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"All-Vol" Orange Juice Cupcakes

I came up with these cupcakes when I lived in Knoxville, Tennessee (home of the Volunteers). My family would come over to watch every Vols football game so I needed an orange dessert; hence, All-Vol Cupcakes were born.

They are flavored with orange juice and can be frosted with either whipped cream or my orange juice frosting. It just depends on how big a sweet tooth you have... mine is huge.

all vol orange juice cupcakes

Original image by shimelle on Flickr

Whether you are a Vol or not, I'm sure you will still appreciate this delicious orange juice cupcake recipe. Give them as cupcake gifts to really share the love!

Orange Juice Cupcake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 C. Sugar
  • 1/4 lb. Soft Butter
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 3 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 2 C. Flour
  • 1 C. Orange Juice
  • 2-3 Drops Orange Food Coloring (optional)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the sugar, butter, and eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.

With mixer on low setting, alternatively add the dry ingredients and the orange juice to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly for 2 minutes. You can stir in the food coloring now if you opt to.

Bake the cupcakes in a lined muffin pan for 20-25 minutes. Let cool before icing. You can frost these with simple whipped cream or use the Orange Flavored Icing Recipe below.

orange juice cupcakes

Image by stuartwebster on Flickr

Orange Juice Frosting Recipe

  • 1/4 C Softened Butter
  • dash salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 T milk
  • 2 1/3 C Powdered Sugar
  • 1/4 C Orange Juice
  • orange food coloring

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and spread on cooled cupcakes.

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Orange Cupcakes Recipe

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do!

Quick And Delicious Chex Mix Recipes

Chex mix has been around for decades. It has graced the tables of Superbowl and accompanying kids birthday gifts for years but it has changed over time.
Chex Mix Recipes

Image by artbystevejohnson on Flickr

Chex cereal has added new flavors allowing Chex mix to be made in more combinations than ever. With so many Chex mix recipes to choose from, I'm going to need a bigger table.

Original Chex Mix Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
  • 3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
  • 3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
  • 1 cup mixed nuts
  • 1 cup bite-size pretzels
  • 1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preparation:

  1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, gourmet nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
  2. Microwave uncovered on high 5 to 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Oven Directions:

Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside. In ungreased large roasting pan, melt butter in oven. Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store your Chex Mix in airtight container

Dark Chocolate Chex Mix Recipe

Chocolate Chex Mix Recipe

Image by starmonkeybrass on Flickr

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups Chex® cereal
  • 1 cup pretzels
  • 1 cup mini chocolate Oreo cookies
  • 1/2 cup M&M chocolate candies (dark)
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Directions:

Start with two Ziploc bags. Put the cocoa in one and the confectioner's sugar in the other. Set aside

Melt the dark chocolate chips in a double boiler. Pour 1 1/2 cups of the chocolate in a large bowl. Stir in 3 cups of the Chex cereal. Dump the chocolate covered Chex into the Ziploc bag containing the cocoa. Seal and shake vigorously. Dump this mixture into a large serving bowl.

Stir the pretzels into the other 1/2 cup of melted dark chocolate chips. Dump these into the large serving bowl.

Melt the white chocolate chips in the double boiler. Stir in 1 cup of Chex cereal. Dump into the Ziploc bag of confectioner's sugar. Shake vigorously. Add this to the large serving bowl.

Add the M&M's and mini chocolate covered Oreos to the large bowl and toss making sure everything is separated. Serve.

Chex Mix Is Great For:

  • Superbowl Parties
  • Birthdays
  • Baby Showers
  • Cookouts
  • Sleepovers

Caramel Crispy Chex Mix Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 cups Rice Chex® cereal
  • 4 1/2 cups Corn Chex® cereal
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup candy-coated chocolate candies

Preparation:

  1. In large microwavable bowl, place cereals.
  2. In 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave brown sugar, butter and corn syrup uncovered on High about 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute, until melted and smooth. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour over cereal, stirring until evenly coated.
  3. Microwave uncovered on high 5 to 6 minutes, stirring and scraping bowl after every minute, just until cereal begins to brown. Cool 5 minutes; stir in candies. Spread on waxed paper to cool; break into bite-size pieces. Store in airtight container.

Out of all the Chex Mix recipes that I present in this article, this sweet concoction is my favorite. I have served it at many baby and given as bridal shower favors over the years and it is always a hit!

