Cinnamon & Sugar Focaccia with raisins & walnuts

Yet another version of Focaccia in 5 using Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread In Five Minutes a Day. Filled with sugar and spice, this one is great for breakfast, brunch, as a dessert or sweet treat.

Cinnamon & Sugar Focaccia with raisins & walnuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread In Five Minutes a Day
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins or craisins (plump if they are too dry -- add fruit to water to just a little water & let it set until moisture is absorbed; drain excess liquid)
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, divided use
Coarse sugar - about 1 or 2 teaspoons
Powdered Sugar Dip: Mix together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 425°.
    I don't have a baking stone so I use a flat cast iron skillet
  2. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 9” square pan and evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  3. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece. 
  4. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball shape by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.  
  5. Flatten slightly and then top with sugar, cinnamon, raisins and most (but not all) of the nuts. Pull dough over filling to enclose additions and then twist into a log shape to further enclose mixture.
  6. Dust with more flour if needed. Pull the twist into a ball shape.
  7. Using your hands, flatten it into a 1/2” thick round. Place the dough top side down into the cake pan, and move it around a bit to cover it in olive oil. Turn the dough over, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Use your hands to gently push the dough to the edges of the cake pan. Sprinkle  remaining nuts and coarse sugar over the surface and push into the surface.
  9. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and allow the focaccia to rest and rise for 20 minutes.
  10. After the focaccia has rested, use your fingers to stipple the surface of the dough and then place the cake pan on the baking stone in the oven.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust is medium brown and crisp on the bottom. The baking time will vary according to the focaccia’s thickness.
  12. Cut into squares or strips and serve warm with Powdered Sugar Dip. This bread is also good toasted; split in half before toasting if desired.
Recipe without photos . . .
Cinnamon & Sugar Focaccia with raisins & walnuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Olive Oil Dough from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread In Five Minutes a Day
1/3 to 1/2 cup brown sugar 
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins or craisins (plump if they are too dry -- add fruit to water to just a little water & let it set until moisture is absorbed; drain excess liquid)
1/4 to 1/3 cup chopped walnuts, divided use
Coarse sugar - about 1 or 2 teaspoons
Powdered Sugar Dip: Mix together 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat a baking stone near the middle of the oven to 425°.
  2. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 9” square pan and evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
  3. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit size) piece. 
  4. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball shape by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.  
  5. Flatten slightly and then top with sugar, cinnamon, raisins and most (but not all) of the nuts. Pull dough over filling to enclose additions and then twist into a log shape to further enclose mixture.
  6. Dust with more flour if needed. Pull the twist into a ball shape.
  7. Using your hands, flatten it into a 1/2” thick round. Place the dough top side down into the cake pan, and move it around a bit to cover it in olive oil. Turn the dough over, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Use your hands to gently push the dough to the edges of the cake pan. Sprinkle  remaining nuts and coarse sugar over the surface and push into the surface.
  9. Cover the pan with plastic wrap, and allow the focaccia to rest and rise for 20 minutes.
  10. After the focaccia has rested, use your fingers to stipple the surface of the dough and then place the cake pan on the baking stone in the oven.
  11. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust is medium brown and crisp on the bottom. The baking time will vary according to the focaccia’s thickness.
  12. Cut into squares or strips and serve warm with Powdered Sugar Dip. This bread is also good toasted; split in half before toasting if desired.

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage & Veggies

I've never met a carb that I didn't like! It's a saying that applies to me! However, I didn't even miss the carbs in this veggie based meal. I did add a little pork sausage but it could be omitted and more mushrooms added for a vegetarian option. Other veggie additions could include peppers. Substitute canned tomatoes for fresh and dried Italian seasoning for fresh herbs if desired.


Spaghetti Squash with Sausage & Veggies  4 servings
1 spaghetti squash
½ lb. ground pork sausage
1 onion, diced
4 to 6 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
3 to 4 tablespoons tomato paste + equal amount of water or broth
½ cup fresh herb blend (parsley, thyme, oregano, basil)
Fresh tomatoes--about a handful, chopped
Kosher salt & coarse pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the top
  1. Prepare Squash: Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with a thin layer of cooking spray. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and fibrous strands surrounding seeds.
  2. Place squash halves cut side down on the baking sheet and add a little water to the tray (helps to steam and tenderize squash). Bake 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife can be easily inserted. Remove from oven, and cool. Use the tines of a kitchen fork to gently scrap out the “spaghetti”. 
  3. Prepare Filling: Brown pork sausage in skillet; when almost brown, add onion and cook several minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and cook until tender.
  5. Add tomato paste, herbs, water and fresh tomatoes Cover and cook for a few minutes until tomatoes are heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add cooked spaghetti squash and mix; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

3 ingredient Sausage Balls

This is a recipe that I started making in the 1970's — the original recipe called for Jimmy Dean sausage and then I'll let you imagine what they were called (add Jimmy Dean to the name and drop sausage). 
These days we just refer to them as Sausage Balls and much prefer to use the handmade sausage made by Zey's Grocery Store in Abilene.
Although these are great appetizers or snacks, I've also included them on a breakfast buffet. I made this batch for a K-State tailgate. Go CATS!

