My Aunt Sara has always been an excellent baker. Her kids always had the prettiest homemade birthday cakes when we were growing up. The cakes that mama made for John and me were equally delicious, but that’s not what stood out to me as a kid.
On a recent visit with Aunt Sara, I left with a box full of goodies. I left her house with cake decorating tools, cookbooks, and a variety of cake pans, cupcake papers, and decorations and a few handwritten recipes. One of the recipes that she shared with me was this super easy Seven Minute Frosting that her daughter-in-law gave her.
I used the Seven Minute Frosting on a chocolate cake that I recently made for a baby shower. It turned out beautiful and delicious. My cousin, who happened to be the honoree, compared it to the hostess cupcakes that she has been craving!
Seven Minute Frosting
- ½ c. granulated sugar
- 2 egg whites
- 2 tbsp. water
- 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- Combine sugar, eggs whites, and water in a double boiler. Beat with a electric hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Add the marshmallow creme and vanilla and beat until combined.
- Frost 3-layer cake with frosting.
Just a month ago I wondered if it would ever get cold enough to enjoy all of the winter treats that I love so!! To my delight it has! We have perfect weather here in the south, usually. It seemed that summer would never end this year, though.
One of the cold weather treats I enjoy is Russian Tea. My friend, Sherri, has been making this deliciously warm spiced tea around the holidays for years. It’s easy to make ahead and keep in the refrigerator. Just warm it before serving. You can sweeten to taste with granulated sugar is you prefer but I make it sugar-free and serve with different sweeteners. It’s great to serve at teas or cookie swaps, or any Christmas party for that matter. Make plenty because this WILL be the hit at your party!
- 7 c. water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- ½ tsp. whole cloves
- 1 family size tea bag
- 6-oz. unsweetened pineapple juice
- Juice of 2 oranges
- Juice of 1½ lemons
- In a Dutch oven, combine the water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and tea bag. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 30 minutes.
- Remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and tea bag. Shake the pineapple juice well and add to the boiled mixture. Add juice of oranges and lemons. Stir to combine.
- Serve warm with a cinnamon stick. Set up a serving bar with sugar cubes, honey and Splenda and/or Stevia.
- Store in refrigerator.
I have never met a cupcake that I didn’t like! Strawberry cakes were my favorite flavor as a kid. However, now I’m not sure I could pick between strawberry and chocolate. Lemon could probably be thrown into that mix too. I love them all! Cupcakes are the perfect dessert for a crowd. I love to serve them without the worry of cutting and serving. They are always eaten too, seldom do I have extra cupcakes left. I like it like that because I do not like to take home food from dinners and get-togethers.
I know, it’s probably crazy. After all, I eat the food at the gatherings. I have this mental thing about taking it back home and eating it, though. I feel like the food that has been setting out at the gathering just isn’t very clean after multiple people have walked past it, looked over it, many may have even touched it. I generally just toss it in the trash if I have extra.
Enough about my pet peeves, though, let’s talk about these wonderful strawberries and cream cupcakes. They start with a cake mix and couldn’t be easier! The addition of pureed strawberries makes these cupcakes extra special. Topped with the creamy, luscious cream cheese frosting, your friends and family will go wild over these.
Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes
- 1 box white cake mix or French Vanilla cake mix
- 1 (3.4-oz.) pkg. instant vanilla pudding
- ½ c. water
- ½ c. sour cream, room temperature
- ½ c. vegetable oil
- 3 lg. eggs, room temperature
- ½ tsp. strawberry extract
- 1 (15.5-oz.) container sliced strawberries in sugar, drained well, reserve juice and puree the berries in a blender
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.
- Combine cake mix, pudding mix, water, sour cream, oil, and eggs in the bowl of mixer. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add extract and pureed berries and mix just until blended.
- Scoop batter into prepared pan, filling about ¾ full.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cupcakes spring back with lightly pressed with finger. Remove from oven, cool 5 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool completely. Frost with completely cooled.
Cream Cheese Frosting for Strawberry Cupcakes
- 1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ tsp. strawberry extract
- 3 to 4 c. powdered sugar, sifted
- some reserved strawberry juice, optional
- Beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer for 2 minutes, until fluffy and completely blended.
- Add vanilla and strawberry extracts. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy. If frosting is too thick you can add reserved strawberry juice, adding 1 tbsp. at a time, to reach spreading consistency.
- Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.
Before moving to the farm, pizza delivery was a weekly affair. However, delivery does not happen in the middle of the country! I had played around with pizza crust in the past. Mostly to get the kids involved by topping and baking their individual pizzas. I’ve tried many recipes over the past few years. Some have been really good, but I have never tried a recipe that when I knew my search was over until this crust.