How To Make Chex Mix

Chex Barbeque Snack Mix Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
  • 3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups bite-size pretzel twists
  • 1 1/2 cups bite-size cheese crackers
  • 3/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preparation:

  1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereals, pretzel twists, crackers and peanuts.
  2. In medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients until well blended. Pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.
  3. Microwave uncovered on high 7 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Spread on foil or paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Cheesy Ranch Chex Mix Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups Corn Chex®, Rice Chex® or Wheat Chex® cereal (or combination)
  • 2 cups bite-size pretzel twists
  • 2 cups bite-size cheese crackers
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 package (1 oz) ranch dressing and seasoning mix
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

  1. In large microwavable bowl, mix cereal, pretzel twists and crackers. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on high about 30 seconds or until melted. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated. Stir in dressing mix and cheese until evenly coated.
  2. Microwave uncovered on high 3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Spread on waxed paper or foil to cool. Store in airtight container.

General Mills Gluten Free Chex Rice Cereal

Scoop up a few boxes of gluten-free Chex cereal and make delicious Chex Mix. You can find gluten-free recipes here.

Chex Muddie Buddies Recipe

powdered chex mix recipe

Image by starmonkeybrass on Flickr

Ingredients:

  • 9 cups Rice Chex®, Corn Chex® or Chocolate Chex® cereal (or combination)
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. Into large bowl, measure cereal; set aside.
  2. In 1-quart microwavable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, peanut butter and butter uncovered on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 seconds longer or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into 2-gallon resealable food-storage plastic bag.
  3. Add powdered sugar. Seal bag; shake until well coated. Spread on waxed paper to cool. Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Stress Free Holiday Baking Tips

Another holiday, another excuse to bake! For those who love to get into the kitchen and create edible gifts (cookie favors) and treats for friends and families; holidays provide all the impetus we need to start mixing, kneading, preheating, and decorating.

holiday baking tips

Along with the fun, though, comes inevitable tension as deadlines loom, our days get fuller, and we don't have time to do as much as we'd like. This holiday, cut the stress without cutting the taste. Here are some tips for stress-free holiday baking.

Getting Ready

Plan out what you would like to bake and take stock of your pantry. What do you need? Flour, sugar, and other staples? Do you need sprinkles, candies, and other extras? Do you need icing bags, decorating tips, or toothpicks? You don't want to be most of the way through a recipe before realizing you're out of butter or that you don't have chocolate chips for your famous chocolate chip cookies. Also make sure you have treat bags, boxes, cookie tins, or other containers to put the finished product in. Make a list and check it twice!

Just as you are preparing your ingredients, prepare your work space. Un-clutter counters and work surfaces. Make sure all of your baking supplies are clean and ready to go. Another pre-baking step to take is to make a list of recipients or events and decide which baked goods go where and how many you will need to make.

Prepare by Pre-Mixing

You need to bake as close to the holiday as possible to ensure fresh cookies, cakes, and treats. But that doesn't mean you have to save all the work for the last minute. In the days before baking day, measure out all your dry ingredients and store in labeled containers. This is like making yourself a bunch of "gifts in a jar" and it will help save you time.

Making holiday baking easy

If you are making holiday cookie gifts, you can also make the dough ahead of time and freeze it. When you're ready, let it thaw and then whip up some wonderful goodies.

Enlist Help

If you have friends or family members who are willing, get them to help out. It can make the work go by much faster when you have a second pair of hands. Perhaps one of you could mix while the other did the dishes, and switch periodically?

Also, it can be a great idea to include your children. If they are old enough to help, and are actually helpful, have them help you mix, cut out Christmas cookies, and decorate. If you are a bit of a control freak or your children are not ready to help out in the kitchen, then enlist the help of a friend or family member to babysit for you! In exchange for some fresh baked goods, that is.

Mass Produce

There is no reason why you should make gingerbread men for this person, chocolate chip cookies for that one, cupcakes for him, chocolate covered oreos for her.

holiday baking tips

Choose a few favorites and make them en masse. This will cut preparation time and make it easier for you to cook, package, and give. There's a reason why big companies do it, so why can't you?

Host a Cookie Swap

If you have friends who also love to bake, hold a cookie swap party. Everyone makes their favorite or specialty cookie and there is a chocolaty, sugary, decadent exchange. You get to go home with a sampling of other treats.

You have given and received a holiday gift, had a party, and have cut your stress! That's a lot to accomplish in just a few hours.

Hosting a Cookie Swap

Holiday Baking Tips & Tools You'll Need

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Cheat a Little

If you are short on time, why not take some shortcuts? Instead of making items from scratch, use a mix and then doll up the results to make them special. Instead of making a complex recipe, melt some chocolate and dip pretzels, nuts, or coffee beans. Rather than baking, create a gift-in-a-jar and let someone else enjoy the process at their leisure.