Sausage Balls  Makes 35 to 40 appetizers (using a 2-tablespoon capacity scoop)
12 oz. ground pork sausage (a lean blend; can be mild or hot depending on your taste preference) @ room temperature
10 oz. (2 1/2 cups) grated sharp Cheddar cheese @ room temperature
2 3/4 to 3 cups Baking Mix (homemade or a purchased mix such as Bisquick)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° if you plan to bake the sausage balls immedi.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (begin with 2 3/4 cup Baking Mix and add more only if needed) — use a mixer or your hands to knead all the ingredients together.

  3. Shape mixture into small balls and place on a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet if planning to bake right away. Or, freeze — arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet w/ sides, quick freeze and then remove and place in a freezer storage bag for easy access to all or just a few of the balls.
    Shaped and ready to go in freezer for a "flash freeze" before placing them in freezer bag to remain in freezer until ready to bake.
  4. Put in oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until well browned.  To bake frozen sausage balls — remove the number you want; place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake as directed above except allow a little extra time since the sausage balls are frozen.
Recipe without photos . . .
Sausage Balls  Makes 35 to 40 appetizers (using a 2-tablespoon capacity scoop)
12 oz. ground pork sausage (a lean blend; can be mild or hot depending on your taste preference) @ room temperature
10 oz. (2 1/2 cups) grated sharp Cheddar cheese @ room temperature
2 3/4 to 3 cups Baking Mix (homemade or a purchased mix such as Bisquick)
  1. Preheat oven to 350° if you plan to bake the sausage balls immedi.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients (begin with 2 3/4 cup Baking Mix and add more only if needed) — use a mixer or your hands to knead all the ingredients together.
  3. Shape mixture into small balls and place on a lightly greased or sprayed cookie sheet if planning to bake right away. Or, freeze — arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet w/ sides, quick freeze and then remove and place in a freezer storage bag for easy access to all or just a few of the balls.
  4. Put in oven and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until well browned.  To bake frozen sausage balls — remove the number you want; place on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake as directed above except allow a little extra time since the sausage balls are frozen.

Cheesy Zucchini Cornbread Casserole

Another different way to use an excess of zucchini. It's somewhere between a quick bread and a casserole -- serve it as a side dish or as a bread. Good for breakfast, too.

Cheesy Zucchini Cornbread Casserole
3 cups shredded zucchini
1 onion, thinly sliced and diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 pkg. (8.5 oz) Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
12 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz. reserved for top)      
  1. Spray a 9x12”( 2-quart capacity) baking dish and preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the 4 oz. of reserved cheese.
  3.  Evenly spread into casserole dish and top with reserved cheese. Top with remaining 4 oz. of cheese. 
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Recipe without photos . . .
Cheesy Zucchini Cornbread Casserole
3 cups shredded zucchini
1 onion, thinly sliced and diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 pkg. (8.5 oz) Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
12 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz. reserved for top)      
  1. Spray a 9x12”( 2-quart capacity) baking dish and preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a large bowl mix all ingredients except the 4 oz. of reserved cheese. Evenly spread into casserole dish and top with reserved cheese. 
  3. Top with remaining 4 oz. of cheese.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Beef in 30—Beef Picadillo Stuffed Acorn Squash

I picked up a beef cookbook, "Thirty Meals in 30 Minutes" in a booth set up during Abilene's 150th celebration of The Chisholm Trail. Looking through it I noticed a recipe that reminded me of workshop I attended at K-State — Flavors of Latin America. During one of the hands -on sessions we prepared Chile-Style Picadillo Empanadas.
I remember the picadillo was quite tasty so when I saw the recipe for Beef Picadillo Stuffed Acorn Squash I was intrigued.
I cooked the squash, Barry made the ground beef mixture and we were both quite pleased with the somewhat unusual, but delicious, flavor combo! We will definitely make it again. Hmm, I'm thinking the Beef Picadillo would  be great over rice, too.

Picadillo is a traditional dish in many Latin American countries. It usually contains ground beef, tomatoes, raisins and fragrant spices (including cinnamon); some countries add green olives and nuts, too.

For more beef recipes, go to Beef, It's What's for Dinner website.

