Category Archives: recipe

Fall Weather – Fall Recipes!

I just have to say that I’m thoroughly enjoying the cooler weather we’ve been experiencing lately. The highs are supposed to be in the 76-82’F range for highs and I’m most certainly not going to complain! Of course, now the reality of how close Halloween is getting has set in – and that only means that November and the rest of the holidays are hot on its heels. 
Even though it’s not cold here yet, I’m already looking forward to making soups this fall and winter. I love making big batches of soup either on the stove or in the crock pot. This last year, I’ve been learning how to can. My goal is to make big batches of soup, eat them for that meal, and can the rest. That way we can just open up a jar and have homemade soup whenever we’re in the mood. 
This time of year also makes me think of a couple of recipes that I make – at most – once a year around this time. The first is a dessert – pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing. The other is dinner in a pumpkin.
I thought I would share both recipes with all of you 🙂 
Pumpkin Bars
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Preheat the oven to 350’F
  • Beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin until light and fluffy. 
  • In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. 
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix
  • Spread the batter in an ungreased 15″ by 10″ pan
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, testing with a toothpick to see if it’s done. 
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 (3 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • Cream the cheese and butter.
  • Stir in the vanilla and sugar a little at a time.
  • Beat until smooth.
I do recommend keeping this dessert in the fridge because of the frosting.
Dinner in a Pumpkin
  • 1 medium pumpkin
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups of hot, cooked rice
  • Preheat the oven to 375’F
  • Cut the top of the pumpkin around the stem, keep the top, and discard the insides. 
  • Brown the beef, add veggies, and cook until tender. 
  • Stir in the other ingredients and spoon into the pumpkin. 
  • Replace the top. 
  • Lightly grease the center of the baking pan or use aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place the pumpkin. 
  • Bake 1 hour until the pumpkin in tender. 
You can serve this right out of the pumpkin, or scoop it all into a bowl. You can decide how much pumpkin to include in it by how much you scoop off the sides. This makes a LOT of food!


Do I Really Bake?

Yes, I do! I enjoy baking a lot. I regularly make cookies and breads from scratch. 
I’ve had several comments from readers about a part in Calming the Storm where Rachel is making an apple crisp. People have told me that it sounds like I bake in real life. One reader even suggested that I include a recipe in my books. I thought this was a really neat idea, and I have decided to do just that.
I did go back and add Rachel’s Apple Crisp recipe to the Kindle version of Calming the Storm. But I wanted to post that recipe for those of you who already have copies of the book, just in case you want to try it out for yourselves.
I make this apple crisp regularly and it is so yummy! You can also follow this recipe and substitute peaches, pears, and berries.  If you use any canned fruit, drain it, pour it in, and directly stir the cinnamon into that rather than add any water. That extra juice will compensate and you don’t want the dessert to get too soggy!
I originally got this recipe from my sweet mom, who received the recipe from her mom. Without them, we would not have apple crisp at our home and I’m pretty sure it would be missed terribly!

Calming the Storm
Rachel’s Apple Crisp Recipe     

4 cups sliced apples

¼ cup water

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup sugar

¾ cup flour

1/3 cup soft butter

Preheat the oven to 350ºF·          

Spread the sliced apples in the bottom of an ungreased 8” x 8” pan 

Combine the water and cinnamon in a bowl and then sprinkle that over the apples

Work sugar, flour, and soft butter together until it is crumbly

Spread the mixture over the apples evenly

Sprinkle more cinnamon on top of the mixture according to your preference

 Bake uncovered for approximately 40 minutes

This is delicious right out of the oven, with ice cream, and even cold from the fridge

