Category Archives: Cooking

Banana-Pineapple Blueberry Cake

I baked this cake yesterday. I was feeling lazy, so I used a box mix and added things to it to use up a bunch of leftovers, which made the result even better!

Ingredients for Cake:

  • 1 boxed cake mix, vanilla flavored
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup water, part juice from pineapple
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup or half a can crushed pineapple
  • Blueberries, about a handful
  1. Add the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water/juice and mix. The eggs, oil, and water were to make the mix per package directions on the box I used. Use juice from the pineapple and top with water to make 1 cup of liquid.
  2. After mixing the above ingredients for about a minute, add the bananas, mashed if using fresh.
  3. Also add the pineapple now. Mix for another minute.
  4. Fold in the blueberries by hand. If you add them to the mixer, you will end up with blue batter that turns grey as it bakes.
  5. Split the batter among two greased 9″ cake pans. Bake per package directions. (Usually, 350 degrees in a pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes.) You will have to add another 5-10 minutes to the baking time because of all the additions to the batter. Start checking with a toothpick at the listed time and check in 5-minute increments thereafter.
  6. When done, remove from oven and cool in pans for 15 minutes. Loosen and remove from pans, or you can put them back in the pans to finish cooling. Let the cake layers cool completely before icing.

Ingredients for Icing:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 1/2-3 cups Confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk, or almond milk
  1. Beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla with a mixer.
  2. Add Confectioner’s sugar by half cups, until incorporated.
  3. Add 1 Tablespoon milk. Add as much milk as needed to reach desired consistency.

Assemble the cake with frosting in between the two layers. I spread some melted orange marmalade onto the surface of the bottom cake before adding the frosting, for some extra pizzazz. Ice the rest of the cake and voila!

Notes:

  • I used a vanilla cake mix, but you could also use white, yellow, or even spice cake mix. Any flavor that tastes good with your extra add-ins will work.
  • My add-ins were bananas, pineapple, and blueberries. Use whatever you have available. Applesauce, apple slices, and pecans. Oranges, bananas, coconut. Zucchini, walnuts, and cranberries. You get the idea. I work with whatever is in my freezer and pantry.
  • I always freeze my bananas just before they get too ripe, so I have some for baking when I need them. I keep them in a large Ziploc bag and take however many I need out. I microwave them and they are pretty soupy by the time I use them. If yours aren’t frozen, you will want to mash them before adding to the batter. This allows me to bake whenever I want to, and have the time to, rather than having my schedule dictated by the state of my bananas!
  • I always put the cake layers back in the pans to cool, so I can move them around the kitchen. This is helpful because our kitchen is small, and we cook a lot. It also makes it easier to move the cakes to hide them from counter surfing dogs and cats!
  • Bonus tip-I find it much easier to frost a layer cake if you can put it on a lazy-Susan, or rotating cake platter for frosting. The icing comes out nice and smooth with this method. I also get smoother results with a metal butter knife vs. a silicon spatula.

I would love to hear what kind of goodies you add into your cakes! Feel free to share them in the comments. Also, you can sign up to get notifications of new blog posts at the top of the page.

Green Lentils Three Ways!

Lentil burger

Hey, all! Hope you are surviving this snowy, cold snap that is hitting across so much of the country. We got about 14 inches of snow at the beginning of the week, and last night’s low was -6 degrees. We are in northeast Ohio, so this is not that unusual for us. I watch the weather on television and see many of you in other parts of the country are getting slammed with similar weather that is not the norm for your areas. Take care out there!

Today, it’s time for another recipe and cooking post. This one features green lentils. I never used to be a fan of lentils. Since I discovered various types of lentils besides the standard brown ones, and I am learning better ways to cook them, I have a new appreciation. So, here is a recipe I invented to incorporate some healthy lentils into our diets.