Beef Picadillo Stuffed Acorn Squash  4 servings
1 lb. ground beef (I used an 80/20 blend)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Mexican Seasoning Mix (I used our homemade Taco Seasoning Mix)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/3 cup raisins
1 acorn squash, cooked and quartered or halved depending on size (click on "cooked" link for the directions I used to cook the squash)
1 tablespoon slivered and toasted almonds (bake almonds for 4 to 5 minutes @ 350° to toast, keeping an eye on them so they don't burn)
  1. Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef and onion, cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking beef into 3/4" crumbles (or smaller depending on preference) and stirring occasionally. (Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°.) Drain if needed.
  2. Sprinkle seasoning mix and cinnamon over beef; mix well.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce and raisins; bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve over squash. Garnish with toasted almonds.
Recipe without photos . . .
Beef Picadillo Stuffed Acorn Squash  4 servings
1 lb. ground beef (I used an 80/20 blend)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Mexican Seasoning Mix (I used our homemade Taco Seasoning Mix)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/3 cup raisins
1 acorn squash, cooked and quartered or halved depending on size (click on "cooked" link for the directions I used to cook the squash)
1 tablespoon slivered and toasted almonds (bake almonds for 4 to 5 minutes @ 350° to toast, keeping an eye on them so they don't burn)
  1. Heat large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef and onion, cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking beef into 3/4" crumbles (or smaller depending on preference) and stirring occasionally. (Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°.) Drain if needed.
  2. Sprinkle seasoning mix and cinnamon over beef; mix well.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce and raisins; bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve over squash. Garnish with toasted almonds. 

VERY BEST Creamy Chocolate Pudding/Pie Filling


This is the VERY BEST chocolate pudding/pie filling I've ever tasted. It's creamy, has just the perfect amount of chocolate and sugarVicky Chamberlin shared the recipe with me when she was the featured cook in a column I used to write for The Reflector Chronicle (7/30/2013).
The recipe came from Craig’s mother, Rachel Chamberlin; it uses flour as a thickener, rather than the customary cornstarch, which results in a creamy texture. Vicky puts it in a baked All in the Pan Pie Crust that her husband Craig makes for her.

Want to know how good this pudding/pie filling really is? Vicky had a pie made for the photo shoot and offered me a piece. Of course, I said "yes." Then she offered to send a piece home to Barry. Needless to say, his piece never made it home!

I used Vicky's recipe as a pudding rather than pie filling adding it to a base of crushed graham crackers and sprinkling extra graham crackers and walnuts over the top.

Creamy Chocolate Pudding/Pie Filling   Filling for an 8-inch to 9-inch pie . . . or 6 large pudding cups
2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 cups (whole) milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter or regular margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pie Topping:
Sweetened whipped cream
Grated semi-sweet chocolate for garnish, if desired for topping
Pudding Base & Toppings:
Crushed graham crackers
Chopped walnuts
  1. Combine unsweetened chocolate and milk in 2-qt. saucepan. Cook over medium heat until chocolate is melted. 

  2. Combine sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl. Pour some of the hot mixture into sugar-flour mixture. Beat until smooth, using a rotary beater. Then stir back into remaining hot mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Cook 1 minute more.  Remove from heat.
  3. Beat egg yolks slightly, using a fork. Pour some of the hot mixture into egg yolks, blending well, immediately pour egg yolk mixture back into remaining hot mixture, blending well. Cook 2 minutes more over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

  4. Gently stir in butter and vanilla. Cool 10 minutes. Pour slightly cooled filling into baked pie shell.
  5. Cover and chill in refrigerator 2 hours until set. 
  6. For pie: Spread sweetened whipped cream over pie. Decorate with grated semisweet chocolate if desired.
  7. For pudding: Add graham cracker crust to custard cups. Fill with pudding and top with additional crushed graham crackers and chopped walnuts.
Recipe without photos . . .
Creamy Chocolate Pudding/Pie Filling   Filling for an 8-inch to 9-inch pie . . . or 6 large pudding cups
2 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
3 cups (whole) milk
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter or regular margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pie Topping:
Sweetened whipped cream
Grated semi-sweet chocolate for garnish, if desired for topping
Pudding Base & Toppings:
Crushed graham crackers
Chopped walnuts
  1. Combine unsweetened chocolate and milk in 2-qt. saucepan. Cook over medium heat until chocolate is melted.  
  2. Combine sugar, flour and salt in a small bowl. Pour some of the hot mixture into sugar-flour mixture. Beat until smooth, using a rotary beater. Then stir back into remaining hot mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Cook 1 minute more.  Remove from heat.
  3. Beat egg yolks slightly, using a fork. Pour some of the hot mixture into egg yolks, blending well, immediately pour egg yolk mixture back into remaining hot mixture, blending well. Cook 2 minutes more over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. 
  4. Gently stir in butter and vanilla. Cool 10 minutes. Pour slightly cooled filling into baked pie shell.
  5. Cover and chill in refrigerator 2 hours until set. 
  6. For pie: Spread sweetened whipped cream over pie. Decorate with grated semisweet chocolate if desired.
  7. For pudding: Add graham cracker crust to custard cups. Fill with pudding and top with additional crushed graham crackers and chopped walnuts.