Easy Skillet Baked Apples

Pancakes for dinner is one of our favorite meals, and so easy. It is normally our Sunday evening after church meal, though yesterday my husband made a fabulous crock pot roast, so we decided that since we have been cooking a few heavier meals lately we would go light tonight. I pulled this apple topping idea from a Tyler Florence recipe on foodnetwork.com, and it was amazing on top of our blueberry pancakes. I was just lucky enough to have freshly picked apples from a nearby farm to use. 

Easy Skillet Baked Apples

4 Golden Delicious Apples

1/3 C. maple syrup (the real stuff!)

1/4 C. butter

  • Preheat the oven to 400°.
  • Peel the apples, cut them into thirds or fourths, take out the core and seeds, and slice. With the apple cut in thirds I was able to get 4-5 slices per piece.
  • Melt the butter and mix in the maple syrup. Add the apples and combine. 
  • Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the apples are super soft and starting to caramelize. 

Barely adapted from Tyler Florence’s Roasted Golden Delicious apples. 


Butterscotch Banana Zucchini Bread

Here is a relatively simple, 1-bowl, banana bread. You could certainly use a mixer if you wanted to, but you need to make sure not to over mix the batter, especially once the flour has been added. Every so often it’s nice to mix by hand- reminds me of the real olden days when there was no Kitchen Aid mixer- no electricity for that matter. It makes me want to give the Kitchen Aid a nice big hug- but I restrain myself. What if someone came into the kitchen while I was hugging the mixer. Don’t worry about it, you’ll say, I’m just showing it how much I appreciate all the work it does around this place. 

Butterscotch Banana Zucchini Bread

1/4 C. butter, melted

3/4 C. granulated sugar

1/4 C. dark brown sugar

1/2 C. sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 1/2 C. shredded zucchini

3-4 ripe bananas, mashed

3.4 oz box of butterscotch instant pudding

2 C. all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

  • Preheat the oven to 325°.
  • In a microwaveable bowl melt the butter. To the melted butter mix in the sugars, sour cream, egg, and vanilla and whisk to incorporate. Make sure to add the sugar into the melted butter before the egg, so that you do not get scrambled egg banana bread. Add in the zucchini and bananas, followed by the dry pudding mix.
  • Sift together the flour, salt and soda. Stir flour mix into the batter, mixing only until incorporated.
  • Divide the batter between the 4 mini loaf pans evenly, and bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

You could probably use 1 full-size loaf pan for this bread, but I seem to have problems with my bread cooking all the way through without over-browning on the outside, and I really liked the mini loaf pans that I used to cook this bread in. I used 3, however they bubbled and ballooned out over the top and onto the pizza stone they were baking on, so I would suggest using 4 mini loaf pans. If you really wanted to you could cook the batter into muffins. 

Optional: Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese, microwaved until soft

1/4 C. butter, softened

1 1/2 C. powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

heavy cream to consistency

  • Beat the butter and cream cheese together in mixing bowl. Add in the vanilla. Sift the powdered sugar and add that to the butter mixture, drizzling in the cream to consistency. It should be creamy, smooth, yet slightly runny. It’s more of a glaze than a frosting. Frost the top of the loaves or have everyone use and knife and add their own frosting. My daughter wanted to just eat it straight out of the bowl with no bread. Maybe for her birthday I shouldn’t even bother with making a cake; I’ll just make her frosting. 

Adapted from Averie Cook’s Zucchini Banana Bread with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting. 


Chocolatey Chocolate Chip Cookies

*I have revised this cookie recipe slightly. I am tired of making the chocolate cookies that fall to bits and pieces after they are cooked. Trying to find the right consistency for the batter so that the cookies hold together has not been simple. I think, though, that I have finally solved the problem. I added another egg- making a total of 3 eggs, and took away the milk. I did not put the batter in the refrigerator, but I think chilling the batter would help it firm up and make getting the dough onto the sheet much easier. I ended up with sticky dough all over my fingers after shaping the dough the best I could, though what I really need is a cookie scoop. That item has made its way onto my essential kitchen equipment list- someday.

