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October 25, 2013 / merrylynn

Pumpkin (or Banana) Bread

an old recipe It’s October and time for some Pumpkin Bread. Actually there’s Banana Bread in the oven at the moment but today I’m sharing my recipe for Pumpkin Bread AND Banana Bread. Really it’s Whatever-I-have-in-the-pantry-and-feel-like-today Bread!

This recipe is the amalgamation of two recipes I’ve been using since high school, one for pumpkin and one for banana. I’ve changed them both to suit my fancy and the result is autumn spice bread deliciousness.

Pumpkin (or Banana) Bread

Dry Ingredients
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves
½ t ground ginger
2 small boxes coconut cream pudding, dry

Wet Ingredients
2 c canned pumpkin (1lb can) OR 2 c ripe bananas (about 4)
3 large eggs
¾ c canola or vegetable oil
¾ c unsweetened applesauce
1 2/3 c granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Prepare, grease or paper, baking dishes appropriately.

1387854_10151802833344164_1914847471_nI use a metal loaf pan that cooks four 2 cup  loaves at once. Even so I’m left with enough batter to make about 24 mini muffins. I cook these separately.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, set aside.

Mix wet ingredients on a medium setting (or whisk together) in a medium mixing bowl.

Add the wet stuff to the dry stuff (in the large bowl).
Blend by hand (or with your mixer on low) until combined. Mixture will be lumpy.

Fill loaf pans two-thirds full. Bake at 350° until a knife inserted into the middle of a loaf comes out fairly clean. My 2 cup loaves cook about 45 minutes. Mini-muffins cook 20 minutes.

Remove bread from pans and cool on racks. Best, I think, eaten chilled.
Freezes well if there’s any left.

Yield: Makes 4 medium-sized loaves and 24 mini muffins

I like to add chopped walnuts, chopped pecans, and dried cranberries. Sometimes all of them in the same batch!

January 22, 2013 / merrylynn

Gravy/White Sauce


Ah, gravy. I really like making, and eating, gravy. I gave up a long time ago worrying about the fact that it’s not good for me because, good gravy, it’s not. (See what I did there?) I’m of the opinion that really good gravy comes from good ingredients: butter, flour, milk or meat juices, and patience. But I don’t want you to get the wrong idea – when I make it, I make it right. I just don’t make it very often.

My gravy recipe comes from Whole Foods for the Whole Family, the La Leche League International Cookbook. That particular page is a little bit crunchy. Well-loved, we’ll say.

Gravy – Medium

2 T butter (or margarine)
2 T flour
1 c liquid*
salt, pepper


Gravy – Thick

3 T butter (or margarine)
3 T flour
1 c liquid*
salt, pepper

*for cream gravy use milk
*for meat gravy use broth (1c boiling water per 1 tsp bouillon), or juices equal to 1c from the meat you’re cooking.

Melt butter over low heat. Off heat, blend in flour until smooth. Gradually add liquid, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat until sauce thickens and comes to a boil. reduce heat, simmer 2-3 minutes to remove floury taste. Add salt and pepper according to taste.

one cup of gravy
double or triple recipe according to need

If you’re very Southern at heart, you might consider using bacon or sausage grease to make cream gravy for a breakfast of Biscuits & Gravy. Again, for your heart, please don’t do this very often :)

January 22, 2013 / merrylynn

Bailey’s Irish Cream Pudding

Alright, at forty-seven years old I’m a little late to the game. The first time I made this traditional college staple was the day after New Year’s… this year. I had a bad recipe and it was terrible. After some searching and adapting to in-house preferences I think I have a winner. The only problem I have now is what to name it. I think we’re kind of past the “pudding shots” years.  Some in the house have been known to call it “alcoholic pudding” but that’s not happening. Until I think of something better it’ll have to be Bailey’s Irish Cream Pudding (although the bottle on my shelf is actually McCormick’s).

Bailey’s Irish Cream Pudding

3 oz box instant chocolate pudding
1 c milk
¹/3 c Irish Cream Liqueur (such as Bailey’s)
¹/3 c Vodka
8 oz container Cool Whip

Combine the packet of pudding with the milk and liqueur in a mixing bowl.

Beat with an electric mixer or whisk.

Fold in Cool Whip and whisk until mixture is smooth.

Pour into cups and refrigerate until ready to serve.

