9-inch baking dish.
• In a mixer bowl, sift together flour, sugar and baking soda. Add the shortening and water. Beat for 1 minute.
• Add the applesauce and egg, and beat for 3 minutes. Then fold in the nuts and raisins.
• Pour batter into the prepared baking dish, and bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool and frost if desired.
*You can omit the nuts and throw in an extra 1/2 cup of raisins!
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Salad Dressing Cupcakes

I’m currently on an 8-week weight loss challenge, but when your 5-year-old begs and pleas for cupcakes, the only way to keep her quiet is to just make the darn things and move on…without eating a single cupcake, and it’s hard!
Willpower is not in my vocabulary at all. Though I do practice it regularly, most of the time I fail miserably. With Lent being a few days away, I always remind myself of the times where I said I was going to give up chocolate or ice cream for 40 days and end up caving after the first week. So food isn’t something I can’t “give up” for Lent. This year it’s simply going to be reorganization. Reorganizing all the dreaded paperwork regarding the move, my dad, old bills, new bills, then the closet, Alex’s bookshelves, life in general…
I also used to rewrite most of my mother’s recipes to make her recipe boxes look a little neater and more organized, and for them to close shut. The smeared ink and rips from the worn-out index cards used to drive me mad.
The other day my brother asked about Mom’s salad dressing cake recipe. I found it, handwritten by me, of course.
About this salad dressing cake, it only has 7 ingredients, not including the frosting, and it’s also what Mom liked when it came to recipes: quick and simple. I kept the index card out in case I make it myself. The child wanted cupcakes, so I tried the recipe in cupcake form, with mayonnaise, because that was what I had in the fridge at the time.
Other things I did to the recipe: Instead of flour, I used cake flour. Cake flour makes your cakes and cupcakes fluffier, and doesn’t make them dry, which dry cakes/cupcakes are a problem I usually run into.
The recipe also calls for cold coffee.   Because we don’t have a coffee maker, we rarely drink the hot stuff anyway, so I usually steer clear from any recipe that requires it. Thank goodness for the refrigerated stuff! Recently Mike started up on Stok’s chocolate black coffee, so it’s a life-saver, even for him due to working nights and playing frontman for his band. Using black coffee with a chocolate flavor gave the cupcakes an even darker color and more chocolate to the taste.
But the star ingredient here is the mayo. If you have creamy salad dressing and no mayo, go for it! It works just as well. Once these cupcakes were cooled and frosted, peeling back the cupcake liner revealed how fluffy these things are, thanks to the cake flour.
Okay, okay, I did allow myself to have ONE to taste-test. Now to test my willpower all over again!

SALAD DRESSING CUPCAKES
Cupcakes:
2 cups cake flour
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup creamy salad dressing (or mayonnaise)
1 cup chocolate-flavored cold black coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Frosting:
1 (32 oz.) bag powdered sugar
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) softened margarine
3 tablespoons milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners.
– In a mixing bowl with a whisk attachment, whisk together cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda.
– Combine salad dressing, coffee and vanilla extract with dry ingredients. Mix together until blended.
– Fill each cupcake liner ½ to 2/3 full.
– Bake for 25-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out clean.
– Remove from oven and allow cupcakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes before placing on wire racks to cool completely.
– For the frosting: Combine all 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl using a whisk or paddle attachment for about 3-4 minutes until frosting reaches a soft and smooth consistency. If frosting is mixing a little dry, add a little more milk.
– Frost cupcakes using a small offset spatula. Makes 21 cupcakes.

Pepperoni Rolls

Now that I’m 40, I’m ready to tackle the year ahead, and the next decade.
I got a ton of things to do before I turn 50, because by then I may have to have knee replacement surgery or I just can’t walk anymore. Or it’s the fact that once I do hit 50, I’ll consider myself an old fart, so I got 10 years to hold on to my youthful self and do things I’ve not done yet.
For example, becoming an actual first-time home buyer.
This house buying thing makes me feel like a college student about ready to graduate. The “professors” give you “homework.” You have to do research, ask for assistance, research some more, fill your brain with knowledge, type out “essays”, sign and turn in everything before the due date, and pray for a good grade in order to graduate, which is your closing day. Oh, and you have to pay up to 20% down on your “student loan” right off the bat!  Packing is another story.  I definitely can relate to that Woody and Buzz Lightyear meme you see all over the interwebs: Moving boxes…moving boxes everywhere!!
Another example is to travel more, and further away from home.
The goal I want to pursue this year is the get our passports. I’d love to make plans to head to Montreal for some hockey action, because Mike is a Canadiens fan and he would love to see one of their home games. Plus for long-term vacay planning, visiting Europe, because I gotta go now before I get too old to walk 10 miles and complain about it. I’ll have to prepare my body to fast for a month prior to a trip to Italy or Germany because the food looks so amazeballs, I will more than likely come home 30 pounds heavier!!
Last example, cook/bake things I normally don’t cook/bake.
I must start broadening my horizons and scope out recipes I’ve always wanted to try but never got around to them, or just forgot about them. And then there are things I have never in my entire life have made, like deviled eggs. Yes, you read that right! I’m 40 years old, and never once made deviled eggs! I think I’ll jot deviled eggs down as one recipe I’ll post for Easter.

