November 26, 2018

A Cookie A Day Until Christmas: Graham Cracker Marshmallow Fruitcake Bars (No Bake)

I was 'gifted' these fruitcake bars on a plate with various other cookies and candies by a co-worker at my job, years and year (and years) ago.  I would have been about 21 years old at the time and although my husband and I enjoyed tasting the other goodies, neither of us wanted to taste the 'fruitcake' bars because neither of us liked fruitcake.  Finally, I relented and picked it up to smell it and then taste it.  Whoa!  This isn't fruitcake!  This isn't even remotely similar to fruitcake at all.  It was so good that I later had to ask my co-worker, (who became a dear, dear friend) for the recipe.

That was back around 1991 and I've been making this recipe ever since.  That dear friend passed away from breast cancer a few years ago and although I think of her a few times during the year for random reasons, it's without a doubt that she comes to mind every single year when I make these bars.

Not at ALL like fruitcake except they use candied fruit and nuts; it's a graham cracker and marshmallow base and once people get over the 'fruitcake' connotation, these bars fly off the serving plate.

No Bake Fruitcake Bars

1 lb. butter*
1 lb. mini marshmallows
3/4 c evaporated milk
1 lb. pecans
1/2 lb. walnuts
1/2 lb. whole green candied cherries
1/2 lb. whole red candied cherries
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. graham cracker crumbs

Melt the butter, marshmallows and evaporated milk in a pan on the stove over low to medium heat.  In a very large bowl mix the rest of the ingredients.  Add the melted marshmallow mixture.  Stir and mix well.  Press into a greased or foil lined 9X13" pan.  Press flat and freeze or refrigerate overnight.  Thaw a bit before slicing to make it easier.  Slice into 3 long sections or rows and slice each row into thin slices to serve.

**I've been using a little less butter over the past few years (perhaps 3 1/4 sticks instead of 4) and it's been perfectly fine.  Feel free to cut back a bit on the butter if you want to try it that way.  You can also change the amounts of the nuts, raisins and cherries, etc. I've used craisins some years, and doubled the red cherries and halved the green cherries, etc.  You can play with this recipe a bit.  

Pressed into the pan, ready to go into the freezer until needed.

An easy way to press into the pan is to use a piece of plastic wrap on the top and then press or roll it flat.

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November 23, 2018

A Cookie A Day Until Christmas! Mexican Wedding Cakes - or Russian Tea Cakes

This cookie is one I've been making for too many years to count.  Originally I made it because it sounded interesting to me due to the use of only a few ingredients; including ground up nuts and very little sugar. After they were made I recognized them!  It was a cookie I had tasted and loved previously, given to me by one of my neighbors in our little cookie exchange baskets.  (Our neighborhood at the time had about 4 or 5 of us that would walk around and deliver goodies to everyone as a Christmas 'hello'). 

It's a small, round cookie that looks like a little snowball.  It's dry, crunchy and isn't too sweet, but just right.  Great with coffee and good for people who like walnuts and/or pecans.  A lot of 'older' folk like this cookie. 

Russian Tea Cakes
Mexican Wedding Cakes

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered or confectioner's sugar
1 t vanilla
2 1/4 c flour
3/4 c finely chopped nuts (typically walnuts but also consider pecans or almonds)
1/4 t salt
more powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375. Mix butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt. Shape into 1 inch balls. Bake 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes. They should not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly and then roll in powdered sugar and let cool. Roll a second time. Can freeze for later use. 

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November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving! Traditional Pecan Pie and Blueberry Pie!

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers and my family!  Yesterday I made the pies for today and this year, we are just having 2 pies and neither are pumpkin.  We are not hosting a large gathering, so two pies are sufficient and I went with two kinds that everyone loves; pecan and blueberry. 

As a matter of fact, my future son-in-law apparently only likes my pecan pie - which is surprising because there isn't anything special about it.  It's about as traditional 'made like great grandma used to make' as you can get.  But last year there was a store bought pie and my pie both brought to one of their Thanksgiving get-togethers with friends and he and another guy ate the entire pecan pie I had made.  They had one bite of the store bought and pushed it aside.  I would have thought they would taste the same?  Apparently not.

And my youngest daughter's favorite pies are apple or blueberry.  I had a huge bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer so... blueberry it was!

Easy as pie....

