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Lisa's Kitchen Blog

Thank you for visiting my blog! I'm glad you're here. I am a part-time Living the Country Life and Successful Farming web editor, and a full-time stay-at-home mom to my three young sons, Jake, Luke, and Will. My husband, the boys, and I live on 40 acres in south-central Iowa. We have a handful of cattle, an old farmhouse, a dog, a turtle, a goldfish, and a garden. It's a great life! I really enjoy cooking for my family and friends, and am thrilled to get to share some of my favorite recipes and meals with you.

Come visit my blog anytime you’re looking for ideas on what to fix for your family. The coffee’s always on!

~ Lisa Foust Prater

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February 23, 2011

Irish soda bread

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St. Patrick’s Day is fast approaching, and I’ve been wanting to try Irish soda bread. This is as good a time as any! I found several recipes that sounded really tasty, calling for ingredients like currants, orange zest, and even whiskey. But then I read an article about this history of this bread.

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As it turns out, traditional Irish soda bread was a daily bread, meaning the women would make it every day, or every other day, beginning in the mid-19th century. There are different recipes out there, but all of the traditional ones contain only the following ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. That’s it! Really!

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Before I made my first loaf tonight, I wasn’t too hopeful. It just sounded so plain. I thought I’d make a traditional loaf, then make another with raisins (called “spotted dog”), and maybe add some orange zest. And, what the heck, a little whiskey. But I was pleasantly surprised with the way the traditional loaf turned out!

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This bread is crispy on the outside and soft and moist inside. It’s zesty and tangy from the buttermilk, and is honestly the best bread I’ve ever made. (I haven’t made a ton of bread in my day, but this is one recipe I’ll be making over and over again.) It was delicious right out of the oven with a smear of butter. And served alongside the vegetable-beef soup I made for dinner, it was perfect for dipping and sopping up the broth from the bottom of our bowls. The kids loved it, and asked for seconds. There wasn’t much left, but we’ll all have a slice of Irish soda toast for breakfast!

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Here’s how I made the traditional Irish soda bread:

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4 cups flour (I used all-purpose, but I have read that pastry or cake flour works very well)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

14 oz. buttermilk

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Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and combine them well. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Stir to combine, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Shape into a circle, about 8 inches across, and pat smooth.

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Grease and flour a round cake pan, and put the dough inside. Using a knife, make a cross shape on the top of the loaf, dividing it into fourths. You don’t want to cut all the way through … just enough to see the design. Take a second cake pan and invert it over the dough, so it rests upside-down on the bottom pan.

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Bake in a 425-degree F. oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the top pan and bake another 15-20 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown and makes a “thud” sound when you tap it. 

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This is a recipe that’s perfect to make on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s so easy and delicious it’s going to be a staple in my house year-round. Give it a try and it’ll become a regular at your house, too! Slainte!

 

NOTE: I made this again with a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and 1/3 cup or so of raisins, and it was great! The kids were happy to have this warm loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread waiting when they got home from school, and it made delicious toast the next morning!

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February 18, 2011

Pork three ways

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The credit for this entry goes entirely to my husband, Jayson, who is a great cook and a master at just throwing things together and coming up with something fabulous.

 

Last weekend, he managed to make one dish three ways, taking us from lunch to supper (or is it dinner?) with relatively little work.

 

First, we had thawed a package of fresh pork side, which was part of the half of a hog we bought from our neighbor. Fresh pork is so amazingly good, and the sausage we got from the butcher is absolutely the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Back to the fresh side … if you’ve never tried this cut, it’s basically a very thick bacon that has not been cured, so it tastes more like pork loin than bacon.

 

Jayson cut up the thawed fresh side into bite-sized pieces and browned it in a little oil in a Dutch oven. He added carrots, celery, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Once the meat was cooked and crispy, and the vegetables tender, he took about 1/3 of the mixture out of the Dutch oven and sat it aside. 

