All posts by Melissa

Brownies in a Jar

Brownies in a Jar

This makes a great quick make ahead gift. You can change up the recipe by adding  different goodies such as crushed candy canes, m&m’s nuts ext. Print off the other ingredient list and directions on pretty paper or decorate by hand and tie them on with a ribbon or tape or glue them to the jar. It will look like you spent lots of time on this gift but really it is simply. You might also want to add a piece of fabric over lid for added color, you can find some cheep holiday fabric and one yard would go along way. Good luck and let me know how it turned out.

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cup sugar

½ cup dried cranberries, nuts, other dried fruit, candy cane pieces,ext.

½ cup white chocolate chips or Vanilla chips

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a quart size mason jar layer the ingredients in order they are listed, cover and store in a cool dry place for up to 6 months.

Make a label that says:

Add 3 eggs

½ cup oil or melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To prepare brownies: mix together eggs, oil and vanilla add brownie mix stir until all ingredients are wet and incorporated. Spread into a greased 9 inch square pan and bake at 350 for 30 to 35 minutes.

Homemade Peanut Butter Chocolates

Homemade Peanut Butter Chocolates

Great gift for those Reese’s cup loves in your life, and so very easy. Once these have set and are hard pop them out of the muffin liners and put them in a pretty tin, fill a coffee cup or a pretty candy dish with them. This is great to have the kids help with because there is no stove involved. If you like these recipes feel free to share them.

1 10-12 oz. package vanilla or white chocolate chips

6 oz. or 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 tablespoons butter flavored shortening (real butter would work too)

Microwave all ingredients on high for 1 and ½ minutes, stir, return to microwave for 30 more seconds or until all ingredients are melted and smooth. Pour into miniature muffin tins with paper liners, refrigerate until set.

For best results do not use reduced fat or generic peanut butter I personally favor Smucker’s all natural creamy peanut butter.

Seasoning Mix

Seasoning Mix

Another quick gift idea, mix this up and fill salt shakers with it attach your hand made label and it looks like you spent a lot of time making this gift only you will know it took mere minutes. Make this part of a gift basket with other homemade food gifts like jams and jellies, soup mixes ext.

1/3 cup garlic powder

¼ cup celery salt

¼ cup Italian seasoning

¼ cup lemon-pepper seasoning

¼ cup dried crushed rosemary

¼ cup paprika

3 tablespoons garlic salt

4 teaspoons pepper

Combine all ingredients store in salt shakers with directions to use on salads, soups, potatoes, or as a meat rub.

This is a great make ahead gift idea, stores well. If you are creative make your own label stickers.

Sweet and salty party mix

Sweet and salty party mix

Make it a movie night gift basket, add this party mix, a movie, some candies, maybe nuts and cute napkins you could also add their favorite beverage. This gift takes a little more time to bake up but it is worth it. Throw the gift basket together and mark another name off your list. I would suggest making a couple of batches because it is really hard to stay out of. Need gluten free, use rice or corn Chex in place of wheat.

2 quarts popped popcorn

3 cups wheat or rice Chex

1 11 oz can salted mixed nuts

½ cup butter, cubed

½ cup honey

In a large bowl mix the popcorn, Chex, and nuts. Heat butter and honey until butter is melted, pour over the other ingredients. Spread out the mixture on 2 ungreased cookie sheets, careful to have ingredients in a single layer, bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven  or until the popcorn is golden brown, stir mixture every five minutes of baking time. While everything is cooling stir occasionally to keep large clumps from forming.  This makes a great gift, just place in a tin, or other sealable container.

Cranberry salad

Cranberry salad


Mix 1 large strawberry Jello as directed and chill until it becomes slightly jiggly

Chop 1 cup of walnuts

1 apple into small pieces

Drain 1 can of crushed pineapple well

1 bag of fresh or frozen cranberries chopped or 2 cans of whole cranberry relish

Mix everything into Jello and refrigerate until set.

Cast Iron Cooking

Cast Iron Cooking

I received my first cast iron skillet this year for my birthday and was intimidated because I knew there was a special way to clean and care for it but I didn’t know what that was. The skillet set in my cabinet for 4 months until I developed the courage to tackle it. Much to my surprise and embarrassment it is really simply to care for. Hand wash, wipe dry and spray lightly with cooking oil, that’s it. I was told if you don’t care for them correctly they will rust and just be ruined and that turns out to be false, if it does rust all you need in a little steal wool and a lot of elbow grease.  The friend who gave it to me also made the point of saying what a great weapon it would make because it is so heavy, she’s right about that. So be for warned, come into my kitchen and start trouble and you will get to meet my skillet. If you leave trouble out of it you are welcome to come in and join me for a meal anytime, I will even let you help clean up so that you can get over your own cast iron fears.

