by Nancy on March 29, 2011

in Drinks,Vegetarian

A warm cup of cocoa is a perfect with that morning cinnamon roll, before you go to bed at night or when you come in from the cold. You can dress it up by adding instant coffee, flavored syrups or flavored alcohol. You can top it with marshmallows, whipped cream or sprinkles. The possibilities are endless.

If you let a cup of cocoa sit, the cocoa will settle to the bottom of the cup. Cocoa does not dissolve in water or milk. It forms a suspension, and not a very good one. To solve this problem, serve your cocoa with a spoon for stirring, or better yet, a peppermint stick!

You can make this either on the stove top or in the microwave.


  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla
  1. Mix cocoa, sugar and salt until mixture is evenly colored.
  2. Stir in water to make a paste.
  3. On stove top, bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. In microwave, microwave 1 1/2 minutes making sure mixture comes to a boil. The paste will turn into a chocolate syrup.
  4. Add milk. Heat to drinking temperature.
  5. Add vanilla, a topping or variation from below if you like, pour in cups and serve.

Single Serve Cocoa

  • 1 tbsp. cocoa
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/16 tsp. or just a dash salt
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla
  1. Mix cocoa, sugar and salt until mixture is evenly colored.
  2. Stir in water to make a paste.
  3. Microwave 30 seconds, just until the mixture boils so it forms a syrup.
  4. Add milk. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes or to drinking temperature.
  5. Add vanilla, a topping or variation from below if you like, and serve.

Cocoa Toppings and Variations

Top with marshmallows.

Top with whipped cream.

Add crushed peppermint candy or candy sprinkles. These will stay on top better if you put them on top of whipped cream!

Place a peppermint stick or candy cane in the cup to serve as a stirrer.

Add a teaspoon (or as desired) of instant coffee for mocha flavored cocoa.

Add hazelnut, mint or other flavored syrup for coffee.

Peppermint Pattie – add a shot (2 tablespoons) of Peppermint Schnapps to each cup.


Pie Crust

by Carrie on November 2, 2010

in Desserts,Pies,Tips and Tricks

There are about a zillion different pie crust recipes out there but this is the one that consistently works to best for me. I’m not really sure who came up with the phrase “easy as pie” because before I found this pie crust recipe I constantly struggled with pie. Once you find the pie crust recipe that works for you, stick with it – any pie crust will work for any pie.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks.

Pie Crust

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 5 T cold water
  • 1 T white vinegar
  1. Combine flour and salt.
  2. Add shortening. You can use a pastry cutter, a couple forks, or a food processor.
  3. Beat the egg with a fork and add it to the dough.
  4. Add water and vinegar and mix until combined.

This recipe makes enough for two pie crusts so either make two pies or halve the dough after it’s mixed up and pop half in the freezer for later. Take it out and thaw it in the fridge for a day or so before you plan to use it.

How to Roll Out a Pie Crust

  1. Put down some waxed paper and then flour the waxed paper.
  2. Shape the dough into a round.
  3. Flour the top of the round.
  4. Roll it out.
  5. Hold your pie pan over the dough to see if it’s big enough.
  6. Once it’s big enough, flour the top again.
  7. Place your rolling pin at one edge and lift up the waxed paper to roll the dough around the rolling pin.
  8. Unroll the dough over your pie pan.


Popcorn Balls

by Nancy on October 19, 2010

in Candy,Desserts,Snacks

I grew up in a rural area where we knew all of our neighbors. My mom drove me and my brothers and sisters to a few of the neighbors’ houses to go trick or treating. We didn’t have to worry about people we didn’t know tampering with treats so it meant we could have homemade treats – it really was a treat! We made treats for those who came to our house, too. Popcorn balls were a favorite. These make eye-catching treats for bake sales or parties if you can’t pass them out to little goblins and ghosts.

The syrup used to hold popcorn balls together is clear. You can add food coloring to make the balls any color. I leave it clear when making “snowballs” for Christmas but color it orange for Halloween treats.

The syrup used in this recipe is made from sugar and water cooked to a high temperature. The exact temperature determines how hard or soft the candy will be. It works like this. Temperatures around 245 degrees form soft candies like caramels but keep cooking to temperatures around 300 degrees and you get hard candies like peanut brittle. Use a candy thermometer to measure the temperature.

Be careful you don’t get burned by hot syrup when making popcorn balls. Cooked syrup is HOT, much hotter than boiling water, and it sticks to your skin. Heed the precautions below and if you accidentally get hot syrup on your hand, plunge it into cool water immediately. Sacrifice a ball if you have to.

Popcorn Balls

  • 5 quarts popped popcorn
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • food coloring (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
    1. Pop corn and place in 300 degree oven to keep hot and crisp.
    2. Butter sides of 2 quart, heavy bottomed saucepan. Carefully pour sugar into center of pan without getting any crystals on sides. Add remaining ingredients except vanilla being careful not to splash sugar on sides of pan. If the cooked syrup contacts a grain of sugar, it can cause all of the syrup to crystallize giving it a grainy mouth feel.
    3. Insert candy thermometer and cook to 250 degrees (hard ball stage).
    4. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
    5. Pour one third of syrup evenly over popcorn and toss gently with large spoon or spatula to mix trying not to break popcorn. Repeat two more times until all of syrup is added.
    6. CAUTION – syrup is HOT. Let mixture set 5 minutes to cool. Work next to sink with running water or place bowl of cool water nearby to dip your hands in if syrup sticks and starts to burn. Butter hands and form a baseball sized popcorn ball squeezing so it sticks to itself. If you make it larger than a baseball, it will be too big to wrap in a single square of plastic wrap. Set aside to cool. Form remaining balls buttering hands between each ball.
    7. Wrap each ball in a square of plastic wrap and tie closed with curling ribbon. If weather is hot, store in refrigerator.

      Makes 12 – 15 popcorn balls.


      Raw Apple Cake

      by Nancy on September 21, 2010

      in Breads,Breakfasts,Cakes,Desserts

      Raw Apple Cake

      Raw apple cake is another old recipe handed down from my Grandma Brink that I make regularly. I like it better than applesauce cake for a couple of reasons. Bits of apple, along with the raisins and nuts, give this cake more texture than applesauce cake which I find too smooth. Also, most people use store bought applesauce which usually has very little flavor hence the cake has very little flavor.

      I only make this cake in the summer from sweet, fully ripe summer or fall apples. Jonathan apples are my favorite. They rarely appear in the markets so I planted my own tree (did I say Jonathan is my favorite apple?).

      This is a heavy, moist cake. Don’t try to tip the whole cake out of the pan, it’s likely to fall apart. Cut it into serving pieces and move the pieces to a serving plate or serve on individual plates.

      Raw Apple Cake

      • 1 cup sugar
      • 1/2 cup shortening (butter or margarine)
      • 1 egg
      • 1 tsp. cinnamon
      • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
      • 1 tsp. cocoa
      • 1 tsp. baking soda
      • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
      • 1 1/2 cup chopped raw apple (1 large apple)
      • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
      • 1/2 cup water
      • 1 1/2 cups flour
      1. Cream sugar and shortening.
      2. Add egg, spices, soda, raisins, apple, and nuts.
      3. Mix in water and flour.
      4. Pour in greased pan and bake at 350 degrees; 8″ square pan for 40 minutes, 15 cupcakes for 20 minutes.