Halloween peanut butter cookies

I had to share this cookie idea I found on Pinterest. There it says to use a cookie mix, but I tried it with my peanut blossom cookie dough recipe and I think it was well worth the extra time.

All you need to do is add about a cup of peanut butter chips and a cup of Reese’s Pieces candy to the dough. Then you press it into a 9×13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees until it’s just starting to brown on top. Maybe 20 minutes?

When the pan comes out, press in a few candy eyeballs (which you can find at craft stores like JoAnn and Michaels). Let the pan cool, then cut the cookies into rectangles. They are SO GOOD, especially when they are still a little warm.

Grandma’s potato salad

I finally did it. I took a stab at making my grandma’s famous potato salad, and I think I nailed it. Her recipe is legendary in our family. And while I could never make it as well as she did, I couldn’t imagine not having it anymore. So I dug out her handwritten recipe and tried it.

I’m going to share it here because I love the way she wrote it with such detailed and funny notes. It cracks me up that she referred to the cost of the celery seed, because her thriftiness is one of the things I loved most about her.


I remember watching Grandma cut ingredients into the tiniest pieces without even looking. She was a pro!

Really the only thing I changed was to use real mayonnaise instead of Miracle Whip. I wasn’t sure if she used regular mustard or mustard powder, but I used powder and I think regular mustard would work just fine.

I always thought it was the pickle juice that was the secret ingredient. But now I think it’s the egg-to-potato ratio, which makes her recipe like a combination of egg salad and potato salad. When I took the bowl out of the fridge after mixing it up, the smell made me tear up. It was just like hers. I love how a recipe can do that for you.

Here’s another kind of unusual thing — have you ever boiled whole russet potatoes with the skins on? I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the potatoes cooked without being too mushy, but it worked just fine. I tested them with a fork a few times until they seemed soft. Actually one potato completely fell apart, so I just tossed it and used one less egg.

I like that you can adjust the recipe for how many people you’re feeding. Grandma always had a HUGE bowl of potato salad in her fridge, but we didn’t need quite that much. I’m excited to make it again for our next potluck or family gathering!

Grandma's potato salad
Serves 12
Our family recipe is like a combination of egg salad and potato salad. Perfect for picnics and family gatherings!
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Ingredients
  1. 8-10 medium-sized russet potatoes
  2. 8-10 hard boiled eggs
  3. 1/4 cup green onions, or 1/2 cup white onion, finely chopped
  4. 2-3 tablespoons sweet gherkins, chopped (about 1 or 2 pickles)
  5. 2 tablespoons pickle juice
  6. 1.5-2 cups mayonnaise
  7. 2 teaspoons dried mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon celery seed
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. 1 teaspoon sugar
Instructions
  1. Boil potatoes with the skin on until they are soft when you poke them with a fork. Make sure you season your water with a little salt.
  2. When your potatoes are cool, chop them into small pieces. Peel and chop your hard boiled eggs into small pieces, too.
  3. Add onions, pickles, and pickle juice. Then mix in your mayonnaise. Add enough so it's moist but not soupy.
  4. Add seasonings and stir to combine. Taste the potato salad, and if it needs a little more of anything, now's the time to add it!
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours before serving.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Biscuit donuts

Um, why did no one tell me about the wonderfulness that is a biscuit donut?

I learned about them on the Say Yes blog and couldn’t believe I’d never tried them before. Basically all you do is crack open a can of biscuit dough, stamp out the middles, fry the donuts in oil and roll them in cinnamon sugar.

They come out remarkably similar to donuts you would buy in a store. They remind me a lot of the cider donuts you get when you go apple picking.

It does take a pretty large amount of oil for frying, but you can actually save it an reuse it another time. Because you will be making these again.

I am a lazy cook, so I did not use a thermometer to figure out how hot the oil was. When it seemed like the donuts were cooking too fast, I turned down the burner a little bit. That seemed to work fine. They got brown and crispy really quickly, so it didn’t take long to make a batch of 8 plus the donut holes. Harper ate most of those and we ate the whole ones. Perfect!

This was sort of the opposite of the breakfast baking I did the weekend before. I have been determined for a long time to find a yeast cinnamon roll recipe that was worth all the effort. I’ve tried 3 times, I think, and they were never good enough. I mean, how can a cinnamon roll that takes 3 hours to make be just OK?

But I finally found THE recipe. I think it came up on Pinterest and it just looked too good not to try. One morning I actually had energy so I got to work. I had to be at the store later that morning so I ended up taking some shortcuts and the recipe still turned out fine. For the first rise, I probably gave it 40 minutes instead of an hour. Then I think I shortened the second rise a little too. The dough was very sticky, but it rolled out just fine.

I made some other changes too. I used all butter instead of margarine because I am a butter girl. My yeast was expired but that didn’t seem to matter either. And then I probably used 1 tablespoon of cinnamon instead of 3. That seemed like plenty to me.

The cream cheese icing seemed like it was too sugary and not cream cheesy enough. But then later it seemed fine, so maybe it just needed to meld a little more.

I couldn’t make this recipe everyday (and definitely shouldn’t!) but I will keep it on file for special occasions. It is everything you want from a cinnamon roll — soft, crumbly bread with a gooey center and melty frosting on top. And at least when you make these at home you know what’s in them.

My first pickles

I promised I would report back on pickles and I’m finally getting to it!

Our cucumber plant produced a TON of cukes so we had to figure out pickling. I wanted to keep them as simple as possible, so I followed Deb’s instructions for the easiest fridge dill pickles.

First, I had to use a vegetable peeler to scrape off all the little spiky bits on the cucumbers. Some of them were really sharp. Then I decided to slice mine into spears.

