Sunday, January 30, 2011

Church cookbook recipe: Scotcheroos

At almost every Iowa potluck dinner or party, you're likely to find a pan of scotcheroos (also known as Oh Henry bars, or Special K bars in some church cookbooks).  Whenever we have an office party, I bring these bars, and they're usually gone by 10 a.m.  I make two batches at a time -- one for work and one for my husband.  They are his favorite bar.

I'm not sure if these bars are a Midwestern thing, or if they are common around the country.  But they are so, so good.  They are also very rich, so be sure to cut them small for a party.

I tried a slightly different scotcheroo recipe than I typically make, and the chocolate layer on top was very thick, maybe a little too thick.  So if you don't mind a lot of chocolate, then go ahead and make this recipe as is.  Next time, I think I will halve the recipe for the chocolate layer.

These bars would be perfect for a Super Bowl party.  Enjoy!


  • 1 C. corn syrup (light or dark)
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. chunky peanut butter
  • 4 C. Special K cereal
  • 1 (6 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
  • 1 (6 oz.) pkg. butterscotch chips 
Melt first 3 ingredients at low heat, pour over cereal and mix.  Press into buttered 9x13-inch pan. Cool slightly.  Melt chips and butter together in dobule boiler. Spread over cereal mixture. Cool and cut into small bars.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Iowa recipe: Orange Honey Bread

It was 4 degrees outside last weekend.  I didn't want to leave the house, not even to get a gallon of milk at the grocery store 5 blocks away.  But I did want to bake.

I've been buying oranges and lemons like they are going extinct.  They just look so bright and fresh in a world covered in white snow and gray ice.  Plus, I remember my mom peeling oranges for us every winter morning when I was a kid.  She insisted we needed to "get our Vitamin C."  Gosh, I miss those cozy mornings on the farm.

I turned to my Iowa State Fair Cookbook to find a recipe using my favorite citrus fruits.  I thought this orange honey bread looked perfect for a cold winter day.  It calls for a minimum of ingredients, all of which I already had in my pantry or fridge.  And instead of sugar, the bread is sweetened with honey.  I've been wanting to bake more with honey, so I decided to give this recipe a try.

The bread looks beautiful.  But it wasn't all that I was hoping it would be.  The orange flavor was a little too subtle, and the honey flavor a bit too strong for my taste.  Yet it's still a very pretty quick bread.  And I didn't have to leave the house to shop for ingredients.

Feel free to try this recipe when you need a taste of sunshine.  Enjoy!


Fresh Orange Bread
  • 1 C. honey
  • 1/4 C. shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
  • 2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2-1/2 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. fresh orange juice
3/4 C. chopped pecans

Cream honey and shortening. Add egg; beat well.  Add orange peel.  In a separate bowl, mix baking powder and flour together; add to honey mixture, alternating with orange juice.  Stir in nuts.  Pour into two greased 4x8 inch loaf pans.  Bake in 325 degree oven for 55 minutes.  Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Winter living

It's been so cold, I haven't wanted to leave the house on the weekends.  But I wanted to take a few pictures of the snow, because it's fun to do a year-by-year comparison.  So I snapped a few photos from my yard.  As you can tell, my husband and I aren't that great at keeping up with the shoveling.  We prefer to wait for the snow melt :)

You probably can't tell by the photos, but it was 4 degrees outside when I took these.  I didn't want to spend a lot of time outside getting the perfect photos.  So please don't judge.

I'd say we have about 5 inches of snow on the ground right now.

We have rabbit and cat paw prints all over our yard.

Oh dear!  Our poor, 100-year-old porch gets a little more crooked every winter from all the freezing and thawing.

Since it's been too cold to be outside, I've been baking like crazy inside to help keep our drafty house warm.  I'll be sharing a few more recipes with you in future posts.  But I wanted to give you a "break" from recipes and show a little of what an Iowa winter looks like.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Cookie Friday: Palmer's Deli lemon bars

Happy Cookie Friday, everyone!  It's 10 degrees outside today, so I wanted to bake something sunny to brighten the day.  I love all the citrus fruits in the grocery stores right now.  It's the perfect time of year to make lemon bars.