My husband bought me some mint and chocolate chips that were on sale once the Christmas season had ended. Unfortunately, this bag is, seasonal- as I have not seen them any other time of the year, because they were delicious! I simply made the cookie recipe on the bag and the resulting cookie was chocolate, almost cake-like in texture, with the soft bite of the mint and chocolate morsel. I made this same recipe my own way with a bag of Semi-Sweet Chocolate morsels and it is a chocolatey delight! I am thinking I should add Health toffee pieces, pretzels, nuts, white chocolate pieces, peanut butter chips, and all sorts of other goodies to this delicious cookie recipe.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 C. All purpose flour

2/3 C. Hershey’s cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 C. softened butter

2/3 C. granulated sugar

2/3 C. packed dark brown sugar

3/4 tsp. vanilla

3 large eggs

1 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips, or Andes Mint Chocolate chips

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350°.
  • Cream together butter and lard.
  • Meanwhile, sift together dry ingredients. I like to get my cocoa powder into the measuring cup with a spoon over wax paper, so what falls on the counter I can add back into the container easily. Otherwise I end up with a cocoa counter mess.
  • Add both sugars to the butter in the Kitchen Aid, followed by the vanilla and eggs.
  • Add milk until the dough is the correct consistency: slightly wet and sticky. The cocoa powder makes the dough a tad dry ad the cookies crumble when they are done. I am trying to modify the recipe to be less crumbly, though the humidity in the East does contribute to the crumbly-ness of the cookies.
  • Mix in the chocolate chips, spoon them onto the parchment paper.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes. Pat down the puffed cookies with the back of the spatula once they come out of the oven. Use a knife, or other utensil, to help get the cookie onto the cooling rack without it falling apart.
Adapted from the Very Best Baking recipe online for Mint Chocolate Delights. 

Upside Down Apple Cake

I know it is a little early in the season for apple desserts, but I just could not wait to make this cake again. We went to the local market for the agricultural college in our town and got a whole bunch of freshly picked apples- Macintosh, Ginger Gold, and Sunrise. The Macintosh I plan to use in making applesauce, so I tried the other two in the cake. Even though they were softer apples they held up very nicely in the cake and did not turn overly mushy. The Pioneer Woman recommends using Granny Smith, and in other circumstance that would be my preference- for eating and for baking, however I used what I had and it was real tasty. My mother had hers with a little drizzle of heavy whipping cream, while I ate mine plain. Ala mode or caramel sauce would also be delicious additions to have with this cake. 

Upside Down Apple Cake

4-5 Apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 6 pieces

3/4 C. butter

1/2 C. sugar

1/4 C. light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon


1/2 C. butter

1/2 C. brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 C. sour cream

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped into small pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 375°.
  • In a cast-iron pan or stainless steel skillet melt the butter. Once the butter is melted stir in the next 3 ingredients until well mixed. Place the apples in the pan, wedge side down. Cook over medium-low/medium heat for about 15 minutes, until they are soft, making sure the sugar does not burn. 
  • While the apples are cooking on the stovetop mix the cake batter. Beat the butter and sugar together, adding in the next 3 ingredients. Sift together the dry ingredients, then slowly mix in the flour mixture. Finish it off by adding in the chopped apple. 
  • Remove the apples from the stovetop and spread the cake batter evenly over the top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick coms out of the cake clean. Either flip it out onto a cake plate, or scoop out of the pan to serve. Drizzle with cold whipping cream if desired. 

Adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s Apple Cake in an Iron Skillet.

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

We have been enjoying Jamie Deen’s new show in the Food Network, and I have begun trying out his recipes. We love focaccia and have a delicious, artisan pizza dough that we knew would perfectly compliment the toppings of a focaccia. Initially we tried baking it in the cast-iron skillet, however my husband did not like the lip of thick dough that happened when we cooked ours. I might try it again in the skillet, using a smaller piece of dough. I know that my husband just loves our pizza stone and that is good enough for me. Coming up next: Caramelized Onion and Pecan Focaccia. 

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

pizza dough

all purpose flour

extra virgin olive oil

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped

1/4 C. parmesan cheese, finely grated

  • Preheat the pizza stone in the oven at 400°.
  • Dust the baking peel with flour.
  • Roll out the pizza dough to desired thickness; It should not be paper thin, nor too thick. Press fingertips into dough creating many craters spread evenly over the whole disc of raw dough. 
  • Lightly brush olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle on the rosemary. Place the slices of red onion, and finish by sprinkling on the parmesan cheese. 
  • Slide focaccia onto hot pizza stone and bake for 20 minutes, or until the dough is cooked and golden brown. 

Slightly Adapted from Jamie Deen’s Cast-Iron Skillet Focaccia.