Holiday baking doesn't have to ruin the holiday. Enjoy yourself by preparing and simplifying; the best gift you can give yourself and others is to actually have a peaceful, happy holiday.

Grandma's Stuffed Bell Peppers Recipe

stuffed bell peppers

The cool fall temperatures have arrived which means that it is time for some great casserole dinners at our house.  My Grandma's Stuffed Peppers are always a winner anytime of year, but we especially love them in the fall or winter.  When cooked with lean ground beef and colorful bell peppers, they not only have a beautiful presentation, but they are also pretty healthy.

There are many stuffed pepper recipes around with unique ingredients like pepperoni, chiles, and more.  But no matter how many different recipes I've tried over the years, I always come back to this classic stuffed recipe passed down to my family from my Grandma Alma to my Mom to me.

I hope that you enjoy it as much as my family has over the years!

My Grandma Alma

Unfortunately, I never really got to know my Grandma Alma because she died of cancer when I was just 2 years old. I have very few memories of her and those that I do have are of her in the hospital hooked up to tubes. Fortunately, my mother took lots of photos of me with my grandmother when I was a baby... that happens when you are the oldest child in a family (I swear my youngest brother has no photos). At any rate, I really wish that I had been able to get to know her because she was one tough cookie who had overcome lots of tragedies in her life including the deaths of two of her children. Cancer just happened to be the one thing she just couldn't beat.

But my grandmother lives on in my family mostly through our food. My mom has all of her old recipe books and a box full of yellowed recipe cards. Many of my mother's childhood favorites are now favorites of her own children and grandchildren. So this recipe for stuffed peppers has been in our family for years. I can remember all us kids begging mom to make it and 30 years later nothing has changed. Even today, mom calls up my husband and I to come over for stuffed peppers and as sure as the sky is blue, we say 'yes' without hesitation.

So it is with great love that I pass this family recipe on to you!

bell peppers

Bell Peppers Are Healthy!

Brightly-colored bell peppers (green,red, orange, yellow) are excellent sources of both Vitamin A and Vitamin C. In fact, just one cup of bell peppers provides 291% of your recommended daily value of Vitamin C and 105% of your recommended DV of Vitamin A. They are also a great source of B6 and dietary fiber.

Grandma's Stuffed Peppers - The Ingredients

6 - 8 large red, yellow or green bell peppers

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3/4 cup chopped onion

1 to 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef (I personally use 1 lb)

3/4 cup uncooked white rice

1 can peeled chopped tomatoes

2 1/2 tsp salt (I use slightly less)

3/4 tsp. pepper

1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

how to select bell peppers

How To Select & Store Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are most abundant in late August and during the month of September when the largest harvest occurs in fields and gardens across America. When choosing bell peppers at your local farmers market or grocery store, look for peppers with vivid coloring and taut skin (wrinkles mean that the pepper is not fresh). The skin should be free of blemishes, dark spots, or soft areas that could indicate deterioration. If you press on the outside of a pepper, it should give slightly. Unwashed bell peppers can normally be stored up to a week in the refrigerator before using them.

Although the shape and size of a pepper will not affect the taste, for stuffed pepper dishes it is best to choose peppers that are large and have a shape that will stand up in a baking dish. That way you don't end up wasting a bunch of the pepper that could otherwise be eaten.

Step 1 - Prepare The Peppers

Rinse the peppers well under running water (if they have a waxy finish, you should scrub them as well). To core the pepper, use a paring knife to cut around the stem. Remove the stem and scoop out the pepper's insides including the seeds and fibers.

Boil the peppers in salted water for 5 to 8 minutes (or steam them). Drain well and set aside to cool a bit.

How To Prepare The Peppers

Step 2 - Cook The Stuffed Pepper Rice

Cook the rice according to package directions.

Step 3 - Prepare The Filling

In a large frying pan, brown the onion and beef together adding a little oil if necessary. Once it is cooked, drain it.

Then either in the large frying pan or in a separate bowl, add the cooked rice, tomatoes, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper to the cooked onion and hamburger.

Stir well until all the ingredients are distributed evenly.

How To Brown The Hamburger For Stuffed Peppers

Step 4 - Stuff the Peppers with Filling

In a 9 x 13 baking dish or similar sized oval dish, arrange (stand up) the bell peppers and stuff them full of the hamburger/rice mixture. If you still have any hamburger/rice mixture left after stuffing all the peppers, just pour it next to the peppers in the baking dish.

In a small glass bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, remaining salt and pepper. Pour evenly over the stuffed peppers (and any excess rice mixture that you placed outside the peppers in the baking dish).