I didn’t have fresh dill so I used dried and I think it worked just fine. One thing I had to adjust, though, was to add water to fill the jars to the top. Maybe because I had spears instead of slices, my cucumbers didn’t let out enough water and they were super vinegar-y. Once I added the water they were just about perfect.

I thought they might go bad quickly in the fridge, but they have lasted weeks and weeks. In fact I think they get better over time.

Easy strawberry jam

I feel like jam is one of those things that seems intimidating, but is actually really easy to make. I think it’s the canning aspect that’s scary, but you can make a quick fridge jam that will disappear too quickly to bother with the canning anyway.

We were only getting a handful of strawberries from our garden every day, so I decided to save them in a bag in the freezer until I had enough to make jam. I found this recipe in Real Simple and it worked perfectly.

Basically all you do is combine the fruit with sugar and lemon juice and simmer it until the fruit has broken down into a soft, chunky mixture. Let it cool and pour the jam into a jar.

You can make a decadent toast with cream cheese and berry jam – yum!

Sweet potato hash

There is this really great breakfast place near us called Sam’s Log Cabin that serves the most delicious vegan hash with sweet potatoes, carrots and greens. I tried it on a whim one time and was pleasantly surprised by how rich and filling it was. So, I really wanted to try making it at home. The other day I saw someone making sweet potato hash on a cooking show and I was like, OK, I’m doin’ it!

I, of course, thought it would be better with bacon. Similar to Smitten Kitchen’s bacon corn hash, I thought the bacon fat could be used instead of butter to cook the vegetables. So here is what I came up with:

Sweet potato hash
Serves 4
Top with an egg for the perfect breakfast or brunch meal.
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Ingredients
  1. 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  2. 2 large yams, peeled and chopped
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  5. 2 handfuls arugula or other fresh greens
  6. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  7. 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until it is starting to get crispy but not completely done.
  2. Add the yams, carrots, and onions and cover the pan with a lid. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the vegetables aren't sticking to the pan.
  3. Season with paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. When the sweet potatoes and carrots are nice and soft, add the arugula and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
  4. If you like, top with a fried egg and serve.
Notes
  1. *To make the hash vegetarian or vegan, substitute 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil for the bacon.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/
I like to put a runny fried egg (or eggs) on top of my hash. I just think it’s the perfect combination. I’ve also seen a recipe where you spread the hash out in a 9×13 pan, crack a few eggs on top and then bake them. That sounds pretty great, too.

Grandma’s sour cream lemon pie

My grandma loved to make this sour cream lemon pie — it is such a perfect spring dessert. Mom made one for us last weekend with some lemons a co-worker had brought from home and we ate it up!

Grandma’s other tradition was to make my mom a little pie of her own in this sweet mini pie dish. So mom saved the dish and now she can make Harper a little pie to go with the big one. So cute.

Here’s the full recipe.

Grandma's sour cream lemon pie
Serves 8
A tart and creamy dessert for spring.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup sugar
  2. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  3. 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  4. 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  5. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  6. 1 cup milk
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  9. 9-inch pie shell, baked (if you have a scratch recipe, all the better!)
  10. 1 cup whipped cream for topping (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan. Add butter, lemon zest and juice, milk and egg yolks. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil and thicken.
  2. Remove from heat and fold in sour cream. Pour the mixture into your cooled pie shell.
  3. Refrigerate until the pie is nice and firm. Top with lemon slices and serve with whipped cream.
Notes
  1. Meyer lemons work great, too!
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Buttery peas and potatoes

This was a favorite side dish growing up. I hadn’t made it for ages and when I finally dug out the recipe I couldn’t believe it didn’t include dill. So I added some. 😉

My mom always boiled the potatoes and then added the other ingredients (which you can certainly do), but this time I sauteed it all in a pan together. I’m all about one-pan dishes these days.

It was just as good as I remembered. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the butter. It’s key!

Buttery peas and potatoes
A simple spring side dish.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound new potatoes, any variety
  2. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  5. 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  6. 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  7. 10 ounces frozen peas
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse potatoes and remove any bad spots. Cut them into 1-inch pieces, unless they are smaller than that already.
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the potatoes, bay leaf and herbs and stir to combine. Put a lid over your pan and steam the potatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add in the peas and let them steam until they're warm. If your pan gets too dry, you can always add a little more butter.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and serve.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Gluten-free baking success

Up until recently my efforts at gluten-free baking had been mostly failures. It’s a tough thing to master. But I picked up a couple of recipes on Kristin’s blog, and they both turned out surprisingly well. At the time I was looking for a guilt-free snack I could bake, and these seemed to fit the bill. Substituting other flours for wheat often yields a higher-protein, healthier baked good, so I thought it was worth a try.

I made the lemon-blackberry breakfast cookies, substituting blueberries since I had so many in the fridge.

I’m not usually a big fan of banana-flavored things, but in these recipes the banana was more subtle. You can taste it, but it’s not overwhelming. 

I also made flourless peanut butter chocolate chip muffins. I was amazed by how much the texture resembled something made with flour. The muffins are soft and fall apart easily, so I would not make them bigger than mini muffin size. But they taste great, and I bet you could add nuts, fruit or other ingredients to change them up. 

They disappeared so quickly, I have to make another batch!

Farro with arugula and pomegranate seeds

I had never cooked with farro before this recipe. But I found I really liked it and will make it again. This makes a light, fresh side dish.

Farro with arugula and pomegranate seeds
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup dried farro
  2. 2 cups arugula
  3. 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. Juice from 1 lemon
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 1/2 cups water and the farro in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until the farro is tender. You will probably have to do a taste test to see if it's to your liking.
  2. Drain any remaining water. Transfer the farro to a big bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together.
Notes
  1. I did not soak my farro before I cooked it, but you certainly can. It will reduce the cooking time.
Adapted from Real Simple
Adapted from Real Simple
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/