Monday, November 25, 2013

Chocolate Chippers

When I think of my first baking experiences, I think of making these cookies with my mom.  Simple and delicious, sometimes nothing beats a traditional chocolate chip cookie.  These are always among the cookies that I make at the holidays, and they are one of the few that I will make throughout the year, as well.  They are so good and easy that I almost always double the recipe and throw some in the freezer.  My kids enjoy making them with me, just as I did with my mom.


  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together shortening, sugars, egg, and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  2. Thoroughly stir together flour, salt, and baking soda; stir into cream mixture.  Blend well.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Drop from teaspoon 2 inches apart on a non-stick baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cool.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Difficulty: easy
Time: 10 minutes prep, 8-10 minutes per batch baking

Source: my mom's recipe box

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cranberry White Chocolate Orange Bars (AND Ocean Spray Giveaway!)

I love the flavors of fall - pumpkin and cranberries being two of my favorites. This month's edition of Costco Connection magazine actually showcases Ocean Spray cranberries. I buy lots of Craisins; we put them on salads and make bags for lunch boxes.  I never knew the idea of Craisins was an innovation finding a use for cranberry juice's byproduct -- hulls.  The hulls are reinfused with juice and dried to create the tasty snack.  (Sorry for the "How It's Made" aside...I love finding companies that work outside the box!)

Speaking of boxes, we were asked by Ocean Spray to sample and review the Concord Foods' Fresh Cranberry Bread Mix.  It is a seasonal item; only available during the cranberry harvest season which runs through December 31.  My family loved the bread; it was a nice surprise on a cold, Saturday morning. I used fresh cranberries, but if they weren't available, the box recommends soaking Craisins in warm water-I always have those on hand.

I chose to use 3 small seasonal loaf pans as I experimented with homemade gifts.  My extended family is growing to include fiancees and boyfriends; everyone comes to MY house and, I want to have something to give them.  The decorative pans filled with fresh cranberry bread, wrapped in clear cellophane tied with twine will dress up my holiday table while also making a tasty, inexpensive gift.

You really can't get any easier than following the directions on the box of Concord Foods' Cranberry Bread Mix for a yummy seasonal treat, but we also wanted to take advantage of the versatility of this mix and try something different.  I needed only a few extra ingredients, which I already had in my pantry, to make a dessert definitely worthy of a Thanksgiving buffet.

Both Ocean Spray and Concord Foods have additional recipes to include one of Mother Nature's super fruits, the cranberry, in your holiday desserts. Try this recipe for Cranberry White Chocolate Orange bars, and then enter to win a great gift from Ocean Spray!


  • 1 pkg Concord foods' Cranberry Bread Mix
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
  • 1 cup Ocean Spray Cranberries, coarsely chopped, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
GLAZE (Ingredients not pictured)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9" x 13" baking pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In mixer bowl, combine Cranberry Bread Mix, water, egg and orange zest. Beat on medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed (1 to 2 minutes).
  3. By hand, stir in cranberries, white chocolate chips, and pecans. Spread into prepared baking pan.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely.
  5. To make glaze: In mixer bowl combine all glaze ingredients. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed and creamy (1 to 2 minutes).
  6. Spread glaze on top of cooled bars. 

Difficulty: Easy
Time: 10 minute prep time; 20-25 minutes baking time.
Source: Concord Foods
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We were contacted by Ocean Spray to sample and review these products

Monday, November 4, 2013

Creamy Crockpot Tortellini Soup

I always thought that my family wasn't big on soup.  Recently, I realized the truth:  We/they aren't big on canned soup.  But if I make a batch of homemade potato soup in the slow cooker, for instance, that is another story.

Enter this tortellini soup...this amazing tortellini soup. Full of good stuff (like carrots and spinach) that blends so well with favorite flavors, this hearty soup is easy to make and has become my new favorite, for sure.  I guess we are soup people, after all!


  • 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce 
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup diced onion (or 1 small)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots (or 2 medium)
  • 1lb ground beef, browned
  • 4 cups of loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 cups beef broth (or 1 carton)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 16 oz refrigerated or frozen cheese tortellini 
  1. If using frozen tortellini, put bag in refrigerator to begin to thaw.  Combine all other ingredients in the slow-cooker.
  2. Cook on LOW for 7 hours or HIGH for 5 hours.  (I have only cooked this recipe on the LOW setting, personally.)
  3. Before adding tortellini, break up chunks of cream cheese with a whisk.  Stir in tortellini.  Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes until tender and hot.

Difficulty: easy
Time: ~20 minutes prep, 5.5 - 7.5 hours cooking