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Smile #6 ~ Pumpkin Gingerbread Cupcakes

6 Jan

Josh signed me up to bake a cake for a fundraiser at the high school, and the only disposable, aluminum pans with lids that I could find at the grocery store were lasagna-size, smaller and shallower than a standard 9×13. I was disappointed for a heartbeat of a moment, thinking I would have to drive around all night looking for the right size pan. But then I realized a smaller pan meant a smaller cake. Smaller cake meant extra batter, And extra batter meant… cupcakes! I ended up with eighteen paper-lined, little cuties. Happy, happy day!

I have no idea where, or who, I originally got this recipe from. Probably from my mother-in-law. (Most of my good ones come from her.) It’s one of the hundreds I have chicken-scratched on scrap paper and stuffed into my M&M’s folder of family-favorites.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake

3 c sugar

1 c oil

4 eggs

2/3 c wwater

15 oz canned pumpkin

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ground cloves

3-1/2 c all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1-1/2 tsp salt

Beat sugar, oil and eggs. Add water. Mix well. Beat in pumpkin and spices. Combine flour, soda, powder and salt. Stir into pumpkin mixture. Pour into greased 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.

(Note: I baked the cupcakes for about 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake came out clean.)

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Snow Day!

3 Dec

It came a little later than usual, but we finally have our first snowfall of the season. Four to six inches are in the forecast, making it the perfect day to decorate the Christmas tree and bake that first batch of cookies. Yum!

Every year I try to mix it up a bit and try something new, but there are two cookies that are Sturgeon family standards at Christmastime. One is my mom’s “secret” cut-out recipe that I have been making since I was a little girl, and the other is Amish Sugar Cookies.

I originally got this recipe from my mother-in-law, but I adapted it slightly because I like a little spice to go with the sweet in my cookies. They are buttery-crisp and highly addictive in the way they seem to melt in your mouth. They are also very simple to make, making them the perfect choice for those who have little helpers in the kitchen, as I often do. Ever since my son has been old enough to stand on a chair, he has been the official Amish Cookie “Squisher” of the family.

Amish Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

4-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 tsp cream of tartar

Colored Sugar

Cream butter, sugars and oil. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and cream of tartar. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place on cookie sheets and flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in colored sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 8 dozen cookies.

State Fair Potato Salad

2 Jul

Hamburgers and hotdogs, corn on the cob dripping of butter, sweet and savory baked beans that melt in your mouth, massive watermelon wedges chilling on ice – no matter what you serve at your backyard BBQ this 4th of July weekend, the meal will not be complete without a huge helping of Mom’s homemade potato salad.

Sweet, creamy, and packed with crunch, I came across this recipe at my local library back when I was newly married and desperate to acquire a repertoire of recipes my family would rave about for generations to come. I poured over shelf after shelf, selecting armloads of cookbooks at a time, searching out the very best of the best in every category. Every time I found one I thought was perfect, I scribbled it out on whatever scrap of paper was handy at the time and stuffed it into an old school folder with a cartoon picture of the M&M guys on the front. 

My intention was to sit down one day and transfer the tried-and-true recipes onto pretty cards that I would store in a special box on the kitchen counter, perfect for sharing and passing along to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the years to come. Life got away from me and I have yet to find time to do so.

Sixteen years and hundreds of recipes later, my folder is now bulging at the seams. The recipes are a little tattered and torn, spattered in mystery food remnants, and decorated in notes about long-past doctor appointments or phone numbers that mean nothing to me. But every recipe in the folder is a time-tested, family favorite that my kids ask for again and again.

At least I got the important part right.

State Fair Potato Salad
(origin of recipe unknown)

Clean and chop 3 1/2 pounds red-skinned potatoes into 3/4″ pieces. Cook in large pot of salted, boiling water until tender. Drain. Transfer to large bowl and drizzle with 1/4 cup juice of sweet pickles. Cool to room temperature, and then add 1/2 cup chopped red onion, 1/2 cup chopped celery, and 1/2 cup chopped sweet pickles. For dressing, combine 3/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/3 cup buttermilk, 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour over vegetables and mix to coat. Fold in 3 hard boiled eggs, chopped. Season to taste with salt and pepper.