Canning a Batch of My Famous Spaghetti Sauce

Okay, so it’s famous in my house. That counts for something, right? 😉
I have a large pressure canner and I’m slowly learning to can different foods – emphasis on the slowly. So far, I’ve canned spaghetti sauce, pinto beans and salsa. But the spaghetti sauce is a monthly project because we eat so much of it. Not only do we use it for actual spaghetti, but it’s one of the few things that our son will eat. I can put it on bread for pizza bread and I can even hide other vitamins or nutrients in it. We can’t live without our spaghetti sauce! 
Now, before I started this post, I was going to include the recipe. Then I realized something: I don’t follow a specific recipe. I mix it a bit to taste. So I’ll share my approximate recipe. But I think that, for those of you brave enough to give it a try, you’ll really like it! 
First, a quick note about the tomato sauce we use. We buy the gigantic 106 oz. cans at Sams. I’m sure they are available at other locations as well.
Spaghetti Sauce Recipe (Approximately)
2 cans of tomato sauce (106 oz. each can)
2 tbsp sugar (use whatever kind you like. I’ve used white, raw and coconut and liked them all)
4 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder 
Combine everything and mix well. Bring the sauce to a boil. Once it is at a good boil, reduce to a simmer. Place a lid on the pot (or you’ll be finding spaghetti drops on your walls and floors for weeks) and let it simmer for at least an hour. Two is better. Stir every 20 minutes or so. 
That’s it! You can freeze big batches like this or can them. Either one works great. 
A batch like this lasts our family of four about a month. Very easy and so yummy! 

Essential Oils: Reducing Seasonal Allergy Symptoms

In the beginning
If you’re like me, and like a good deal of people, you suffer from seasonal allergies. Truthfully, I didn’t have any noticeable allergies until nearly eight years ago. But it seemed like, by the time our son was two, they were bothering me more and more. About three years ago, I even went so far as to get allergy testing done. I did not have a major reaction to anything, but a mild reaction to a lot of things. I started allergy shots and after five or six months of them, saw no results. I know that you’re supposed to take them longer than that, but we then moved and I would have had to start all over again anyway. 
By the time we changed locations almost two years ago, I was miserable. In the fall and winter, I had sinus infection after sinus infection. I remember having to take three rounds of antibiotics between the beginning of November 2011 and February 2012. 
Enough is enough!
After trying allergy shots with no relief, I decided I had to do something. I really didn’t want to start back up with allergy shots again once we moved and I wasn’t convinced they would help me anyway. I was feeling desperate. I started doing some research into essential oils and figured that it certainly couldn’t hurt to try. 
That next winter, every time I started getting sinus pain or a sinus infection, I would put peppermint, rosemary and eucalyptus oil (just a drop each) into a bowl of water and breathe in the steam for 30 seconds. I did this several times a day until I didn’t feel like I was on the verge of a sinus infection anymore. I was amazed. I did not have a single sinus infection all winter and when I had a cold and did this, I was so much more comfortable. 
Expanding essential oil use
I was still having bad allergy symptoms that at least twice a week would develop into a headache that only a Coke and migraine medicine could ease – and even that didn’t always work. I also took an over-the-counter allergy medication every day. Impressed with my experience using essential oils when I was on the verge of a sinus infection or sick, I began to look into it to see what could be done to lessen seasonal allergies in general. This is what ultimately led to my obsession with essential oils. 
Recipe for success
I found a lot of suggestions for different oils that could help ease allergy symptoms. At some point in my search, I ran into a blog post by Baldwin’s Girl that contained an actual recipe to try to relieve allergy symptoms. This was exactly what I was looking for! 
10 drops eucalyptus
10 drops lavender
5 drops cedarwood
5 drops peppermint
3 drops helichrysum
I did not have helichrysum for quite some time, but I did mix up this recipe without it and began to use it. I first bought a necklace made of clay that could absorb the oils into it so that I could wear it around my neck and breathe those oils in all day long. 
Later, I upgraded to a locket-style necklace that has a cotton pad in it that I can add a couple drops of the oil blend. I found that this worked so much better and the smell lasted much longer as well. I also added helichrysum to the mix. 
My experience
I have been using this recipe for almost a year now and I have had great results. Am I absolutely allergy symptom free? Of course not. For example, we’ve had rain off and on the last five days and my allergies have kicked up a lot. I’m stuffy and uncomfortable. But I know I would be feeling much, much worse if I weren’t using the oils. I can also say that, in the last year, I have to take migraine medication once or twice a month as opposed to consistently needing it 2-3 times a week before. A huge improvement in my book. I did have one sinus infection this last winter, but one in two years is a whole lot better than 2-4 every winter.
When I do get bad sinus headaches, I roll some Relieve Me (50% oil, 50% carrier oil) on my temple or the back of my neck. I also have used an unscented, all natural lotion and added some peppermint, lavender and spearmint oils to it and will rub that in as well. They definitely help. 
I wish I could get rid of my allergy symptoms completely, but compared to where I was a year ago, I feel like essential oils have been a miracle in my life. 
If you’ve tried just about everything to lessen your allergy symptoms and you’re still feeling miserable all the time, you might want to give essential oils a try! 
Remember, do your research on all essential oils before you start using them. Most essential oils must be diluted (I do not dilute the allergy relief recipe, but it also doesn’t touch my skin) and some oils that might be okay for adults are not okay for kids, etc. Definitely educate yourself about oils before you just jump in and use them! There are a lot of great resources online and people you can ask for help or advice as well. 