A popular lunchtime spot in Des Moines, Palmer's Deli, serves the best lemon bars.  And they are very generous with their servings.  I remembered seeing the recipe for Palmer's Deli lemon bars in the Des Moines Register a few months back, but the Register doesn't archive its stories for more than two weeks (boo!). But after a quick Google search, I found the recipe on the Midwest Living magazine website.

Let me tell you, these lemon bars were even better than I remembered!  They have a great sugar-cookie-like crust and an almost pudding-like texture.  Check out Midwest Living for a printable recipe.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Great-grandma's coffee cake

Or at least I'm guessing that this is great-grandma's coffee cake.  I found this in a cookie-dough splattered recipe book that my mom received when she married my dad.  The book has several handwritten recipes from my grandma and possibly my great-grandma, who passsed away before I was born.

My mom told me that one of my great-grandmothers used to make coffee cake every morning.  Every morning!  Well, there were two handwritten coffee cake recipes in her book, so I just picked the one that appealed to me.

My husband gave this recipe a thumbs-up.  I hope you enjoy it, too.  I may not have time to make this every morning, but I imagine I'll be making this coffee cake again soon.


Quick Coffee Cake
  • 1/2 C. shortening
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 3 C. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 C. milk
 Combine shortening and sugar. Mix all.

  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 C. nuts, chopped
Put 1/2 of batter in pan. Add 1/2 of the filling. Top with another layer of batter, then remaining filling. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until brown and springs back when touched with finger.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend project: Crochet washcloths

Hello, everyone!  Hope you're all enjoying the weekend.  I spent the afternoon with my hubby, who talked me into actually leaving the house today, even though I didn't feel like venturing out in the 18 degree temps.  But we bundled up and headed to a local mall to check out the winter sidewalk sales.  Then we stopped at one of my favorite restaurants, Monterrey, where we dined like royalty on enchiledas and fajitas.  It's wonderful how spicy food makes you feel a little warmer on a cold day.

Even though I'm spending a lot of time indoors, I'm trying to keep myself busy instead of zoning out in front of the TV.  I just finished up my first crochet project of 2011, a set of handmade washcloths.  I found the pattern in an old issue of Crochet Today magazine, my favorite source of crochet inspiration. (You can buy back issues online.)  I used Eco-cotton yarn for this project and was pleasantly surprised to find that these washcloths ended up very soft, not scratchy.

A few months back, I visited a southern Iowa knit shop, where the owner told me her grandmother used to knit everyday. The shop owner said she still has the washcloths that her grandmother knit many years ago; they have held up wonderfully despite years of use.  So great to find a craft that is both decorative and practical.

If you're interested in learning to crochet, I recommend the book "Teach Yourself Visually Crocheting."  I also watched You-Tube videos whenever I got stuck on trying to learn a new stitch.  The nice thing about crochet is it's quick and inexpensive.  I can usually finish a project in less than a week, depending on the size.  The hardest part is trying to find the supplies when you live in the middle-of-nowhere Iowa.  I've actually started ordering the yarn, crochet needles and other notions on Yes, I have to pay shipping. But it saves me an out-of-the-way trip, especially when the store might not have the yarn I need.

So what's your favorite winter craft project?  Are you a knitter? A quilter? Or do prefer to spend time in the kitchen?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Couple's kitchen therapy

My husband often complains that I never make the same recipe twice.  I always want to try something new.  A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe for authentic Swedish meatballs on one of my favorite food blogs, Simply Recipes.  My hubby just so happened to ask me if I could make Swedish meatballs sometime.  So I thought I'd give this one a try.

It's good that I had a quiet Sunday at home to make these meatballs, because they turned out to be way more time-consuming than I expected.  And there were a lot of unusual steps involved, like grating an onion (which made the whole house smell like onion for the rest of the night) and pulsing wet bread crumbs in the food processor.

I interrupted my hubby from his football-game watching to help fry up the meatballs and make the gravy.  As I've mentioned before, I'm still a beginning cook, and I have a weird aversion to anything involving a frying pan.  My husband, on the other hand, is the frying king.  Plus, he can make a mean gravy.  So I thought I'd leave these two tasks to the master.

It took him over an hour to fry up all the little meatballs in batches, then mix up the gravy and then finish cooking the meatballs in the gravy.  By that time, I was grumpy and starving and tired from being on my feet for several hours. 