Pecan Pie

1 - 9" unbaked pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1 c light corn syrup
1 c brown sugar
4 eggs
1/3 c butter
dash of salt
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c pecans (more or less)

Preheat the oven to 350. In a bowl combine the corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt and vanilla. Mix well. Pour filling in the crust and position the pecan halves around the pie in rows until you finish with one pecan half in the center. Bake in a gas oven approximately 50 minutes and in an electric oven about 1 1/4 hours. You can cover with foil if it is getting too brown on the edges for your tastes. 


3 pints blueberries - either fresh, cleaned and stems removed or frozen
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 c sugar (I use a mixture of brown and white)
1/4 t cinnamon
2 T butter, cut up
dash of vanilla
A double pie crust

Mix the blueberries, lemon juice, flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl and then place in the bottom crust. Top with the cut up butter and then carefully place the top crust over and crimp or use a fork to seal the edges. Slice a pretty star shape on the top with a knife or fork to let steam escape. Optional:  to sprinkle the top with sugar and/or cinnamon.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 for another 30-40 minutes.  Cool.

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November 20, 2018

Carrying on Family Tradition - Thanksgiving Mini Candy 'Dinner' Cupcakes

Soooo many years ago (18 I think?) I started to make Thanksgiving cupcakes that looked like tiny Thanksgiving dinners.  I've posted about them here on An American Housewife many times over the years but they are a tradition in our family.

The cupcakes are decorated with a cookie that doubles as a 'plate' and bits of frosting, sprinkles, jimmies and candy are used to make a complete 'meal' of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries and either green beans or peas (depending on what candies you choose that year).

I'm thrilled to see that as my kids are growing up and leaving the nest, they are continuing our family traditions.  My oldest daughter sent me these pictures yesterday of the mini Thanksgiving Cupcakes she made to hand out to her little boys preschool class and for daycare and teachers.


I've posted this 'recipe' for years - here is a copy of one of the posts from my archives

  • Brach's Maple Nut Candies
  • White frosting
  • Yellow gel food color (in a little tube)
  • non-perils - red or green (for tiny red cranberries and green peas)
  • I bought the long shapes and called them 'green beans'
  • caramels, melted or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips for 'gravy'
  • a package of cookies with an 'edge' - I choose the ones with the 'pretty edge' to look like a plate
  • yellow frosting or other for the 'plate'

Bake and cool your favorite cupcake recipe. Place frosting on the cupcake and top each with a cookie while the frosting is soft to 'adhere' the cookie-plate to the cupcake.

Slice the maple nut candies thin and layer them as 'turkey'.
Dab some white frosting next to it for 'mashed potatoes' followed with a little dab of yellow gel food color as 'butter'.
Melt your caramels, butterscotch or chocolate chips and thin with a little vegetable oil. Drizzle over the 'turkey' as gravy.
Finish it off with the 'cranberries' (red colored sugar or non-perils) and little green 'peas' or 'beans'.

You can slice the top off the cupcakes
if you filled them 3/4 full and they have
a little peak. This will let the 'plate'
evenly on the top of it.

I have made these too many times to count - as they are a tradition in our home *most* Thanksgivings.
I've used all different sorts of cookies as the plate as you can see from yet another photo of the many versions
I've made over the past almost 25 years.

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November 16, 2018

2018 Version - MACARONS

The holiday baking has begun here at the home of An American Housewife.  This early on, I only start with things that can be safely frozen in the deep freeze for a couple weeks.  Yesterday I made up 4 batches of cut-out sugar cookie dough, 2 batches of peppermint melt-away cookie dough and 3 batches of molasses cookie mixes.  All are just chilling in the refrigerator to bake (maybe tomorrow?).

Today was almond macaron bake day!  I ended up doing 4 batches.  I decided to make them all red so it would be easier later on to fill and sandwich them. 

Almond Macarons

1 cup fine quality almond flour
2 cups powdered sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar
dash of salt
1/4 c fine granulated sugar

Mix the confectioner's sugar and almond flour very well either by pulsing in a food processor until combined or using an electric stick blender or electric whisk, sifting it, etc. It should be mixed very well and quite fine.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and a dash of salt; and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add a drop or two of food color if you are using it, a drop or two of flavor extracts if you are using them, and the fine white sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.  Take your time folding and don't rush it or you will break down the beaten egg whites.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip if you have one, or if not, leave the round 1/2 inch opening of the bag or the white plastic piece you would normally put a tip on, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  If you remember, drag the pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks (like you see in the photo above! Ha).

Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 18 minutes.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling of your choice. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.

Ready to add the almond flour/confectioner's sugar mixture...

Remember to get it nice and 'fine' by processing or sifting, etc. first.

Starting to fold it in... slowly.  Don't break down the egg whites.

Almost there!

Another random photo from my personal snapchat story to my family....  ha ha.

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November 11, 2018

The Christmas Cookies are Coming!

I know my readers didn't know this, but I've been out of town (out of state, actually) most of the last 3-4 weeks.  But I'm home now and I think I get to stay home through December so guess what I get to start on?  Christmas cookies!!  I even bought a small, new, deep freezer to store them as it takes 3-4 weeks to get them all made and in order to make room for them in our normal deep freeze, I have to use up all our normal groceries. 

I have posted hundreds of Christmas Cookie recipes over the past 10 years and you can find them through the site search, or by label.  I will also be re-posting them and working on a few brand new ones this year.  I think my recipe list is currently hovering around 25 different recipes; some will be double and triple batches.

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November 08, 2018

STOP WASTING FOOD: Use common sense and stop caring about what you THINK is an 'expiration' date

The only foods that are required by federal law to have expiration dates are baby food, infant formula, and over-the-counter medications.

Many canned and boxed products are safe to eat long after the date on the container, and the shelf life of refrigerated and frozen foods can be extended if they are handled properly.

Once a perishable item is frozen, it doesn’t matter if the date expires foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely, though the quality slowly deteriorates over time. Here are some code dates you may see on food packages:

“Expiration Date” (Examples: “Expires 11/15/11” or “Do not use after 11/15/11”)

Look for it on: Baby food and formula, medicines,vitamins, yeast, baking powder.
What it means: Do not use infant formula, baby food, vitamins, or medicines after the expiration date. Yeast and baking powder work less well after expiration but are safe to eat.

“Pack Date” (Examples: “Packed on 03/01/2012” or “22:5306412” or “KL064”)

Look for it on: Canned food, crackers, cookies, spices.
What it means: This is the date the food was packaged. A code is often used that cannot be understood by the general public, often numbering days sequentially such that January 1 is day 001 and December 31 is day 365 (366 in leap years). Usually this food is of good quality and safe to eat for a long time past the date.

“Sell By” Date (Example: “Sell by January 1, 2012”. Also called “Pull Date”)

Look for it on: Refrigerated foods such as milk,yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, lunch meat,packaged salad mixes.
What it means: The store must sell these foods before the code date listed and often donates thesefoods when they are close to date. If the food has been handled properly it is still safe to eat andthe quality is good.

“Use By” or Quality Date (Examples: “Best if used by 1/1/12” or “Use Before 1/1/12”)

Look for it on: Crackers, cookies, cold cereals, and other dry, shelf stable food.
What it means:  This date is the manufacturer’s recommendation for how long the food will be at peak quality. After the quality date, the food is still safe to eat but slowly begins to lose nutrients and the quality begins to lessen.

Date Labeling and Impact on Food Waste

Confusion over the meaning of dates applied to food products can result in consumers discarding wholesome food. In an effort to reduce food waste, it is important that consumers understand that the dates applied to food are for quality and not for safety. Food products are safe to consume past the date on the label, and regardless of the date, consumers should evaluate the quality of the food product prior to its consumption.

More Info: USDA, Harvesters

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November 05, 2018

Thanksgiving Bread Idea: Homemade (beautiful!) Garlic Herb Pull Apart Bread

Baked and ready to serve

Elegant Garlic Herb Pull Apart Bread

4 1/2 t - (2 pkg.)  active, dry yeast
1/2 c warm water
1 t sugar
1/3 c additional sugar
1 1/4 c warm milk
1/2 c butter, melted
2 eggs
1 t salt
6 c flour (additional 1 cup on stand by)
1-2 T fresh, minced garlic
2 T fresh, chopped parsley or 2 t dried
1 t garlic salt (optional - cut out if you need to cut down on salt)
4 T butter, soft

In a large mixing bowl, place the yeast and warm water with the 1 teaspoon sugar.  Stir gently and let set about 1 minute to dissolve.  Add the milk, melted butter, eggs, salt, 1/3 c sugar and about 3-4 cups flour.  Stir by hand or use your bread dough hook on the electric mixer and stir to form a soft dough starting with 3 cups flour and adding more to get the dough to form.  This should be a total of about 6 cups.   Knead by hand on a floured board 6-8 minutes or by mixer with dough hook, about 4-5 minutes.  In a greased bowl, turn once to cover the dough with oil or grease, cover and let raise until doubled in height.  This could be 25 minutes to an hour or more depending on how warm the area you are letting it raise is.

