Cranberry-Date Bars

These bars are chockfull of fresh cranberries and chopped dates, a filling that needs no added sugar! And because the crust contains wholegrain oats and cornmeal, these bars are as good for breakfast as they are for a dessert. They freeze well, too.

1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries (thaw, if frozen)
1 8-oz. box chopped dates
2 T. water
1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups brown sugar, packed
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup melted butter
1 cup flour
¼ cup cornmeal

2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 T. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla

In a medium saucepan, simmer the cranberries, dates, and water until the cranberries pop. When thickened, remove from heat and add the vanilla.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350º. Stir all the crust ingredients together until well moistened. Press half the mixture into a sprayed 9 x 13” pan and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and spread the filling over the crust, then dot the filling with clumps of the remaining crust. Bake another 25-30 minutes, until bars feel almost firm in the center. Cool on a rack. Mix glaze and drizzle over the top.

Kitchen Hint: You can replace half of the flour with whole wheat or white whole wheat flour.

Rosetta’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soft, chewy, and full of chips and nuts, these cookies are irresistible!

1 ¼ cups brown sugar, packed
¾ cup butter-flavored shortening (not butter)
2 T. milk
1 T. vanilla
1 egg
1 ¾ cups flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 12-oz bag of dark chocolate chips
1 11-oz. bag of butterscotch chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 375º. For best results, cover cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cream the brown sugar, shortening, milk, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Combine the flour and baking soda, and mix into creamed mixture until just blended. Stir in the chips and nuts. Drop onto cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are just starting to brown. Cool the cookies on the pan for a few minutes and then finish cooling them on a rack. Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Freezes well.

Cream Cheese Cake Mix Cookies

Recipes abound for cookies that begin with cake mixes, but the cream cheese adds a new dimension of YUM. There are as many variations of this recipe as there are cake mixes! The cookies bake up soft and chewy, and your favorite chips, nuts, and other add-ins make them uniquely yours.

1 box cake mix, any flavor.
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla or other extract
2 cups baking chips, nuts, coconut, raisins, etc.

Preheat oven to 350º and either spray cookie sheets or cover them with parchment paper. Place cake mix, cream cheese, butter, egg, and extract (should enhance your cake mix flavor) in a large mixing bowl and beat until batter is smooth. Stir in the chips, etc. of your choice. Drop by large spoonsful onto baking sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake about 12 minutes, or until bottoms start to brown (center will still be a bit soft). Cool on a wire rack. Makes 3 dozen. Freezes well.

Cheesy Egg Muffins

An easy make-ahead breakfast entrée that’s high in protein and can be customized with the veggies you add! You can squeeze it between English muffin halves for a sandwich.

1 dozen eggs
1 tsp. salt or sea salt
Pepper, dill weed, parsley, to taste
1 cup fresh or frozen spinach
1 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
¼ cup chopped onion or sliced green onion
2 cups shredded cheese (your favorite kind), more for topping

Preheat the oven to 350º. Spray each cup of a 12-muffin pan. Crack the eggs into a large liquid measuring cup and whisk with salt and other seasonings. Divide the spinach, mushrooms, onions, and cheese between the 12 muffin cups and then carefully pour egg mixture over the vegetables, leaving a ¼” space at the top. Stir with a fork so egg mixture is distributed around the vegetables. Top with extra cheese if desired.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until pick comes out clean from the centers. Muffins will sink a bit—let them rest a few minutes in the tins. Use a rubber spatula to remove the muffins to a platter. Eat immediately or cool and transfer to a resealable plastic bag. Keep in the refrigerator up to a week, or freeze for a month.

Kitchen Hint: You can substitute other vegetables for the spinach, mushrooms, or onion. Keep the amount the same so they’ll fit into the muffin cups.

Ruby’s Special Chocolate Cake

Busy Plain cooks are happy to start with a box mix and “doctor it up,” when it comes to desserts. This formula is especially good with a chocolate cake mix, but it works for any flavor you choose! Makes a 9 x 13” cake, two 9” round layers, or 24 cupcakes.

1 cake mix, following the directions except:
Replace the water with same amount of milk
Replace the oil with melted butter—and double the amount (1/2 cup becomes 1 cup)
Add an extra egg
(For instance, the cake I make has 4 large eggs, 2/3 cup melted butter, and 1 cup milk).

Pour the batter into sprayed pan(s) and bake according to package directions!

Mocha Buttercream Frosting

This frosting is nothing short of fabulous! The recipe frosts/decorates a 9 x 13” layer, top and sides with dense, delicious frosting. I use Ghirardelli chocolate, but any brand of 100% cacao that’s unsweetened will work.

2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
2 T. boiling water
1 4-oz. bar 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate, melted
2/3 cup butter, softened
4-41/2 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of salt

Dissolve the instant coffee in the boiling water, then stir into the melted chocolate. In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the butter until soft. Gradually add 4 cups of the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, beating until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate mixture until well blended. For decorating, you want the frosting to form peaks/ridges that hold their shape, so you might want to add that other ½ cup of powdered sugar.

Sweet & Sour Four-Bean Salad

This is one of my mom’s recipes, and I always looked forward to family gatherings when she served it. Amish cooks (and Mom and I) use a pint jar of home-canned green and wax beans for each can in the recipe. A great way to get your veggies—and it keeps several days in the fridge.

1/3 cup canola or salad oil
1 tsp. each salt and celery seed
Black pepper to taste
2/3 cup white vinegar
¾ cup sugar
1 onion, chopped
1 red or green bell pepper, diced
1 15-oz. can yellow wax beans
1 15-oz. can green beans
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans
1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans
1 15-oz. can whole kernel corn (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the oil, seasonings, vinegar and sugar. Add the onion and bell pepper. Drain the canned vegetables and stir into the dressing, coating well. Refrigerate, stirring after several hours. Best made the day ahead.

Chocolate Beet Bread

You’ll think you’re eating chocolate cake for breakfast—yet you’re also eating whole grain flour and beets and antioxidant-rich cocoa! Best served warm, so the chocolate chips are gooey (I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chips).

1 ½ cups + 2 T. all-purpose flour, divided
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. each salt and nutmeg
2 15-oz. cans sliced beets
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
½ cup olive oil
2 T. orange zest
1 T. vanilla
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350º. Thoroughly spray a Bundt pan. In a large bowl, mix the flours, (reserving the 2 T. for later), cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Drain the beets and puree them in a food processer or grinder. Place the beet puree in a medium bowl with the buttermilk, eggs, olive oil, zest, and vanilla—blend well, and gently pour into the flour mixture. Toss the chips with the 2 T. flour and stir into the batter. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 40-50 minutes, until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 15 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. 12-16 servings.

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