Pepperoni rolls are also something I never make, except that one time I made them after we moved into our house 15 years ago. I’m from WV and I only made these tasty state delicacies only one time?!?! I fixed that problem by making them for Alex’s 5th birthday party, and every single one of them were gone within 5 minutes! Feeling more confident, I made them again for you all!

The pepperoni roll was first sold just down the road from me, in Fairmont, WV, and it made a great snack/lunch for the coal miners. They’re like little rolled up pizzas, but without the tomato sauce. I bought a few tubes of jumbo-sized crescent rolls, sprinkled shredded mozzarella cheese on them, added 3-4 pepperoni slices, and rolled them up. When making these with the crescent rolls, follow the package directions for baking times, but I left them in the oven for a couple minutes longer until they browned just a little.  If you can’t find jumbo-sized crescent rolls, the regular-sized ones work just as well.  For another batch I added small green pepper slices to them for added color and sprinkled Italian seasoning on top. My brother gave me hell for doing this..LOL! I’m also currently working on the perfect dough for these, so keep watch on this space for another post once I finally get it to work out!

If this is your first time making them, I highly recommend giving them a shot. The Super Bowl is coming up, and they are one of the best finger foods to have on hand for your party, or any party! Make them, and I’m sure they will go quick!
PEPPERONI ROLLS
1 tube (12 oz.) jumbo crescent rolls
1 package (8 oz.) of shredded mozzarella cheese (or any flavor cheese you desire. I also used Italian blend.)
1 package (6 oz.) of pepperoni slices
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin (optional)
2 T of melted margarine
2 T of Italian seasoning (optional)
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
• Open up the crescent roll tube and separate each triangular piece out on a lightly floured surface.
• Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over each triangular piece, about 1/4 cup each, more or less if you choose.
• Place 2 or 3 pepper slices over top of the cheese on each triangular dough, if desired, and then place 3 or 4 slices of pepperoni on each.
• Carefully roll up the dough and place on an ungreased baking sheet or stone.
• Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the melted margarine over the top of each roll. Sprinkle a little Italian seasoning over top each roll, if desired.
• Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the rolls are a golden brown.
• Remove from oven and transfer rolls onto cooling racks to cool slightly.
• Serve warm or cooled.
• For storage, there is no need to refrigerate. Just place the extras in a ziplock bag or in a storage container.

Festive Pretzels

Hey all!  How was your Christmas?  Was Santa Claus good to you?  Did you eat tons of ham?  I’m sure you devoured some good dessert too!
With New Year’s oh-so close and a lot of you are probably thinking about your dieting strategies, I’m squeezing in this last post of 2017 because I want to get these festive pretzels in to ring in 2018 as a little indulgence!  They are amazing and addicting!  These things are a guilty pleasure of mine and for a lot of friends and family who love them too.
My mom made these a lot around the holidays.  She discovered them at some party she attended years ago, and loved the idea so much that she started making them herself.  They were a hit among friends and family members, and then I jumped on the festive pretzels bandwagon.
Chocolate or white chocolate, either flavor, they’re great!  The M&Ms are like the icing on the cake. When I purchase a bag of mini pretzels I always make sure I find the bag that looks like it has the most salt.  The sweet and saltiness flavor makes these easy-to-make candies a delight to devour!
I make these for holiday parties, birthday parties, as wedding favors, and I even mailed them to Germany.  If you want to bring everyone in the world together, make festive pretzels!
While making this year’s batch I wanted to try something different.  I thought about doing a double-decker version.  I also added other toppings: holiday sprinkles, more M&Ms, sanding sugar to add a little sparkle.  My taste buds love me!  For nut lovers, I’m sure chopped walnuts or peanuts would be good as toppings too!
You can use either wax paper or silicone mats to place your pretzels on.  Individually place each pretzel down on the wax paper or mat.  Then melt your chocolate according to the package directions.  I mostly use chocolate or white chocolate almond bark, so I cut two blocks, place them in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt for 55 seconds.  I’ve been doing these things for years so I stopped stirring the chocolate in between.  Just keep an eye on the chocolate as you melt it if you’re not comfortable with letting the chocolate melt for a certain amount of time like I do.  If you find little chunks in your chocolate, you kept it in the microwave too long.  It’s happened to me a bunch of times, and that’s where you learn to know an approximate melting time with your microwave without burning your chocolate.  If there are not many little chunks you can still use it.
Once all stirred and melted, take a spoon and drop a small dollop of chocolate right on top of each pretzel.  Then take 3 M&Ms and place each one in a pretzel hole.  No need to press them too much into the chocolate.  They’ll settle in nicely.