Punch down dough and place on a floured surface.  Divide dough into 4 portions.  The bread I made above was using just 2 dough portions of the dough and using the other two for something else.

Roll each portion into a rectangle about 14 inches by 6 inches.  Spread about 2 tablespoons of the butter over the rectangle and use half your garlic, garlic salt and parsley to sprinkle over the dough.   Fold the dough up accordion style (back and forth, back and forth) about every 2 inches.  Cut the folded dough into slices about 1 1/2 inches wide with a very sharp knife.  Place them standing up in a round, greased pan with the folds showing upwards.  Continue with your dough to fill a round circle in the pan.

Cover loosely and let raise in a warm place about 15-20 minutes just until it starts to raise and get puffy.  Bake at 375 degrees about 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the bread is done.  Let cool about 3 minutes in the pan before turning out to a wire rack.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes before serving warm.

Covering with fresh, minced garlic, garlic salt and parsley

Folded accordion style and sliced

Placed in a greased baking pan to form a ring

Let raise

Baked and ready to serve

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November 01, 2018

Perfect Homemade Bread - You can make it in your bread machine

Our family may eat primarily low carb and sugar free but I'm a carb lover when it comes to bread and pasta and sometimes, especially on chilly Fall days or cold winter nights I crave homemade breads.  It's that time of year when I start to make more homemade soups and stews, and what goes better than a slice of homemade bread? 

This one is my 'go to' recipe when I don't actually want to do any work to make the bread... I just want to eat it.  I've used this recipe for the 20 years that I've had my bread machine - although you'll see in my notes at the bottom that it's such a great recipe that you can adapt it to make it in your electric mixer bowl with a bread hook or even by hand (with lots of kneading!).  I usually take out about a cup of flour and replace with some whole wheat flour or flax meal, and I often just use my machine to make this dough and then form it into dinner rolls or hamburger buns.  It's very adaptable.

This time it's the 'no work' loaf of homemade bread right from your machine.  Make sure you have a 'large' machine as you need the 2 pound or 'large loaf' setting.  Put in the ingredients, turn it on and a few hours later, you'll have homemade bread ready to serve.

Classic Homemade Bread in Your Bread Machine

12 oz. warm water
1 1/2 t salt
2 T butter
4 c unbleached or bleached bread flour (or use all purpose if that is what you already have on hand*)
2 T dry milk powder
2 T sugar
1 3/4 t yeast, dry

Place the ingredients in your bread machine (in the order your machine requires).  If you've lost your instruction manual or can't find it, almost all bread machines off their manuals online.  Do an internet search and you'll find a copy. In mine, I place the water, butter and salt in first;  followed by the flour, dry milk and sugar.  Then use my knuckle or finger to make a little dip/hallow or indentation in the top and put the yeast there.

Use your setting for a 2 pound loaf or large loaf.  Remove from your machine when finished and let cool on your counter until time for serving.

*This recipe can also be adapted to make dinner rolls, hamburger buns, bread braids, etc. Even pizza crusts.  Just use your dough setting on your machine.  I've also used this particular recipe to make it from scratch by hand (lots of work but it's what our great grandmothers did!) and I typically and usually just use my KitchenAid mixer to mix it up with the bread dough hook attachment.

I've posted this recipe in various forms many times on An American Housewife since 2006. You can find adaptations in my search engine or if you want to see the 'dough' instructions for the mixer and how I made them into buns, one of my posts can be found here:

*Although this recipe doesn't work using all whole wheat flour, you can replace a portion of the bread or AP flour with whole wheat.  I grind my own whole grain wheat from wheat berries and as you can tell in the photos in this post it has some 'wheat' to it and it's not all white bread.  I replaced about 2/3 cup with whole wheat and tossed in a bit of vital wheat gluten with vitamin C - although neither of these are necessary for this recipe.  It was/is originally an all white bread.  I've also added ground flax seed to this recipe without any issues.  It's pretty adaptable.

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