Chopped garlic, onion, and red pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 of a red pepper
  • handful of baby carrots, finely diced
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (any flavor, fire roasted is especially good)
  • 2 cups any flavor of broth (or water with a bouillon cube)
  • 1 cup green lentils

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a 12 inch skillet. Add garlic, onion, red pepper, and carrots.
  2. Sauté all until tender. Covering with a lid helps keep the veggies from burning before they are ready. Stir occasionally.
  3. Remove lid when veggies are tender. Add black pepper, garlic and onion powders, basil, and thyme. Sauté 1-2 minutes more.
  4. Add broth, or water and bouillon, and bring to boil while stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the lentils and canned tomatoes. Simmer, covered until lentils are tender. Approximately 30 minutes. You may need to add more liquid as the lentils cook. Water is fine for this.
  6. Voila! Dinner is served.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Serve on rice. Basmati is a good choice, but any rice will work.
  • Melt cheese on top for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  • Stir in a little barbeque sauce or soy sauce for added flavor.

This made more than I anticipated, so after having it for a couple meals, I made the rest into veggie patties.

To do this:

  • Put leftover lentil mixture into a food processor or chopper and run until smooth. Pulse at first and then run for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Add an egg, a bit of Parmesan cheese, and about 1/2 cup of Italian breadcrumbs. Process long enough to mix.
  • Form mixture into patties and fry in enough oil to coat pan.
  • You can melt the cheese of your choice on top.
  • Serve.

And after this, I still had a large lentil patty left, so I crumbled it up and used it as a topping for homemade pizza!

This recipe made a few meals for two people. And it lived on as incarnations in more meal ideas as well. The recipe was frugal and tasty. I’d count it as a winner. Let me know what you think. Don’t forget to follow my blog. I intend to include at least one recipe per month as part of my country living lifestyle page.

Strawberry Trifle Recipe (Dessert for Kara)

Strawberry Trifle

This blog post is for my niece Kara. It is her very favorite dessert, except for possibly cassata cake. Come to think of it, the desserts have essentially the same ingredients. She always requests this dessert and even asked for us to make it together when she spent the day here. She can eat more trifle than should be able to fit into a 50 lb. body! Must run in the family. This recipe is an original concocted by me.

Ingredients:

1 boxed white cake mix, prepared

1 lb. fresh strawberries, save a large one for garnish

1 1/2 tubs Cool Whip, regular or light, thawed

2 boxes instant vanilla pudding, 1.85 oz. each (4 serving size)

3 cups milk

chocolate for garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Make boxed cake mix as per package directions. Bake it in a 9″ x 13″ pan. Allow to cool. Cut the cake into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes.
  • Prepare the pudding. Empty both boxes of the pudding into mixer bowl. Add 3 cups of milk and mix. The pudding will be a little thicker than usual. Chill for a few minutes.
  • Wash and hull the strawberries. Cut them into bite size pieces.
  • The trifle should be assembled in a clear glass trifle bowl for visual effect. I use the plastic bowl from my salad spinner since my trifle bowl cracked. The bowl is clear so works fine. It is used in the pictures here.
  • Spread a thin layer of Cool Whip to cover the bottom of the bowl.
  • Place a layer of cake cubes over the Cool Whip spread in the bowl.
  • Add a layer of the strawberries.
  • Spoon a layer of pudding over the strawberries.
  • Add a layer of Cool Whip.
  • Repeat until all ingredients are used up, making sure your top layer is Cool Whip. I always do the layers in this order. This allows any strawberry juice to soak into the cake and the pudding to run in the strawberry crannies.
  • I take the large, reserved strawberry and make slices, leaving it attached to the hull. Push the attached sliced so they spiral and place in the middle of the top dessert layer for garnish. (See photo above.)
  • Optional: Take a fine grater and grate chocolate directly on to the top of the dessert. You can use a Hershey bar or other chocolate. I used a Malley’s chocolate Santa left over from Christmas on this one. Use good quality chocolate.
  • Refrigerate until serving. I would say this serves about 10-12 people. Unless one of them is a trifle-loving niece, then it serves about 4!