A lovely, late night treat.

January 22, 2013 / merrylynn

The Easiest and Best Buttercream Frosting

I found this recipe for Buttercream Frosting in The Cake Mix Doctor, by Anne Byrn and have been known to make-up an excuse to bake cake just so I can frost it with this frosting. The recipe makes just enough to frost a 2-layer cake but I will sometimes make a recipe and a half just for a little extra. If there’s leftover frosting it keeps very nicely in the fridge.
Note: please do not use margarine because then we would have to change the name of the recipe to Margarinecream Frosting and that’s not very pretty (or quite as yummy).

Buttercream Frosting

8 T (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3¾ c powdered sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3-4 T milk
pinch or two of salt

Blend butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of  milk with an electric mixer on low-speed until the sugar is incorporated, about 1 minute.

Throw in a pinch of salt; taste, add another pinch according to your preference.

Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute more.

Blend in up to 1 additional tablespoon of milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Use to frost the layers, top, and sides of your cake, or cupcakes. mmmm :)

Yield: enough to frost a 2-layer cake

February 13, 2012 / merrylynn

lasagne dinner

the menu
classic lasagne
wine & iced tea

Lasagne used to be mysterious. It used to be the special occasion, company’s coming meal. It used to be what I told Mark to order when we went out because he wasn’t going to get it at home. That is, until I discovered no-boil lasagne noodles.

I remember my mom leaning over the steaming pasta pot pulling out the hot, slippery noodles, trying not to tear them, carefully arranging them in the dish just so, slamming the dish on the counter to pop out the bubbles… lasagne dinner is so much easier now.

cooking lasagne

The lasagne

I use the recipe on the back of the Barilla No-Boil Lasagne box. I use Barilla because it’s available in my area and always tastes good. Of course, I make a few additions. Don’t be afraid to make additions or substitutions to suit your needs or tastes. In a casserole this is almost never a problem as long as you keep the amount of liquid equitable.

Here are the changes I made today: mild Italian sausage instead of ground beef; added chopped onion, green bell pepper, minced garlic while I browned the meat; added basil pesto and wine to the sauce.

I’m sure I read somewhere that
you should always add a little wine to your pasta sauce.
If not, now  you  have.

I also accidentally added an extra cup of mozzarella to the ricotta mixture. Lesson learned: always double-check the package volume before you cut open that package and throw the contents into the bowl willy-nilly. But on the other hand, what’s a little extra mozzarella in the lasagne, no?

The salad

Nothing special here except that I was a little put-out I couldn’t find a Caesar salad kit and would have to make a salad myself. Remember the days before bags of  pre-cut, pre-washed specialty lettuce? I’m such a wuss.

We ended up with a lovely salad of  baby red and butter lettuce, romaine and radicchio, with cucumber and minced onion, served with dressing I already had in the refrigerator. Tomato on the side. All in all, it was probably cheaper and healthier than a salad kit; of course that won’t keep me from using kits in the future.

The bread

I found the bread I wanted on the day-old, half-price shelf. Rosemary Olive Oil loaf. I prefer crusty, country breads. My kids like breads with a lot of  ‘bread’ on the inside. Sometimes we’ll even share a piece, I’ll peel the crust away and pass the bread over to one of them. This loaf was perfect: crusty on the outside, dense and chewy on the inside.

The wine

The wine was our favorite, Wente Cabernet Southern Hills. It’s perfect for us, smooth and affordable.* A friend introduced it to us last April on our trip to Northern California. He lives in Livermore, where one of the Wente vineyards is located.

crushing more grapes

*Alright, now you know. I know nothing about wine except this, “oh,yum!” or “ew.” but that doesn’t change the fact that Wente is a good wine. We also like the Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay with our Salmon.

The result

A deceptively easy, extremely satisfying dinner. You could buy it at a restaurant, but I’d reserve that for Chicken & Truffle Tortelloni and Tiramisu at Maggiano’s.ψ

A tip

Today, February 13, is National Eat Italian Food Day! Find this and other fun food facts at

February 13, 2012 / merrylynn

Barilla Four Layer No-Boil Lasagne

This is the lasagne recipe right off the back of the Barilla box.

