Sunday, February 24, 2013


Looking for a new snack that is good, easy and won't break the bank?  Well here you go.  Kids and adults alike will enjoy this sweet treat.  Olivia's friend, Deb, gave this recipe to her and Olivia was kind enough to make it and share it with me!  It is a little chewy and crunch, but I am happy to report my dental work survived quite nicely.  Try this recipe and see if your friends and loved ones like it as much as we did.

8 quarts popped corn
1 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 package (9 oz.) Red Hot Candy

In a saucepan, combine the butter, corn syrup, and candies.  Bring to a boil and cook for five minutes, stirring constantly.  Pour mixture over popcorn and mix well.  Pour popcorn onto greased cookie sheet with sides and bake at 250 degrees for about an hour.  Cool and break into pieces.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Here is an easy, delicious dessert recipe Olivia made.  It is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth.  If you find yourself with the " post-Valentine, will Spring ever get here" blues, jazz up the menu with this tempting dessert.  It is a delightful mix of sweet and tart will leave you smiling.  Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping

Recipe from Paula Deen
Prep Time:
15 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
45 min
2 dozen or 4 to 6 servings


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Streusel topping, recipe follows
  • 1/2 cup caramel topping


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping.

Streusel Topping:

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.
Yield: approximately 3 cups

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato and Pepperoni Penne

We are firmly ensconced in February and the east coast of the United States is being hammered with  a blizzard of historic proportions so doesn't the thought of making something with "sun dried" tomatoes sound simply divine?  You will think this fabulous recipe is just the thing to warm the tummy on a cold winter's day. Olivia made this and reports that the sauce came together very quickly so it makes for a super mid-week meal.

I absolutely love her idea of making basil salt to use throughout the winter.  Olivia had the most prolific basil plants on the planet last summer and the fact that she can enjoy them throughout the winter is just wonderful.

Olivia is aware that basil is one of my absolute favorite herbs for reasons other than culinary ones.  When my husband and I were first married, a wonderful elderly gentleman named Emil lived near us.  He was always sharing fresh tomatoes and anything he grew from his tiny garden outside of his apartment.  He knew I liked basil.  One day I opened our front door and there was a beautiful potted basil plant--a gift from Emil. To this day, I keep a similar potted basil plant on my deck.   Now every time I crush a basil leaf between my fingers and smell the luscious scent, I smile and remember Emil.  Thanks Emil for your kindness and your generosity.  I'm sure you are handing out basil in heaven!

I hope you enjoy Olivia's recipe.  I'm confident it is one Emil would have enjoyed as well.


3 cups uncooked penne pasta
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, drained (packed in oil)
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (or less if you don't LOVE garlic)
1 cup sliced and chopped pepperoni (You may use turkey pepperoni if you'd like to make it healthier.)
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1 cup shredded or powdered Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. dried basil (more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp. salt (or basil salt...see the note below)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1)  In a sauté pan, gently sauté the sun-dried tomatoes and onions for a few minutes over medium heat.  Oil or butter is not needed as the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes will come out as they sauté.  Add in pepperoni, garlic, salt, basil, and black pepper.  Cook until the onions are soft.
2)  Cook pasta according to package directions.
3)  After the onions are soft, add the whipping cream and Parmesan cheese.  Turn the heat down to simmer and let the sauce softly meld as the pasta cooks.
4)  Drain the pasta and add the pasta to the sauté pan with the sauce in it.  Toss the pasta repeatedly to cover all of the pasta with the sauce.  Serve immediately.

A note from Olivia:  As the summer came to an end last year, I found myself with a lot of basil still growing in my pot outside on my back step.  I made basil salt with it by taking Kosher salt and pulsing it in the food processor with fresh basil.  I put the mixture on a Parchment lined baking sheet in a 200 degree oven until the salt and basil mixture had dried out.  I stirred it as needed.  I stored the basil salt in a glass dish and am enjoying it throughout the winter.  Yum!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Creamy Squash Soup

The weather in Northern Indiana this winter has been wild to say the least. Last week we had temperatures in the 60s and it felt like Spring.  This week we have had temperatures in the single digits, wind, and snow!  When the weather gets cold, we crave something hot and comforting.  Today that happened to be soup.

Each fall I buy extra acorn and butternut squash and save them for use during the winter.  You can keep them in a cool, dry place and if you want to preserve them longer, dip the stem in wax or paraffin and they will keep for months.  I had an acorn and a butternut squash I decided to whip into a creamy squash soup.  It turned out great and made a tasty  dinner on a cold winter's night.  If you don't have whole squash to use, substitute frozen squash--a couple of small boxes should do the trick quite nicely.

Here is how I made the soup.  I hope you enjoy making your own.  This recipe will probably make about four servings.  Keep warm--on the inside and out--with soup!

Creamy Squash Soup

Cut open two squash-either butternut or acorn will do.  Clean out the seeds and place the halves in your crock pot with about 1/2 inch of water.  Cook on low for a couple of hours or until they are tender to the fork or knife.  A little salt on top is all you need at this point.

When the squash is cooked, take it out of the crock pot and scoop the squash flesh out of the skins.  Discard the skin.  Set aside.
In a saucepan or skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil.  Add a chopped small to medium onion.  Cook until translucent.  Add salt, pepper, and about 1/2 teaspoon of thyme to the onions.
In a blender, place one small can of chicken broth, the cooked onion mixture, and the scooped squash flesh. Pulse until the mixture becomes smooth.  Add about 1/4 to 1/2 stick of butter to the pulsed mixture
Return this mixture to the crock pot (be sure you have dumped the water out first) and heat on low.

Just before serving, whisk in about 1 cup of half and half.  This will make the soup lighter and creamier.
Ladle the soup into a bowl.  If you like, dot with croutons for a little texture.  Enjoy this warm, filling, satisfying soup!