Feel free to make substitutions! You can use any flavor cake. I like strawberry as pictured below. I have also used chocolate or brownies. Use different fruits as well. It will work with raspberries, blueberries, or peaches. I would avoid bananas because they might turn brown. You can also use different flavors of pudding. Mix and match ingredients as per your taste.

Enjoy!

Making Plum Preserves

Strainer
Straining the plum preserves.

We hard a large harvest from one of our plum bushes this year! We purchased them from our County Extension Office as pencil sized twigs several years ago. The largest is now about seven feet tall. They are covered with sweet smelling white blossoms in the spring. I recently read that the type we have are called wild plums or sand cherries, among a few other names. They start to bloom after three years and produce fruit after four to six years. So we may have even more fruit next year if our other bushes kick in.

I made our first batch of plum preserves last week. I followed a recipe I found on-line which called for lime zest and juice to be added. I strained the final product through a colander which was a bit of work and had some waste. The result was tasty, if a little tart.

Just after that we went to our neighbor’s barn sale. She will be moving soon and was clearing out a lot of things. We will miss Shirley. She has been a good neighbor. And Zekie has certainly enjoyed chasing the geese off her pond. https://sanctuary-acres.com/2021/03/22/a-working-dog/ My husband and I had found a few items and were ready to leave the barn sale when we saw one last item we had to have. It was the colander type strainer with wooden pestle seen above. Our neighbor said she had used it for making applesauce. We knew that it would be perfect for making plum preserves!

I had four more pounds of plums from this week’s picking, so I made more plum jam this afternoon. This time I made plum cinnamon for one batch and the other was plum ginger with freshly grated ginger root. Both are delicious. I used the new strainer set up to remove the plum skins and it worked beautifully.

Preserves
Two flavors of plum preserves.

I also made a peach custard pie this morning with peaches I purchased at a local farm stand. It was a productive day and I am happy we were able to take advantage of local produce.

Peach custard pie
Peach custard pie.

A Summer Garden Dinner

Garden plate
Garden Plate

Late summer suppers are wonderful!

My meal this evening consisted of the following. The main entree was a fried green tomato sandwich with pine nut hummus and Lacey baby Swiss cheese on Asiago peppercorn bread from the bakery. My sides were all fried veggies from our garden. Some okra, a Japanese eggplant, and the obligatory zucchini. I did add a wedge of freshly sliced tomato too.

We go above and beyond on getting our daily allotted servings of vegetables in the summer. I haven’t bought vegetables from the grocery store in weeks. And we’ve been giving friends and family some of the excess which makes us popular.

We haven’t resorted to sneaking vegetables into strangers cars yet, but I can’t say I haven’t considered it!

A Recipe for Fresh Turnip Sauté

A turnip, just minutes out of the soil

I came up with this recipe a few years ago when we were inundated with turnips from the garden. There must have been 50 turnips, all ready for harvest at the same time. I learned my lesson. Now, I plant a short row of turnips and replant as I use them, so we have only a few turnips needing to be used at any one time.

Sautéed Turnip with Greens

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium turnip with greens,

Cut the end and top from the turnip. Discard end and set the greens aside. Peel the turnip and cut into slivers, or do a fine dice. Cut the greens from the turnip top and discard the top. Strip the tender greens from the tough part of the stems. You can just pull and strip them off with your hand in one fluid motion. Discard the stems. Hold the greens in a bunch on the cutting board and cut into long strips.

In a medium size skillet, heat the oil on medium heat until it swirls freely in the pan.* Add the garlic and cook until golden brown and crispy. Add the white part of the turnip and cook until tender and edges are browned. This only takes a few minutes. Add the greens to the pan and cook until partially wilted. Add more oil if needed. Be sure to flip the greens and stir in the garlic and turnip so they don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.