Step 5 - Bake The Stuffed Peppers

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 1 hour at 350°F. Baste tops of peppers frequently with juices in the baking dish. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for 1/2 more. Top should be slightly brown and bubbly.

Serve the individual stuffed peppers by placing them on plates along with some sort of side dish (see recommendations below).

Suggested Side Dishes

In my family, we always serve our stuffed peppers with either garlic bread or those ready-to-bake biscuits that you can buy in the refrigerator section at the grocery store. Our favorite garlic bread is the boxed Texas Toast that can be found in the freezer section... although this is NOT a good choice if you are trying to keep this meal full of only healthy food gifts.

In the summer, I will also serve fresh from the garden green beans and/or a leafy green salad.

Don't Forget The Dessert!

At my house, no meal is complete without a delectable dessert. Some of our favorites include gourmet cookies like white chocolate macadamia nut or monster cookies with large chocolate chunks. My entire family (nieces and nephews included) love gourmet cheesecake so for this particular meal which is usually served in the fall and winter, we opt for a traditional New York style cheesecake or a pumpkin cheesecake with a ginger snap crust. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Estimated Casserole Cost

Grandma's Stuffed Pepper Recipe serves about 4 people. The cost varies based on time of year (peppers are cheaper in summer when you can get them 2 for $1 on sale), but on average, I would say the stuffed pepper casserole costs $12 - $14.

You can save A LOT of money by growing your own bell peppers. It is pretty easy to do even in a pot on your deck/patio. Below you can find one of my favorite pepper growing books and some bell pepper seed resources.

Bon appetit!

How to Make Your Chocolate Chip Cookies Crispy

choc_chipWhen it comes to cookie preferences, there are two main groups of people: those who like their cookies soft and chewy, and those who prefer a thin, crispy cookie. If you’re part of the second group, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that your chocolate chip cookies come out perfectly crispy every time.

Baking Temperature

One of the most basic elements to getting your cookies exactly how you want them is to bake them at the proper temperature. If your recipe calls for 375 degrees, you need to be baking at 375 degrees. Unfortunately, ovens aren’t always precisely accurate, so it may be wise to invest in an oven thermometer to see what the actual temperature inside your oven is. Once you know this, you can adjust your temperature setting accordingly, which will help ensure you wind up with a crispy - and not burnt - cookie.

Choose Your Recipe Wisely

Another factor in achieving the perfect level of crispiness is in what ingredients you choose. For a crispy chocolate chip cookie, look for recipes that call for butter rather than shortening. Butter-based recipes result in crispier cookies because butter spreads more, causing cookies to be flatter. These flatter cookies will bake quicker and more consistently, giving you a crispier texture at the end. Additionally, recipes that contain white sugar instead of brown sugar - or at least a significant ratio of white over brown sugar - will turn out crispier. The same is true when it comes to using all-purpose flour instead of bread or cake flour; all-purpose flour will result in crispier cookies, while bread or cake flour causes cookies to be softer and puffier.

Dough Temperature Matters Too

Whatever you do, don’t refrigerate the dough before baking your cookies. Doing this will make the dough colder and stiffer, allowing it to retain a thicker shape while baking. This will result in a chewier cookie. Instead, you want your cookie to be flatter so it will bake up crispier. To help speed up this process, keep your dough at room temperature. This warmer temperature will allow the dough to spread more, giving you that crispy texture you love.

Cookie Sheet Tips

The cookie sheet you use will also have an impact on the crispiness of your cookies. Non-stick and air-cushioned sheets are quite popular and many bakers swear by them, but they won’t always result in that crisp texture you’re after. To better your chances for a crisp treat, opt for an aluminum baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Aluminum absorbs and diffuses heat faster than other types of sheets, upping the crisp factor of your cookies. Avoid silicone baking mats, as these usually result in softer cookies. You’ll also want to preheat your cookie sheet before putting the dough on it. As mentioned previously, flatter cookies bake up crispier, and putting your dough on a pre-warmed cookie sheet will promote spreading, giving you a flatter cookie.

But Don’t Over-Bake Them!Choc_chip2

Many people mistakenly believe that leaving cookies in the oven longer will increase their crispiness. In some respect, they are right - but the crispiness will likely be the result of burning the cookies! Remember that cookies will continue to cook even after they’re out of the oven. When baking, leave the cookies in for the recommended time, pulling them out of the oven once the edges have begun to crisp and brown. Let them cool for several minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer them to a wire rack to continue the cooling process.

Getting your chocolate chip cookies exactly how you want them requires trial and error. These tips will help you achieve that light, crispy texture you’re after, but only time and experience will allow you to truly discover what it takes to get that perfect cookie every time.

 

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