Potato Meat Pie

Potato Meat Pie


3 tablespoons oil

3 cup shredded potatoes

1 cup shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar)

¾ cup cooked sausage

¼ cup sautéed onion

1 cup milk

2 eggs

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper


Mix together potatoes and oil, press into pie pan. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes or until potatoes are lightly browned. Remove from oven, layer on cheese, meat and onion. Beat eggs with milk and salt and pepper then pour over layered ingredients. Return to oven for 30 minutes.

This is a great dish for a carry in or to have breakfast for dinner.

Banana Nut Bread

Banana Nut Bread

5 tablespoons of salted butter

½ cup sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 large egg

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cup mashed banana (approx. 3 bananas)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or almonds.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease loaf pan. Mix butter and sugars add egg and egg whites along with vanilla, Mix well, add banana and mix for at least 30 seconds on high. Combine flours, soda, powder and salt in a separate bowl.  Mix a little of the flour mixture into the butter mixture then some of the whipping cream then flour then cream ending with flour. Mix in pecans.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan bake for 1 hr. and 15 min or until tooth pick inserted into middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack in pan for at least 10 min then remove from pan to rack to cool completely.

I found that you can use baby food bananas in place of the mashed bananas, approx. four jars in the right amount. This doesn’t change the flavor but makes the texture a little gummier. If you have excess baby food lying around this is a good way to use it up.

Turkey – Stew

Turkey – Stew  —  Slow cooker                                                                   TWC


12 oz Turkey breast tenderloin

8 oz frozen Mixed Vegetables

14 ½ oz can Cut green beans (un-drained)

8 oz Water

½ tsp Thyme powder

¾ tsp Salt

3 Tbsp Flour

Stalk Celery

Chopped Cabbage (optional)

Cilantro flakes

Cut turkey in ½ inch cubes into cooker pot

Add frozen vegetables

Add canned beans

Mix water, salt, thyme and flour – pour mix into pot

Cook on high for 3 ½ hours

About ½ hour before end, add celery, cabbage, cilantro

Serve on bread or rice

Our first camping trip.

Our first camping trip.

We went camping for the first time recently; we went to Shawnee State park near Portsmouth Ohio. Because it was our first time we stayed at a campground. Unfortunately we choose the weekend that the campground was having their Halloween celebration, so it was really crowded. Our campsite had a fire ring and a place to set up a tent along with a place to park. The campground had decent bathroom with toilets that flush; a separate bath house; laundry facilities; along with two playground areas for the kids. There was a small camp-store that served as the office. The cost was 18 dollars per night.  When I went online to check out the campground it said that they didn’t have grills at the campsites so that limited our choices when it came to meals, however the fire ring included a small grill that could increase your food possibilities, this was not known until after we arrived.   We set up our tent and filled it with our supplies; cooler, clothes, extra shoes, food and the seats from our mini-van along with the spare tier and jack. Then we inflated our queen size air mattress and made up the bed.

We chose to sleep in our mini-van because our tent is 15 years old and we were not confident in its ability to keep out the weather. We gathered twigs for the fire and bought some wood because we didn’t know we could bring it into the park. As long as the wood is from Ohio it is ok to bring with you (used to not be able to take fire wood across county lines). We started our fire and roasted some hot dogs for dinner. Then we enjoyed the cool fall night and fire while watching the stars until we decided it was time to go to bed.  But not before we roasted some marshmallows.

Morning came early so with the sun we were up. We made breakfast and everyone got dressed. Broke down camp and put the van back together. We decided to go for a hike after we explored the campground in the day light.








The hike ended up being shorter than we anticipated because it was not well marked and somehow we ended up off the trail and back at the campground before we should have. After that we stopped in the camp office for a hiking map and decided to drive the country roads throughout the park. It was a beautiful drive and after a couple hours we headed home happy with our first experience camping. We determined that next time a campground would not be necessary in fact we would prefer to be in a less populated area.