Add the salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the greens are fully wilted. They are especially tasty if you let the greens brown slightly. At this point, the dish is ready to serve. It holds well if you need to prepare other courses. Just turn the burner off and cover the pan. Let it sit on the burner to stay warm.

Serves 2-3 people.

Finished turnip dish.

*You may have noticed that I always mention heating the oil in the pan before adding the ingredients. This is an important step. Foods cook differently if they heat up along with the oil and it will change how the dish turns out. Also, some foods make stick to the bottom of the pan if they heat up along with the oil. You must, however, not let the oil get so hot that it smokes or it will burn your ingredients. Oil at the preferred temperature has a nice glossy flowing look to it as it swirls around the pan. It will also easily move around the pan and cover the entire bottom with ease.

Recipe for Beans and Rice

This beans and rice recipe can be used as a main dish or as a side dish. It is a good side to serve with the quesadillas shown above, link to that recipe follows. In Search of the Perfect Quesadilla This beans and rice recipe is a staple at our house. We serve it when we are due for a trip to the grocery store or don’t have any other ideas for dinner. This and spaghetti are two dishes that we have about once a week or so, because they don’t take much thought to prepare. Do you have dishes that are old standbys at your house too? What are they? We can all use more ideas of what to make for dinner!

Ingredients:

  • 1 13/4 cups water
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 small onion, chopped in large pieces
  • 1/4 of a red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin (adjust to taste)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 to 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • tortilla chips to crumble on top
  • may be served with salsa, sour cream, or guacamole
  1. Make rice per package directions. Generally bring the water and salt to a boil, then add the rice. Cook covered for 20 minutes or until done. You can leave the rice sitting on the burner until you are ready for it. Just be sure to turn the burner off when the rice is done.
  2. While the rice cooks, prepare the other ingredients. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add the oil olive when the pan is hot, then heat the olive oil. You can tell the oil is hot when it easily swirls around the pan to coat the bottom. Do not let the oil smoke or burn.
  3. Add the chopped garlic, onion, and red pepper to the oil in the pan. (You can also add chopped if you want.) Sauté the vegetables until tender. You may need to put a lid on the pan for part of the cooking time to get the veggies tender without burning them.
  4. When the veggies are nearly done, add the spices and sauté for a minute or so. Keep an eye on it so the spices brown and do not burn, or they will become bitter. Drain about 1/2 the liquid from the bean can. (You could also use kidney or pinto beans.) Add the beans and remaining liquid to the mixture in the skillet. (You can also add frozen peas, finely chopped broccoli, or spinach at this point. Or not.) If you added more veggies, cook or heat until they are tender. If you only added beans, just heat them through.
  5. Add the cream of mushroom soup. (You could substitute any cream soup, celery, broccoli, golden mushroom.) Heat the mixture through.
  6. At this point, you are ready to transfer the warm rice from the cooking pot into the skillet with the soup-veggie-bean mixture. Mix the rice thoroughly with the other items, this will take a minute. Reduce the heat to low. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top. (You can use any kind of cheese. Provolone, Havarti, mozzarella, brick are all good.)
  7. Put a lid on the skillet and wait for the cheese to melt.
  8. You are ready to serve! We cut ours’s into pie shaped pieces for serving, then garnish with the crumbled chips, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

Serves 6, or 4 very hungry people as a main dish.

Cranberry Orange Scones with Maple Icing-Gluten Free Version

Scones
Gluten Free Scones

When I made the Cranberry Orange Scones with Maple Icing https://sanctuary-acres.com/2021/04/29/cranberry-orange-scones-with-maple-icing/ , I also made a gluten free version. Here is the recipe I used from Pinterest for the gluten free version https://feastingonfruit.com/vegan-oat-flour-scones/

I did make a few alterations to the gluten free recipe. Of course. I used chopped cranberries for the fruit and added the maple icing. I also used regular sugar and butter. The texture was a little on the crumbly side but the flavor was good.