 

Then he went to work turning what was left in the pan into a delicious soup. He added frozen corn kernels, green beans, black beans, and spicy vegetable juice. Lunch was ready. He served the reserved meat/veggie mix in tortillas with a little cheese on top, which went perfectly with the soup. A delicious lunch for a cold day!

 

freshside2That evening, I made a favorite at our house, mini meatloaves. Jayson turned what was left of our fresh side-veggie soup into a tasty side dish. He just warmed the soup to a boil, dumped in some instant brown rice, turned the burner off, covered the pot, and waited for the rice to cook. It soaked up all of the spicy vegetable juice base of the soup, giving it an amazing flavor. 

 

Thanks to Jayson for being so clever in the kitchen, and for making such yummy food for us. The kids definitely got their required daily servings of vegetables!

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February 16, 2011

Chocolate peanut butter chip cookies

cookies

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I have mentioned the cookie dilemma in my house before … I like soft, chewy, almost doughy cookies, and my husband wants his thin, crisp, and nearly burned. These are some of the first cookies I’ve ever made that make us both completely and totally happy. They’re thin and crispy like Jayson likes, but they’re super chocolatey, which in my book trumps soft and chewy.

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2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup softened butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla 

2 cups peanut butter chips

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Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking soda. In a large mixing bowl (I used my handy-dandy stand mixer!), beat the butter and sugars together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla. Add the flour mixture, a little at a time, until everything’s combined well. Fold in the peanut butter chips.

 

Drop by the tablespoon (I used my mini ice cream scoop to make quick work of this step) onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees F. for 11-14 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

 

I haven’t tried it yet, but this cookie recipe would also be tasty with white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts, or chocolate chips and walnuts. Yum!

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February 10, 2011

Buttermilk pancakes

buttermilkpancakes

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I have a passion for pancakes. My boys love eating them, and I love making them. My husband doesn’t really care about pancakes either way, which I just don’t understand. I make them anyway, and the rest of us gobble them up as fast as I can make them.

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I had to buy buttermilk for our ‘Little House’ heart cakes, and I got extra so we could make buttermilk pancakes! These classic cakes are light and fluffy, with a tang you can only get from fresh buttermilk. Pancake mix just can’t duplicate this flavor!

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3 cups flour

3 Tbsp. sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

3 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup milk

3 eggs

1/3 cup melted butter

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In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Once your griddle is hot and you’re ready to cook, pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir gently, just to combine them. Ladle onto a buttered griddle, and when the batter starts to bubble, flip the cakes and cook until golden on the bottom. 

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One of the best parts of making anything with buttermilk is that the boys always forget how awful it tastes on its own and want to give it a try. It may not be my drink of choice, but it sure makes a delicious pancake!

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February 8, 2011

‘Little House’ heart cakes

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One of my favorite rituals I have with my three sons is reading to them before bed. They all share a room, which makes it easy. I tuck them into bed, turn off the lights, then sit on the bottom bunk and read to them by flashlight. Lately we’ve been taking turns between Harry Potter and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.

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There’s a special place in my heart for Little House. I loved the television show as a kid, and growing up on the plains of South Dakota, with country schools and homesteads ripe for exploring, I honestly thought I was Laura. I still can’t walk down a hill without wanting to take off running and flapping my arms.

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So when my middle son, Luke, came home with Little House in the Big Woods, which he checked out from the school library, I was very excited. We read a chapter a night, and all of us became completely enthralled with the Ingalls family. Next, we read, Little House on the Prairie. We loved hearing about their adventures, and also getting a glimpse of pioneer life with the descriptions of Pa planting crops and Ma cooking and taking care of the house. Not only have the books been a wonderful history lesson, but seeing a family with so little as far as toys and money goes — but with so much in the love department — has been a wonderful life lesson for my kids.

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Imagine my delight when sweet Luke came home from school the other day with a book he checked out just for me: The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Classic Stories, by Barbara M. Walker. The book has a fascinating introduction that talks about self-sufficiency and food preservation, which made me feel really blessed to have things like a refrigerator and a grocery store that’s only 20 minutes away.

