This dessert will always remind me of my Mom. She always made the best cream pies when we were kids and chocolate was my personal favorite. She worked at a local grocery store called Renner’s Market and Tuesday was her day off. That was the day she cleaned house, did laundry and meal prepped for the rest of the week. And, that was the day she made some sort of dessert sure to knock our socks off.

Her chocolate pie always had a meringue topping. But, for some reason, most of my family prefers whipped cream these days. The filling for this chocolate pie is also the same one I use for chocolate pudding, which was always my requested dessert when I got to choose.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 can evaporated milk
Enough whole milk added to the evaporated milk to total 4 cups
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 stick butter
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pie crust, blind baked and cooled (This filling recipe makes 1 generously filled deep dish pie or 2 regular pies)

Sift together the flour and the cocoa in a large heavy bottomed saucepan or dutch oven. Add the sugar and the 4 cups milk. Mix well. Heat on medium until mixture is hot. Add some of the hot liquid to the beaten egg yolks, mixing well to temper the egg mixture. Gradually add back to the pie filling, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the filling thickens to a pudding consistency. Remove from heat. Add in the butter and the vanilla, whisking until both are incorporated.

Pour into prepared pie shell and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate. Add whipped cream, or meringue, to top before serving.

There’s no such thing as too much filling. With as many grandchildren as I have wanting to lick the spoon, you need to make extra to have enough left for the pie!

Grammy

I’ve been spending some time trying to adapt some of my go-to comfort foods into things that are just as comforting, but healthier versions. This chicken and rice dish offers comfort, flavor, healthy ingredients, and is gluten-free. It’s also a terrific way to use up the last of a bag of carrots of some stalks of celery hanging around in your refrigerator. The inspiration for this recipe came from this Food Network version.

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons canola oil
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced in half to make cutlets
kosher salt
black pepper
paprika
About a cup and a half of carrots, diced or cut into rounds
About 3-4 stalks of celery, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup brown rice (I used Basmati)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken to taste with kosher salt, black pepper and paprika. Place the chicken in the skillet and saute until just golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove the chicken to a platter.

Add the carrots, celery and onions to the oil in the skillet and saute, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes or so. Stir in the garlic and the rest of the spices and seasonings and cook about 1 minute more.

Stir in the rice and let cook, undisturbed, about 2 minutes to toast the rice slightly. Pour in the broth and stir to combine. Add the chicken back to the pan. Bring to a boil and cover, lower heat to a simmer and cook until the rice is tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

This is a great way to use those odds and ends from the fridge. If you have leftovers, you can add more chicken stock and turn it into chicken and rice soup!

Grammy

I need to eat a more healthy diet and went in search of some recipes that I could add to a collection that would provide some good flavor while also watching the fats and sugar. I found this recipe at the cookincanuck.com and it checked all the boxes for health, flavor, low fat, low sugar and as a bonus it’s also gluten free. It paired really well with some simple salmon and a salad.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup brown rice (the author suggests basmati)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (choose a mushroom you enjoy, but a flavorful one like shitaki will make your dish shine)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 3 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Heat ½ teaspoon olive oil in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Stir in the vegetable broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover saucepan and reduce heat to low.
  • Cook until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 35 minutes.*
  • Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Add the mushrooms and cook until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir in the thyme and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the mushrooms, parsley, salt and pepper to the rice, and stir to combine. Serve.

The taste and the texture is very changeable depending on the type of brown rice and the type of mushroom you choose.

Grammy

I am a big fan of bar cookies. I am also a big fan of chai tea or chai latte. Finding a recipe that perfectly blended those two things was a big win! I normally make these at Christmas, but I love having one with a cup of tea or coffee all year round. They start with a sugar cookie bar recipe that came from the Food Network. They offered 50 Bar Cookies that were made from a few base cookie recipes and I was hooked. I’ll be offering these up throughout the year as I need to supply baked goods for family events, work, etc., whenever we are able to return to something resembling a normal life. In the meantime, make them for yourself and practice making them pretty!

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BARS:

2 sticks butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 chai tea bags

INSTRUCTIONS:
Whisk the 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 eggs and 1 tablespoon vanilla into the melted butter. Stir in 2 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the contents of the 2 chai tea bags.

Bake at 350 degrees in a 9 x 13 greased pan for 25 minutes. Let cool then drizzle with glaze. Let the glaze dry and set and cut into bars. Store in a sealed container.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE GLAZE:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot brewed chai tea

INSTRUCTIONS:

Whisk together the ingredients until smooth; drizzle over the cooled bars. Let glaze set before cutting.

I’ve tried several variations on the chai tea ingredient. I’ve used the tea bags. I’ve used Chai Latte K-Cups. I’ve used Chai spice. Each variation turned out well. These bars are that easy.

Grammy

Dear summer peaches, how do I love thee? Let me count one more way. These Spiced Peach Muffins from King Arthur Flour are heavenly. I needed a way to use my last 4-5 peaches, but we really couldn’t afford to eat even more baked goods this week. This recipe is something that is quick to put together and the muffins will freeze for up to 3 months, allowing you to keep enjoying that peach bounty until fall.

INGREDIENTS:

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups milk
4 peaches, diced (not peeled) For variety you can also use other diced fruit or berries, about 3 cups total
1/4 cup granulated sugar for topping

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two standard muffin pans; or line with muffin cups, greasing the cups.
  2. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir into the dry ingredients.
  4. Gently fold in the fruit.
  5. Heap the batter into the muffin pan; the cups will be very full. Sprinkle sugar on top of each muffin.
  6. Bake the muffins for 24 to 26 minutes, or until they’re golden, risen high, and spring back when touched in the center. Note: Muffins baked without liners will bake and brown more quickly than those baked with liners.
  7. Remove the muffins from the oven, and cool them on a rack. Store, well-wrapped, on the counter for 3 days; or freeze for up to 3 months.