It’s a Rain Outside, Rainbow Inside Kind of Day

It’s an overcast and rainy Saturday morning, a site that is relatively unusual here in West Texas. Having lived in the Pacific Northwest a good part of my life, I’m loving every minute of it. It’s one of those mornings where I am happy to be indoors as I work on my writing. 
The majority of the family feels the same way: My husband is playing a computer game and our son is watching Aladdin on TV (which brings forth even more emotions now than it did as we remember the late Robin Williams). Our daughter, however, woke up bored and kept insisting she get to go outside and play in the rain. While I don’t necessarily have any objections to playing in the rain, I was looking forward to a cozy day indoors. 
So in contrast to the gray weather outside, I thought I would bring out the rainbows. The rainbow rice, that is. It was a project the kids and I did back in February where we used rubbing alcohol, food coloring and rice to create a bright alternative to sand. 
Our daughter was clapping her hands as I spread the sleeping bag on the floor, collected a variety of items for her to play with, and then opened the container of rainbow rice. Since then, she has been creating rainbow rice milkshakes, burying her feet in it, and letting it slowly flow out of a funnel into another container. 
Even Jessie, one of our dogs, got into the action. Laying with her body just off the sleeping bag, she expertly used her tongue to grab rogue piece of rice as they bounced off plastic containers and scattered her way. 
This is a great way to keep little ones (and even big kids) busy when they are stuck indoors!
If you are interested in making some rainbow rice of your own, check out this blog post and recipe from Joybilee Farm! Just be prepared to have fun. And if you happen to have a rainbow-rice-eating dog, cleanup is a breeze! 😉

Banana Bread Galore!

We had 9 or 10 bananas that were getting incredibly brown. These were some bananas that weren’t fantastic when we bought them, so they just sat on the counter until they were way past their prime. Because I hate seeing any food to go waste, my daughter and I spent yesterday afternoon making banana bread. 
We had enough of the batter to make a large loaf and three small loaves of regular banana bread and then a large loaf and four small loaves of chocolate banana bread. 
I especially love this bread right out of the oven with some butter melting on the top. Yum!
Thankfully we had a get together with some friends last night so I was able to give away four of the small loaves. I left some out for breakfast the next couple of days and then froze the rest. I love being able to just reach into my freezer and pull out some banana bread when the mood strikes someone in the house! 
Are you hungry for banana bread yet? Let me share the recipe I have with you! For chocolate banana bread, use 1 3/4 cups of flour and 1/4 cup of baking cocoa powder instead of the 2 cups of flour. 

Banana Bread 

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
1 cup milk
1 egg beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup walnuts (optional) 

Grease the bread pan
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl
Mix the milk, egg, oil and banana in a bowl
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients
Pour the wet mixture into the well
Mix the batter until moistened – don’t over mix
Spoon batter into the bread pan
Bake at 400’F for approximately 25 minutes
Check with toothpick, bake an addition 5-10 minutes if needed