Barilla Four Layer No-Boil Lasagne


1 box (9 oz) Barilla Lasagne, uncooked


2 eggs

1 container (15 oz) ricotta cheese

4 cups (16 oz) shredded mozzarella cheese (divided)

½ cup (2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese


1 lb bulk italian sausage or ground beef (cook, crumble and drain)

2 jars (26 oz) Barilla Marinara Sauce


Preheat oven to 375 °. Spray baking pan (about 13x9x3-inches deep) with non-stick cooking spray. Remove 16 Barilla Lasagne sheets from box. Do Not Boil. In medium bowl, beat eggs. Stir in ricotta, 2 cups of mozzarella and the parmesan.

To Assemble

When layering lasagne, slightly overlap sheets. Lasagne will expand to the edges during cooking. Spread fillings to edges to seal in and cook the lasagne during baking. Layer in the following order:

  1. Spread 1 cup of sauce on bottom of baking pan.
  2. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, 1/3 of ricotta mixture, half of browned meat, 1 cup of mozzarella, and 1 cup of sauce.
  3. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, 1/3 of ricotta mixture, and 1½ cups of sauce.
  4. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, the remaining ricotta mixture and browned meat, and 1 cup of sauce.
  5. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, the remaining sauce, and remaining 1 cup of mozzarella.
To cook and serve
Bake, covered with foil until bubbly, 50-60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Let stand about 15 minutes before cutting.

Yield: 12 servings

making more lasage

February 1, 2012 / merrylynn

Cornbread Delicious

In our house, we call it corn-cake. I don’t remember where I originally found it, but Cornbread Delicious is my go-to cornbread recipe. It’s sweet, tender, and very delicious.

Cornbread Delicious

1 stick butter or margarine
1/3 c yellow cornmeal
2 c baking mix (i.e. Bisquick)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c milk

When you preheat the oven to 350°, put the stick of butter in the baking dish and let it melt as the oven heats.
Combine the remaining ingredients by hand in a medium-sized bowl (dry first, then add the eggs and milk).
Pour the melted butter directly from the hot baking dish into the previously combined ingredients (the butter left in the dish will grease it nicely).
Stir the batter gently until combined and pour into the baking dish. Return the dish to the oven.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve immediately
Store leftovers in the refrigerator. This is just as tasty the next day; I like to eat it for breakfast!

I always cook this in an 8-inch cast iron skillet.
I’ve never tried it, but you could probably add a can of chopped green chilies.

January 28, 2011 / merrylynn

Our Shrimp Curry

Our family has a beloved meal, Our Shrimp Curry, served over hot rice. You might be thinking, yow-eee! Are my Indian friends laughing? Actually, this is a very mild curry recipe. In fact, the recipe came to me entitled ‘Indian Shrimp Curry’ and on the card I’ve scratched out Indian and written American. Here’s the story.

Back in the nineteen-seventies my dad worked with an ex-patriot from India, Mr.Ramakrishnan. Dad invited Ram and his wife Vimla to dinner. My mom, Jewel, wanting to honor them with an authentic Indian dish, located a recipe from amongst her friends for ‘Indian Shrimp Curry’ which she proudly served that night. Ram and Vimla gently informed her that the dish was not authentic at all. Click here for Jewel’s Original Indian Shrimp Curry and a similar recipe I found originally published by Betty Crocker in 1958. The Ramakrishnan’s graciously reciprocated the dinner invitation where they served my parents, albeit slightly adjusted for their sensitive tastes, authentic Indian Curry. Even though I’ve added more curry as the kids have gotten older Our Shrimp Curry still isn’t the real thing. Nevertheless, this recipe has remained a favorite of our family ever since.

Note: I use Better Than Bouillon chicken base in place of bouillon cubes. It’s usually stocked in the grocery store next to the bouillon cubes. The base and cubes may be used interchangeably in any recipe. 1 tsp chicken base = 1 cube bouillon

Our Shrimp Curry
serve over hot rice

rice: raw, instant, leftover ~ whatever you prefer (see note in options, below )
1 bag frozen salad shrimp, defrosted and warmed in a bowl of warm (not boiling) water
1 T lemon juice
4 tsp Better Than Bouillon chicken base
2 c boiling water
1/2 c + 2 T butter or margarine
2 T dried onion (or 1/2 c minced fresh onion)
3/4 c flour
1.5 T curry powder (adjust to your taste)
1 T sugar
4 c milk

1) Empty frozen shrimp from bag into a bowl of warm water in the sink to defrost.

