I found this recipe on Taste of Home. It was appealing to me because it was simple, used ingredients that were always on hand and made an amount sufficient to share.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil and sugars. Beat in the eggs until well blended. Beat in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar; gradually add to the creamed mixture.
Drop by small teaspoonfuls on to ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

These cookies had a very subtle vanilla flavor. I doubled it for a bigger vanilla taste.

My son, my sister and now my husband have all purchased Rec Tec Grills. And while they’re mastering the world of smoking and grilling, I explored one of the great side dishes Chef John from Rec Tec posted. Some people think that a great BBQ experience is all about the meats. And, while they’re certainly the star of the show, what’s a memorable BBQ without awesome side dishes? Here’s a salad that is sure to please even those who aren’t really into greens. And, as with most dishes, you can add, leave out or vary the amounts of most of the ingredients to suit your particular taste.

1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped
2 ears of corn, sliced from the cob
1 avocado, peeled and chopped
8-10 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 can black beans, drained
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and veins removed, chopped
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 small red onion, diced
fresh cilantro, minced
Freshly made ranch dressing

Toss the ingredients together with the chilled salad ingredients just before serving.

Choosing the perfect side to go with your grilled or smoked meats can take your BBQ from good to AMAZING!

I love the website Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s one of my go-to spots for great recipes to try and I have yet to be disappointed in any recipe Sally has recommended. The ingredients and the process are very simple. The results were excellent.

Strawberries + Whipped Cream ingredients:

6-7 cups hulled and quartered strawberries
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream

Sweet Biscuits:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 cup cold buttermilk
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling


Start with the strawberries: Stir the strawberries and 1/4 cup granulated sugar together in a large bowl. Cover and set in the refrigerator until ready to use. This time allows the strawberries to release their delicious juices.

Make the biscuits: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl or in a large food processor. Whisk or pulse until combined. Add the cubed butter and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter.

Pour buttermilk on top. Stir everything together until just about combined – do not overwork the dough. The dough will look like shreds and be very crumbly. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and gently mold it together in a ball using your hands. Gently flatten until it is evenly 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 3-inch circles. Re=roll any scraps until you have about 12 biscuits.

Arrange on on a lined baking sheet.

Brush the tops with 2 Tablespoons heavy cream (or buttermilk) and sprinkle with coarse sugar. (I used vanilla bean sugar). Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before assembling.

Make the whipped cream: Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until soft-medium peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Slice the biscuits in half and layer with strawberries and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

Recipe originally posted on Sally’s Baking Addiction.

These sweet biscuits remind me a bit of a moist scone. In fact, I can recommend that the leftover biscuits are great with a cup of coffee or tea the next day!

This is the most requested menu item at all family gatherings. If I don’t make it, I might as well not attend. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law, the original Grandma Croy.

1 package (3.4 ounce) instant vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
8 ounces Cool Whip, thawed
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1-2 bananas, sliced
10 fudge stripe cookies, broken in pieces about the size of a dime, reserving a handful for garnish

In a large bowl, mix together the pudding mix and the milk until it thickens. Gently fold in the whipped topping. Add in the rest of the ingredients, stirring until mixed. Garnish the top with the reserved cookies. Chill until ready to serve (it’s best if chilled overnight).

Layla’s Rules for Making Cookie Salad:

1. The cook gets to sample the cookies first.

2. The cook gets possession of all marshmallows that miss the bowl.

3. It’s perfectly legal to steal mandarin oranges from the can as long as the cook’s hand is small enough to fit.

4. The cook gets to lick the spoon (Grammy’s addendum to rule 4 – the cook can’t put the spoon back in the bowl after she’s licked it.)

I have learned, from personal experience, that I tend to embrace the “art” of cooking more than the “science.” I love to have the freedom and latitude to do what I want and what I feel. Some recipes, especially baking and candy making, are much more strict when it comes to the measurement or weight of ingredients and the combinations that create magic. And, although I love to bake and make the occasional complex recipe, I find true enjoyment in experimenting with what tastes good, is on-hand and in-season.

It’s all about choices. Cooking is very subjective. I’ve had people tell me a recipe is a must-try and the best they’ve ever had, and I’m left scratching my head and wondering what was special about it. One person’s “best ever” is always going to be someone else’s “no thanks.”

Cooking and eating is a matter of taste. You may have always hated a treasured family recipe because it used black walnuts. There’s no rule that says you have to use black walnuts. Maybe you’re a fan of pecans or pistachios. Or, maybe you don’t like nuts at all. Be brave. Change the recipe if it makes you happy. Use what you love and it will be a more enjoyable experience for you.

All of this to say, with any of the recipes I post, it may not be true to what you may have seen elsewhere. I may credit a recipe I’ve found online and tweaked it a bit to suit my own sense of taste. I give you absolute permission to do the same with anything I share with you. Embrace not only the science, but the art of cooking.

And now to leave you with what is one of the most important subjective questions for any cook:

Are you a grape jelly or strawberry jam person? Your comments are welcome.

My mother-in-law, Dorothy Croy, introduced me to her special concoction when I married her son. The ingredients are simple and, as everyone in our family and circle of friends agrees, you either love it or you hate it.

To make 1 gallon of Grandma Croy tea:

Steep 3 large family size teabags of your favorite regular black pekoe tea (I use Luzianne), with 3 regular size teabags of Constant Comment tea in about 8 cups of water.
Pour 1-1 1/2 cups sugar in a gallon size pitcher. Add the hot, steeped tea, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add cold water until the pitcher is full.

Refrigerate until chilled and serve over ice.

Warning: This tea is addictive.

1 cup butter (softened)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups mashed bananas (about 3)
1 cup sour cream (can substitute 1 cup plain Greek yogurt)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one 9-inch loaf pan (or 3 small ones). Pan should be 3/4 full of batter. In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; combine with the bitter mixture. Add the sour cream, bananas and vanilla; stir well. Pout into prepared pans and bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and then turn the loaf out onto a rack.

Recipe by The Reluctant Entertainer.

My favorite banana bread recipe ever. Makes a wonderful gift for your friends and neighbors. Also freezes well.

4 Skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil

Lay chicken thighs in the bottom of a slow cooker. Whisk together the remaining ingredients; pour over the chicken.

Cook on Low for 6 hours.

Recipe from allrecipes.com

Sinfully easy and inexpensive. But add a little Basmati rice and some steamed broccoli and it rivals your best Chinese restaurant meal.

2 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 large egg, beaten
2/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper a large baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. With a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until it resembles course crumbs. Make a well in the center; using a fork, stir in the milk and the egg all at once; stir until the dough leaves the side of the bowl. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead about 20 times. Roll out biscuit dough to about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick. Cut with a biscuit cutter, being careful not to twist. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Brush tops of biscuits with some melted butter after removing from oven.

These biscuits are good enough to make you smack your Granny!