So were these meatballs worth the effort?  Yes and no.  It was definitely a treat to sit down to a meal of Swedish meatballs and sweet potato fries.  But I wouldn't say that these meatballs were my favorite.  My husband, always the practical one, suggested that next time, instead of grating an onion, I should just use dried onion flakes and bread crumbs.  But I'm not an improviser like him.  I always have to follow a recipe to the letter.

Have you ever tried a recipe that was way beyond your skill level?  I'm glad I have a husband who is an amazing cook and can "save me" when I'm in over my head.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Iowa recipes: Caramel pecan rolls

Hello, everyone!  I know most people are trying to return to healthy eating after the holidays.  But the winter is also an excellent time for bread-baking, when you're spending a chilly weekend at home.  It's also a nice excuse to turn the oven on when you live in a drafty old house!

It's literally taken me years to perfect the sticky roll.  And I'm finally getting close to perfection.  I'm proud to say that these rolls have such a pretty spiral that they look like they came out of a biscuit tube!

I morphed two recipes together to make these sticky rolls:  my favorite white bread recipe and a caramel roll recipe from an old Iowa State Fair cookbook. 

I've learned from a lot of trial and error that the best way to get bread dough to rise in my drafty house in the winter is to place them on top of the oven while I'm roasting or baking something else.  I've also had some success with letting the rolls rise in the oven, after I've let the oven warm up to its lowest temperature and then turned the heat off.  However, the lowest tempeature on my oven is 150 degrees, so if I don't wait for the oven to cool off below 100 degrees, the rolls rise too fast, and then flop. And there's nothing worse than waiting hours for bread to rise, only to have it not turn out when you are having a bread-craving.

Here's the recipe I used for caramel pecan rolls.  Enjoy!


Caramel Pecan Rolls

Bread dough:
  • 1-1/3 C. warm water
  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1/3 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/6 C. canola oil (about 3 Tbl.)
  • 4 C. flour
Dissolve yeast, salt and sugar in water; add oil. Mix in flour. Knead, put in bowl and let rise about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until double in size. Punch down.

While dough rises, prepare caramel syrup (recipe below).  Pour syrup into two 9-inch greased pans (I used one 13x9 pan). Sprinkle 1 C. pecan over syrup in each pan.

Divide dough in half and roll each half to a 14x8 inch rectangle. Spread each rectangle iwth 1/4 c. butter, then sprinkle with filling (recipe below).  Roll up dough from the long sides, jellyroll style.  Cut each roll into 9 pieces.  Place rolls, cut-side down, into prepared pans.  Cover and let rise until double.  Bake in 350 degree oven 30 to 35 minutes, until browned.  Cool 5 minutes in pans before turning upside down.

For caramel syrup:
  • 1/2 C. butter
  • 1 C. packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. light corn syrup
  • 2-3/4 Tbl. heavy cream
Mix butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and cream in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until all melted.

For filling:
  • 2/3 C. sugar
  • 1 Tbl. cinnamon
Combine sugar and cinnamon.  Set aside.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Winter's Rest

So far, this winter has been rather pleasant, weather-wise.  I haven't had to take any snow days away from work, and the snow has arrived on the weekends, when I can stay home and avoid a white-knuckled commute to work.

But when it snows on a weekend, that also means I'm tucked away in my house for two to three days at a time.  Add to that the holiday days off from work, and I've had a lot of time to sit and reflect the last few weeks.

I usually try to make resolutations for the New Year, but right now, I can't think of a single resolution I want to achieve.  Is that strange?  I could set a fitness goal, like running a half marathon, but I find that those are difficult to achieve because it's dependent on how much training my body can take. I've tried for years to train for long-distance races, but I keep getting injured.  I've decided it's time to move on and set a more realistic goal of just trying to incorporate as much physical activity into my days as possible, whether it's biking, yoga, jogging, walking or swimming.

I could set a career goal for myself.  But I would rather focus on my life outside of work.  I usually try to spend the winters learning a new hobby or craft, but nothing is inspiring me lately.

So maybe if I am going to resolve to do something, it will be to just see where life will take me this year.  Oh, and to have more fun.  I think I take things way to seriously (for example, all thought I've put into making New Year's resolutions).

Do you have any resolutions for the new year?
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