Sugar Cookie Bars

These may be just “plain ole sugar cookie” bars without any chocolate or add-ins, but they are amazingly addictive! You can tint the frosting and decorate them with jimmies in colors to suit any occasion.

¾ cup unsalted butter, softened*
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1 T. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
2 cups all purpose flour

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 T. vanilla extract
1-3 T. milk or heavy cream
2 cups powdered sugar
Dash of salt
Sprinkles and/or food coloring if desired

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a 9×13” pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg and both extracts. Mix in 1 cup of the flour along with the soda, cream of tartar and salt, and then add the remaining flour. Press dough into the prepared pan and bake about 15 minutes—just until the sides are turning golden and the center looks a little underdone. Cool completely in the pan.

For the frosting, beat the butter in a medium bowl to soften it further, and then add the vanilla and 1 T. of the milk/cream. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt, and any food coloring you want to use. Add more milk if needed to reach a spreading consistency. Frost bars and decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Lift the foil to bring the bars out of the pan and cut on a cutting board. Makes 2-3 dozen. Freezes well.

Kitchen Hint: You may substitute the same amount of oil for the butter. It changes the texture, making a slightly denser bar.

Yogurt Bread

This easy bread resembles biscuits in a coffeecake format—moist, tender, and slightly sweet with whatever flavor of yogurt you choose. I like lemon or pineapple best!

1¾ cups flour
½ cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 6-oz. container of fruit yogurt
2 T. oil
½ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 375º and spray or grease a 9-inch glass pie pan. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cranberries, baking powder, and baking soda. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the yogurt, oil, and milk. Stir just until all dry ingredients are blended in, and spread the dough in the prepared pan using the back of the spoon. Bake 20 minutes or just until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Cool about 10 minutes before cutting into wedges, and lift out with a pancake spatula. Makes 8 wedges.

Sloppy Joes

This versatile meat mixture is a real crowd-pleaser. You can make it ahead, and you can freeze it in small batches to reheat later. Makes great sandwiches, but it’s also yummy served on baked potatoes and topped with cheese, or as a topper for nachos or homemade pizza!

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. pork or turkey sausage
1 large onion, diced
1½ cups diced celery
Salt and pepper
2 T. garlic powder
14-oz bottle of catsup
1 cup barbeque sauce

Place the ground beef, sausage, onion, and celery in a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet. Salt and pepper liberally and cook until the meat is done and the vegetables are soft, stirring often to break the meat into smaller chunks. Remove from heat and spoon the mixture onto paper-towel lined plates to drain; dispose of grease in the pan. Run the mixture briefly through a food processor or grinder and return to the pan. Add the garlic powder, catsup, and barbeque sauce and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring often. Makes about 6 cups—enough to fill 12 sandwich buns.

Creamed Chicken

This is the ultimate comfort supper! Amish cooks would most likely start with a whole chicken cut into pieces, but for convenience I buy packages of boned, skinless chicken thighs (you can use breasts, but thighs/dark meat give the mixture a richer flavor). Serve this over biscuits, toast, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes—or cornbread!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
Garlic powder
2 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 T. flour
3 T. butter
1 T. chopped dill weed
2 cans condensed cream of chicken or cheese soup
1 cup frozen peas

In a large skillet, heat the oil or butter over medium high heat. Arrange the chicken pieces and season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook a few minutes until browned, flip the pieces, and brown on the other side. Lower the heat, add 1 cup of the chicken stock, and simmer about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken to a plate and add the carrot, celery, and onion to the liquid in the skillet. Simmer.

When the chicken’s cool enough to handle, cut it into bite-size chunks. When the vegetables are tender, remove them from the skillet. Measure the remaining liquid and add enough additional chicken stock to make 1½ cups. Melt the butter in the skillet, remove from heat, and stir in the flour to make a paste. Add the liquid and stir constantly over medium heat until thickened, then stir in the dill weed, creamed soups, and the peas. When the sauce is blended, add the chicken and vegetables and cook over low heat until mixture is hot and bubbly, stirring often. Makes 6-8 servings.