Easy Hash Browns

I have some great recipes on the way, but I’ll start off with this basic recipe for delicious homemade hash browns. In the past my husband and I have had no clue how to make hash browns. We would boil the potatoes part of the way and then try to grate them, but the outside of the potato was always too cooked and the inside was raw. Practice makes perfect, and I am glad we are really perfecting the basics. Next I want to try to make smothered hash browns, just like I used to have late night at the Waffle House in Virginia during my college days. 

Easy Homemade Hash Browns

4 Russet potatoes



garlic powder

cayenne pepper (optional)


  • Peel the potatoes. After rinsing them off, finely grate them. A box grater would work fine, though give your muscles more of a workout, while we have been using the food processor with the grater attachment. It’s wonderful!
  • Put all the grated potato into ice cold water and let them sit for a short time. I usually stir them around with my finger a few times, and let them sit for around 15 minutes.
  • Dry them thoroughly while the pan is getting hot on the stovetop.
  • Put plenty, I mean a few tablespoons, of butter into the pan to melt. Add in the potatoes, probably not all at once, making sure they are a nice, even layer, not too thick. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and any other seasonings.
  • Press them down onto the hot pan, and let them cook without touching them for at least a few minutes, until a golden brown crust is formed. Do the same with the other side, and cook until they are completely cooked.

Cornmeal Double Pie Crust

As I was perusing the Farm Journal pie recipe book I came across a recipe for a cornmeal pie crust. I thought it was a great idea, and based this recipe off of that idea. I think any more than what I have listed for cornmeal will make the crust too gritty. I enjoyed the small amount of grit to the texture when I used this in my peach pie. This is an instance of the principle of less is more.

Cornmeal Double Pie Crust

2 C. all-purpose flour

1/4 C. + 2 Tbs. finely ground cornmeal, divided

1 tsp. salt

Just about 2/3 C. lard

3 Tbs. ice water

  • Sift together the dry ingredients, leaving out the 2 Tbs. of cornmeal.
  • Using your hands or a pastry blender cut in the lard until the mixture resembled peas. When squeezing a handful in your hands the top end should crumble off, while the rest stays together. This will assure that your crust does not come out like a cracker, which it will if there is too much flour. I would use slightly less than 2/3 C. of lard. If it is too sticky add the 2 Tbs. of cornmeal or more flour.
  • Mix in the ice water until the dough comes together. Separate into 2 balls and finished adding water by hand to seal any cracks. 
  • Roll them out in-between 2 pieces of well floured wax paper until they are the right size for your pie dish. I have been using a 10″ deep dish plate in order to hold all of the yummy pie filling, so I have to roll the dough out a little bit more than with other dishes. 
  • Chill the discs of rolled out dough for at least 30 minutes, removing them before needing to use them in order to bring them back up to room temperature. 

Based on 2 pie dough recipes from the Farm Journal Pie recipe book. 

Linguine with Basil, Tomato and Cream Cheese Sauce

We have already made this recipe twice since discovering it last week. It’s a hit with the whole family. 🙂

Linguine with Basil, Tomato and Cream Cheese Sauce

1 box of linguine

1 pint grape tomatoes

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

8 oz. cream cheese

4 tsp. minced garlic (4-5 cloves)

1 14.5 oz can of chicken broth

1 C. chopped fresh basil*

juice of 1 lemon

*I only had a small amount of fresh basil, so I also added a couple tsp. of dried basil

  • Get the pot of water heating on the stovetop. Make sure to salt the water before the pasta goes in. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package, though for best results you should try to time the pasta to be done at the same time the sauce is finished so that you can drain the pasta, butter it thoroughly and put it right into the sauce in the pan.
  • Over Medium heat get the a few teaspoons of olive oil hot and add in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring regularly, until the tomatoes start to cook and burst slightly. Once they are finished put them into a bowl and set aside.
  • Add the garlic into the pan and cook briefly before adding in the chicken broth. Turn down to low and scrape all the bit off the bottom.
  • Soften the cream cheese in the microwave for about 1 minute. Stir a little of the hot broth into the cream cheese and stir. Then incorporate all the cream cheese into the broth. Once it is all whisked in add in the lemon juice and fresh basil, as well as the cooked tomatoes. (If adding dried basil add in with the chicken broth).
  • Finish by putting all the pasta into the sauce and stir to combine.

We really enjoy this pasta with a grilled chicken breast and focaccia, which recipe I will post soon.

Slightly adapted from Our Best Bites. I do plan on trying this recipe with the zucchini, however ours have not ripened yet, so I will have to try it soon.