2) Prepare and cook rice.

3) When the chill is off the shrimp, drain well, and mix with lemon juice, set aside.

4) Dissolve chicken base in water to make broth. In med-large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat, add onions, simmer.

5) Whisk in flour, curry, sugar whisking until flour is smooth* (mixture will be slightly bumpy from the onions). Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.

6) Gradually whisk in broth and then milk. Cook over medium heat*, whisking continually, until mixture is thickened and bubbly.

7) Gently fold in shrimp. Serve immediately over hot rice.

Yield: About 8 servings

I used to prepare 2 1/2 cups raw rice according to package directions, yielding 8 cups cooked
Now I use my rice-cooker.

This is a large recipe but halves easily. Click here for the recipe – halved: 3-4 servings

*Don’t try to hurry this step by turning up the heat, that’s what makes the sauce lumpy.

January 28, 2011 / merrylynn

Our Shrimp Curry ~ Halved

Our Shrimp Curry ~ Halved
click here to go back to Our Shrimp Curry

rice (raw, instant, leftover ~ prepare what you prefer)
2 tsp ‘Better Than Bouillon’ chicken base
1 c boiling water
5 T butter or margarine
1 T dried onion (or 1/4 c minced fresh onion)
6 T  flour
1 1/2 tsp+ curry powder (adjust to your taste)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 c milk
1/2 bag frozen salad shrimp, defrosted and warmed in a bowl of warm (not boiling) water
1 1/2 tsp  lemon juice

1) Empty frozen shrimp from bag  into a bowl of warm water in the sink to defrost.

2) Prepare and cook rice.

3) When the chill is off the shrimp, drain well, and mix with lemon juice, set aside.

4) Dissolve chicken base in water to make broth. In med-large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat, add onions, simmer.

5) Whisk in flour, curry, sugar whisking until flour is smooth (the onions will cause the mixture to appear slightly rough). Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.

6) Gradually whisk in broth and then milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking continually, until mixture is thickened and bubbly.

7) Gently fold in shrimp. Serve immediately over hot rice.

Yield: 3-4 servings

January 27, 2011 / merrylynn

Original Shrimp Curry

This is the original recipe for ‘Indian Shrimp Curry. The recipe I use today is pretty much unchanged, but I wanted to honor the original ingredients (instant rice & bouillon cubes) and recipe size.
Click here for the updated recipe I use these days.

Original ‘Indian Shrimp Curry

1-1 1/2 c raw rice or 2 c instant rice
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 c boiling water
5 T margarine
1 T dried onion or 1/4 c minced onion
6 T flour
1 1/2 t curry powder
1 1/2 t sugar
2 c milk
1 t  lemon juice

Cook rice. Dissolve bouillon cube in water. Melt margarine, add onions, simmer. Stir in flour, curry, sugar. Gradually stir in bouillon and milk. Cook until thickened. Add shrimp and lemon juice.

Server over hot rice.

Yield: 4-6 servings


Here is a Shrimp or Chicken Curry Recipe originally published by Betty Crocker in 1958, and then republished by them in 1971. It is very similar to the one my mom used, and may very well be the origin of her ‘Indian Shrimp Curry’. I’m including it here for posterity, and for fun.

Betty Crocker Dinner for Two ©1958
Shrimp or Chicken Curry, page 165
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons. curry powder
3 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chicken broth (or 1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup hot water)
1 cup milk
2 cups cooked, cleaned shrimp or 2 cups cut-up cooked chicken
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Parsleyed Rice (below)
Curry Accompaniments (below)

Melt butter over low heat in heavy saucepan. Sauté onion and curry in melted butter. Blend in flour and seasonings. Cook over low heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

Remove from heat. Stir in chicken broth and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Add shrimp or chicken and lemon juice. Heat.  Makes 4 servings.

Have each person help himself to rice. Spoon Shrimp or Chicken Curry over the rice, then sprinkle relishes over the top.

Parsleyed White Rice: Toss Fluffy white rice with minced parsley.

Curry Accompaniments
Sieved hard-cooked eggs
Tomato wedges
Crisp bacon bits
Sweet or sour pickles
Slivered salted almonds
Currant jelly
Chopped salted peanuts
Flaked coconut
India relish
Sliced avocado