Cornmeal Bulk Mix

If you have a container of this mix in your pantry, you’ll never again settle for the boxed cornbread mixes in the store! You can go either sweet or savory with this versatile blend, and if you have recipes that call for commercial mixes (such as Jiffy or Bisquick) you can substitute the same amount of this mix to make muffins, pancakes, cornbread, etc. A couple of my favorite cornbread recipes follow this one!

4 cups yellow cornmeal
4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 ½ T. baking powder
2 tsp. salt

Combine the ingredients with a big spoon and store in a large container with a tight-fitting lid. Makes 9 cups. Will keep at room temperature for 3 months.

Kitchen Hint: I store my mix in a plastic ice cream container, labeled and dated.

Sweet Banana Cornbread

This makes enough batter for an 8×8” pan or about 10 large muffins. Moist and tender! Yummy! Double the recipe to make a 9×13” pan.

2 ½ cups of Cornmeal Bulk Mix
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 T vanilla
¾ cup mashed banana
½ cup milk
½ cup oil
2 eggs

Spray or butter an 8×8” pan or a 12-cup muffin tin. Preheat oven to 350º. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal bulk mix, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon, making a well in the center. In a large glass measuring cup or deep bowl, whisk the vanilla, mashed banana, milk, oil, and eggs until well blended. Pour the liquid mixture into the well of dry ingredients, stirring only until the batter is blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake an 8×8” pan for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Bake muffins 12-15 minutes, or until tops are domed and firm. Don’t overbake! Serve warm, or cool on a wire rack. After about 5 minutes, lift the muffins out of the tin.

Kitchen Hint: For a 9×13” pan of cornbread, double the recipe. Freezes well (use wax paper between layers).

Dilly Cheese Cornbread

Adding dill relish to this savory cornbread takes it to a whole different level! Great with chili—or split a square of it and spoon Creamed Chicken on top for a filling meal.

2½ cups Cornmeal Bulk Mix
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
1 T. dried minced onion
1 T. dill weed
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
½ cup cottage cheese
2 eggs
½ cup oil
1 cup drained dill relish
1 T. juice from the relish

Spray or butter an 8×8” pan. Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl, combine cornbread mix, spices, and Parmesan cheese until well blended, leaving a well in the center. In a deep bowl, combine the buttermilk or yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, oil, the drained relish (see Hint) and the pickle juice—this mixture will be lumpy. Pour the liquids into the well of dry ingredients and stir until the batter is lumpy but all dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Kitchen Hint: To drain the relish, press it against a mesh sieve until most of the juice is out, reserving 1 T. of the juice.

Kitchen Hint #2: For more cheese, add about ¾ cup of shredded cheese of your choice, about 5 minutes before the cornbread is done baking.

Jelly Donut Cake

This cake makes an easy dessert—you can use any jam or preserves you have on hand—but there’s no rule saying you can’t also eat it for breakfast!

¾ cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
¾ cup jam or preserves

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a tube pan with cooking spray, then place the pan on a sheet of wax paper and draw around it. Cut out the paper “donut” and place in the bottom of the pan; spray the paper. In a large bowl, mix the milk, ¾ cup of the melted butter, the eggs, and the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, powder, salt, and cinnamon and then gradually add these dry ingredients to the milk mixture until just combined.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. With the back of a spoon, press a shallow well into the batter so it goes partway up the sides and center of the pan. Spoon the jam into the well, then spread the remaining batter on top. Bake about 40 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the outer and center edges of the cake to loosen it before turning it out of the pan onto a plate. Invert the cake on another plate so the rounded side is up and let it cool completely. Brush the top and sides with the remainder of the melted butter. Sprinkle liberally with a mixture of ¼ cup sugar blended with 2 tsp. cinnamon, pressing some of the sugar mixture onto the sides. 8-10 servings.

Kitchen Hint: Feeling indulgent? Make a glaze of ½ cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, dash of salt, and 2 T. milk—or enough to make it pourable. Drizzle over top of cake so it runs down the sides.

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