Now the hard part: waiting until the chocolate sets completely.  Once set, you can place them in a bowl and share them with your guests, or you can place them in cute decorative containers to give as gifts.
For the double-decker ones, right after adding the chocolate on your first pretzel, place another pretzel right on top and then add another dollop of chocolate on top of it.  You can use the same chocolate or switch to the white chocolate.  You can also make these really colorful by using the melting chocolate from your local craft store.  Then add the M&Ms or other desired topping.

So there you go!  Easy-peasy!  I hope you all have a wonderful, safe and prosperous new year, and I can’t wait to share with you even more fantastic goodies in 2018!!

Festive Peppermint Melts

The search continues….
For the past two months we’ve been searching high and low for a house. We’ve come real close with a couple of them, but it didn’t work out for us. Technically being first-time home buyers, this process is much longer than we anticipated, because we’ve never dealt with this before (we live in a double-wide, and that process only took us a month!)! Anyway, moving on, and hopefully sometime by next spring or summer we’ll be in something new, or new-ish.

But for now, let’s discuss something more light-hearted and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I have a huge obsession for peppermint patties. If I’m stopping by the local grocery store during my lunch break I usually pick up one peppermint patty and eat it on my way back to work. But sometimes if I’m really needing a peppermint patty fix I’ll buy the bite-size ones. OMG….I want one right now, pronto!!!
With my peppermint patty obsession you’d think I’d make homemade ones a lot, but I actually don’t. In fact, I only made them 3 times in my life! Hard to believe huh?

They’re very easy to make, but sometimes they can get a little messy. Making the peppermint creme filling is like making frosting but without the milk, and you use peppermint extract instead of vanilla extract. The key to getting a much firmer creme filling and a better grasp at them is to wrap it in plastic wrap and allow it to chill for a couple hours or more. For my first batch I left the creme filling sit in the fridge for 2 days because I didn’t have enough time to make them right away, but the filling was firm and wasn’t dry. After 5 days the filling does begin to dry out though, so if you want to make the filling ahead of time, you can leave it in the fridge for no more than 3-4 days.
I cut off a section at a time, then cut off small pieces and roll in my hands to create a ball. Then I flatten each ball a little bit and place on wax paper until they’re dipped into the melted chocolate. I place one creme ball into the chocolate and cover it up with a spoon. Then I take my candy scoop and scoop it out of the chocolate and place on wax paper to completely set. Now you don’t want to leave the creme balls in the warm chocolate very long or they’ll begin to get real soft and may melt, so be quick. Once they’re set you can store in a container on your counter top or give them away in cute treat bags.
Since this may be my last post of the year, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and I’ll be back in 2018 with more sweets and other fun stuff!!

FESTIVE PEPPERMINT MELTS
1 package (2 lbs.) powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) softened margarine
2 ½ teaspoons peppermint extract
Melting chocolate, any color you prefer
Sprinkles, optional
– With hand mixer, combine powdered sugar, margarine and peppermint extract in a large bowl. The cream filling will look like coarse meal at first, but it’ll stick together.
– Once cream filling is mixed, scoop out onto a long piece of plastic wrap. Roll up the filling with the plastic wrap, flattening it out a little as you wrap it.
– Place in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until cream filling is firm to the touch. You can leave the filling in the fridge for no longer than 3 days, or it will begin to dry out.
– When ready to make your melts, unwrap the filling and slice a piece of it lengthwise. Cut small pieces one at a time, and roll each piece into a ball with your hands. Flatten the ball of cream in your hands and place on parchment or wax paper. Continue this process with the rest of your filling, or you can make so many patties at a time if you’d like; place leftover filling in the fridge until it’s time to make more again.
– Follow the melting directions on the back of the melting chocolate package. Once chocolate is melted, place one cream patty into the chocolate. Using a spoon, cover the patty with chocolate. Then with a fork or candy scooping tool, remove the patty out of the chocolate and place back on parchment or wax paper. Use sprinkles for garnish if you’d like. Allow to set complete before placing into containers for storage.