Scones
Left: regular scones, Right: gluten free scones.

I have been experimenting with various gluten free recipes so you may be hearing more about this from me. Baking is my forte and it appears that there is nothing that reacts the same way as wheat gluten. There are substitutions but they don’t work in the same way, so the results are different. This usually means a different texture and in my experience a flatter product. Gluten appears to be necessary for the rise.

When I make some other gluten free baked goods that I am happy with, I will share the process with you!

Scones
Left: regular scones-iced, Right: gluten free scones-iced.

Cranberry Orange Scones with Maple Icing

Cranberry-Orange Scones
Cranberry Orange Scones with Maple Icing

I posted a picture of these scones and had several requests for the recipe. I had to type it up to include my alterations as I never prepare a recipe without making some changes. I figure, I know what I like so why not adjust the recipe accordingly?

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, chilled
  • 1/3 cup cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (I substitute regular milk or almond milk with a splash of white vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest, freshly grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda. Use a pastry cutter to cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. The butter melts during baking and allows air spaces for a soft interior texture. Stir in the chopped cranberries. The dough may require a bit of kneading to come together. Knead as little as possible, so you don’t melt the butter and lose the air spaces.

Pat dough into an 8 or 9 inch diameter circle on a greased cookie sheet. Score the circle into 8 wedges with a serrated knife, or adjust the size and number of wedges as desired.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and move to a serving dish. Frost (or not!) when mostly cool.

Maple Icing

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted and slightly cooled so it doesn’t melt the sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup

Mix above ingredients together. Add more sugar to thicken, or more syrup to thin. The ratio may need to be changed slightly, depending on the temperature. Spoon mixture evenly over scones and frost with a butter knife.

Enjoy!

A Disjointed Morning

Zekie assisting momma during her on-line college class.

Today is one of those days. My activities are varied and unrelated. Do you have those days too? There is no flow and they don’t make any sense.

View of our burning bushes over the dog yard fence.

First off, remember how I said Mother Nature was confused? Mother Nature Is Confused Well, was she ever! I woke up to three inches of snow this morning. On April twenty first. In Ohio.

Azalea blanketed in snow.

We were more fortunate than others. I saw on my Facebook feed this morning that some of my friends who live closer to Lake Erie had seven inches of snow. Ours’ is mostly melted now that it is mid-afternoon. So far, our plants don’t seem to have sustained a lot of damage. We will be better able to tell when things have thawed out again tomorrow.

View out the back door this morning.

So, more about my morning. Since I didn’t want to go outside, I thought it would be a fine day to our our dog rescue’s taxes, so I did. I worked on the filing and figures for a bit the previous days. Non-profit taxes are due on May 15th, so don’t worry, I wasn’t late. And non-profits don’t actually pay taxes, at least for smaller groups. There may be a filing fee on a sliding scale, but mostly the filing is to make sure you are legitimate.

After that was out of the way, I moved on to baking. We were out of sweets, except for ice cream, which is nearly always in the freezer and it is too cold to eat that today. I baked cranberry-orange scones with maple icing. They turned out to be very tasty. I will provide that recipe another day. I also baked lime-ginger cookies made with spelt flour because hubby is on a low-gluten kick. The cookies taste good, but they are very flat and dark in color because of the spelt flour. Not the best thing I have ever made but they serve the purpose.

Refer back to the first photo in this post. This is how Zekie decided that I should attend a portion of my college course on The Science of Well-Being this morning. It’s ok, the lectures are pre-recorded so no one knew. Apparently, I was paying too much attention to the computer for too long to suit Zekie. I get a kick out of this dog. He is so interactive. After I petted him on my lap for a while, he got down and went back to sleep. A few other dogs nosed me for pets throughout the class too, but none are as insistent as Zekie. This is the major benefit of working from home. There are dogs.

And that is how I passed my morning. Once again, life is good.