I didn’t have allspice on hand. I used pie spice which is a spice blend in place of the allspice and it worked well.

GRAMMY

I called this a “homestyle” smoked turkey breast because it didn’t turn out the way it was intended. And, sometimes, as in this case, it’s a good thing. Instead of picking up a turkey breast from the grocery store the other day, we ended up with a turkey roast. This is essentially pieces of turkey rolled together in a “roast” and held together by mesh. When my husband opened it up to prep his recipe for a smoked turkey breast, he realized that wasn’t going to work. So, the Homestyle Smoked Turkey Breast was born.

INGREDIENTS:

Turkey roast (boneless and skinless, thawed and removed from the mesh)
All-purpose seasoning
Your favorite dry rub for poultry (we used Mistler’s on this)
1 stick butter
3 slices bacon

Heat your smoker to 225 degrees. Season all sides of the meat (it will probably be in pieces) with a light dusting of AP seasoning and rub. Place in a large aluminum loaf pan, making sure the thickness of the meat layer in the pan is as even as you can. Cover the top with pats of butter and the 3 slices of bacon.

Put on smoker and cook until internal is 165 degrees. This took about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, but using a meat probe is the best way to go about this.

Remove from smoker when to desired temperature and let rest for at least 15 minutes before removing from the pan and slicing.


This is a very moist and flavorful method to cook turkey. Although it’s not competition “pretty,” it’s darn good eatin’!

All Purpose Seasoning (AP)

Many of the recipes call for an all-purpose seasoning. Here are the instructions for making your own.

4 parts kosher salt
2 parts granulated garlic
1 part ground black pepper

Mix well and store in an airtight container.

On my first big family vacation, the biggest memories of my 6-year old self were the following:

  • Yellowstone smelled really bad
  • Old Faithful wasn’t as faithful as people evidently expected
  • I didn’t like range-fed beef that tasted like sage
  • And, most importantly, I ordered “hot cake” every morning for breakfast and every day they brought me pancakes. My first vacation was an adventure in tasting every form of “cake” served at breakfast in the hope that I might, just once, actually get cake for breakfast!

Pancakes, hotcakes, flap jacks, griddle cakes – by whatever name you want to call them – the ingredients, texture and experience differs by region, by ingredient and by cook. I am a purist. I like a nice, light, plain and perfect circle of perfectly browned batter with only a little butter and maple syrup. Although I’ll eat a blueberry pancake, I’m not someone who loves the mounds of fruit and whipped cream, or the extra flavorings and additions. Just a perfect pancake.

I finally found the perfect pancake for me. This recipe is for IHOP Pancakes from Top Secret Recipes. It’s evidently a winner with my husband and grandkids, too!

INGREDIENTS:

Nonstick Spray
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat a skillet over medium heat. Use a pan with a nonstick surface or apply a little nonstick spray.
  2. In a blender or with a mixer, combine all of the remaining ingredients until smooth.
  3. Ladle approximately 1/3 cup of the batter into the hot skillet, forming 5-inch circles.
  4. When the edges appear to firm up, after a minute or two, flip the pancakes. They should be golden brown.
  5. Cook the pancakes on the other side for the same amount of time, until golden brown.

Makes 8-10 pancakes.

Buttermilk is a crucial ingredient in this recipe. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, you can add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice for each cup of milk. Let sit until slightly thickened.

In another recipe that allows me to use my bounty of fresh peaches, this cookie idea from Taste of Home was one that piqued my interest. It has all the great flavors of a peach cobbler in a lovely hand-held cookie form. One recipe change I would suggest is to add 1 additional egg. The original recipe calls for 1 egg and the cookie dough was very crumbly. Some of the cookies (those that had a fair amount of the peaches) came out perfectly. Others were dry and crumbly. Overall, a great cookie that is a recommended do again for our family.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature (RECIPE NOTE: I added 1 additional egg as the cookie mixture seemed dry without it. This is something you should gauge based on how moist your peaches are.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped peeled fresh peaches

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. In another bowl, whisk flour, cinnamon, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in peaches.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake until set, 14-16 minutes. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container.

This approach makes a great basic recipe for many different fruit/spice combinations. Try fresh cherries for another good option.

It’s the most requested meal for birthdays. It’s the most requested dish when I ask people what I can bring for an event. It’s comfort food to the max. I’ve made this for every occasion you can imagine and it’s one of my signature dishes. I hope you enjoy it!

Choose a deep 9 x 13 casserole dish. This is important. There are lots of layers of goodness that go into this dish and you don’t want to lose any of it on the bottom of your oven!

INGREDIENTS:

10 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente in a pan of salted water
1 batch of Mom’s Spaghetti Sauce
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish as a base. Place a layer of 5 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, overlapping the noodles. Place another layer of sauce over the noodles, making sure to cover them evenly. Sprinkle a layer of half the mozzarella cheese and half of the parmesan cheese over the sauce. Repeat the layers of noodles, sauce and cheeses.

Bake, covered with foil, in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Before placing the foil on the lasagna, spray the foil with a little cooking spray. There’s nothing more tragic than loosing half the gooey goodness from the top of your lasagna because it comes off with the foil!