This recipe is almost as simple and picking up the phone to order a pizza, but the flavor is much better! (The fruiter the olive oil the better the flavor.) No kidding, it takes just a matter of minutes to mix up this dough using my heavy-duty Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook. Allow the dough to rise for two hours. Then you are ready to prepare your homemade pizza or refrigerate the dough to use over the next 12 days. You will get about three 10-inch pizzas from this dough.
Most recipes will recommend a pizza stone. I have used stones and pans, and I prefer a large, heavy-gauge baking sheet with sides. The sides will keep the oil from dripping in the oven, and a heavy-gauge pan holds enough heat to brown and crisp the crust nicely. This crust also doubles as a nice focaccia bread! (Recipe below, no picture of the focaccia, sorry!)
Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 425 °F. Prepare this simple, no-cook sauce and measure and prepare all of your toppings in advance. Remove from the pan immediately and serve.
Olive Oil Dough for Homemade Pizza
- 2¾ c. lukewarm water
- 1½ tbsp. granulated yeast (2 packets)
- 1½ tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- ¼ c. extra virgin olive oil
- 6½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
- Mix in the flour without kneading, using a spoon, a 12-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook). If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
- Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
- The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 12 days.
- To prepare the pizza: Thirty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 425°F (or you could go up to 550°F).
- Prepare and measure all of the toppings, set aside.
- Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a grapefruit-size piece. Dust the piece with flour and quickly shape it not a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
- Flatten the dough with your hands and a rolling pin on a flour dusted wooden board to begin flattening. Once you gave flattened it to about 1-inch thick move to your pan and continue to flatter and shape with your fingertips. You may need to allow the rolled dough to relax for a few minutes to allow further shaping.
- Top with a small amount of sauce and spread, leaving ½-inch to 1-inch pizza sauce. Top with mozzarella and toppings of your choice.
- Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the temperature used. Remove from oven when the pizza is evenly browned and cheese has melted.
- NOTES: You c
You can mix and store the dough in the same container if you prefer. You need a large food-grade container that holds about five quarts. If you double the recipe you will need a container that holds at least ten quarts. Sam's Club has a few good options. I have punched a hole in the lid of mine and use it specifically for my dough.
Pizza Sauce for Homemade Pizza
- 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 (6-oz.) cans tomato paste
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. onion powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Store in refrigerator.
If you prefer a completely smooth consistency you pour the mixture into a blender and pulse several times.
Can be frozen.
- Suggested toppings:
- Onions and fresh rosemary
- Cherry tomatoes, halved with chopped fresh basil.
- Black olives and goat cheese.
- Grease a baking sheet with a rim with olive oil, set aside. Preheat oven to 425°F, with an empty broiler pan on any shelf that won't interfere with the focaccia.
- Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
- Flatter it to a ½-inch to ¾-inch thick using your fingertips with a minimal amount of additional flour. Please the dough on the greased baking sheet.
- Top dough with your desired toppings. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. You do not want to cover the whole surface with toppings or oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Allow the focaccia to rest and rise for 20 minutes.
- After the focaccia has rested, place the cookie sheet on a rack near the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into a broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crust is medium brown. Be careful not to burn the toppings. The baking time will vary according to the focaccia's thickness.
- Cut into wedges and serve warm.
Boiled peanuts are a traditional snack here in the south and one of my favorites. They can be found at many country stores, roadside stands, and even canned and on the vegetable aisle of the grocery store. They are a must for any road trip, football game or fall festival. Many cook them in large pots outdoors, but you can prepare a small batch in your kitchen. It’s easy to do in your crock pot because you do not have to keep a constant watchful eye on them. You will need the check the water level after the first few hours of cooking because the peanuts will soak up a lot of the water. Once I have added additional water, I just give my peanuts an occasional stir to check their progress and leave them to do their thing. Yum!!
Crock-pot Boiled Peanuts
- 2 lb. raw peanuts, in shell
- ½ cup kosher salt
- Place the peanuts in a crock-pot and add salt. Cover the peanuts with water, then add a little more.
- Cover and cook on high for approximately 20 hours, stirring occasionally and checking the water. The peanuts will soak up a lot of water in the first few hours. You may need to add additional water at this point.
- Drain peanuts before serving or storing. Store in zip-top plastic bags in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.
Cajun Boiled Peanuts: Add 1 (3-oz.) pkg. boil-in-bag shrimp and crab boil and ⅓ to ½ cup hot sauce to the slow cooker before cooking.
You can freeze these peanuts in a zip-top freezer bag up to 2 months. Reheat in the microwave before serving.