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The first recipe we made from the book had to be heart cakes. We could just feel Laura and Mary’s excitement when we read this passage from Little House on the Prairie … and we happened to be reading the Christmas chapter on Christmas Eve:

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Those stockings weren’t empty yet. Mary and Laura pulled out two small packages. They unwrapped them, and each found a little heart-shaped cake. Over their delicate brown tops was sprinkled white sugar. The sparkling grains lay like tiny drifts of snow.

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The cakes were too pretty to eat. Mary and Laura just looked at them. But at last Laura turned hers over, and she nibbled a tiny nibble from underneath, where it wouldn’t show. And the inside of that little cake was white!

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It had been made of pure white flour, and sweetened with white sugar.

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The cakes were also wrapped in blue tissue paper, so of course we had to do the same with ours! In reading the books, we learned how the family used dark sugar for every day, but would keep a little packet of white sugar tucked away for when company came to visit. The fact that it was used as part of a gift for the children must have made them feel so special! Here is the recipe, which makes six cakes:

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‘Little House’ heart cakes

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1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour, plus extra for dusting

1/3 cup sugar plus extra for dusting

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Pinch of ground nutmeg

1/2 cup lard, chilled, plus extra for pan (we used butter)

1/3 cup cultured buttermilk

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Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and nutmeg. With cold, dry fingers, rub the cold lard (or butter) into the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, add buttermilk, and work with your hands into a dough that can be rolled out.

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Dust a counter or table with flour. Shape the dough into a ball and roll it out into an 8-inch circle. With a table knife dipped in flour, cut the circle in half, then the halves into thirds, to make six equal-sized slices. Shape each wedge into a heart. (Since there are five in our family, I took the sixth wedge, cut it into three smaller pieces, and made three mini hearts for the boys to take in their lunches the next day.)

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Grease a baking sheet and place the hearts on it so they don’t touch. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cakes are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and top immediately with sugar.

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We loved the cakes. They were like a cross between shortbread and a scone, and the pinch of nutmeg gave them a great flavor. It was so much fun making these cakes with Luke and sharing them with our own little family. Enjoy!

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January 20, 2011

Snickerdoodles

snickerdoodles

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A while back, I mentioned finding my Aunt Dollie’s handwritten recipe cards. I went through them again the other day and was thrilled to come across my Grandma Helen’s snickerdoodle reicpe. I was instantly flooded with memories.

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Grandma knew that my dad and I are, as my mom would say, “dough hounds.” We love all kinds of raw dough. Noodle dough, pie crust dough, cake batter, and of course cookie dough. But the best dough of all, hands down, is snickerdoodle dough. It’s sweet and creamy, and the dough balls are rolled in cinnamon in sugar. Perfect. So whenever she was getting ready to make snickerdoodles, she’d call us and we’d come over and eat some dough while the cookies baked. That’s definitely a grandma thing to do. (I should say, for the record, that eating dough or anything else with raw eggs probably isn’t a good idea. That said, it’s worth the risk in my mind.)

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 I love cookies filled with chocolate and nuts, but I have to say snickerdoodles are my all-time favorite cookie. They’re simple and delicious, with a crunch on the outside and a softness inside. When I came across Grandma’s recipe, I gathered all the ingredients together (thankfully I had cream of tartar in the spice rack!) and made them right away. The stand mixer made them incredibly easy … Grandma would’ve loved having a mixer like that!

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GGlisaOnce the dough was made, of course I took a bite of it. I was instantly 10 years old, standing in my grandma’s kitchen. The flavor was exactly the same, and it just made me miss her so much. She passed away a few years ago. But then I let my boys have a taste, and I was happy to tell them they were eating G.G.’s cookies. (We called her G.G. for “great-grandma” once she had great-grandchildren.) Here’s a picture of Grandma and me when I was little. 

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We enjoyed the baked snickerdoodles as much as the dough. This was the first time I’d made them for the kids, and they loved them. The best part, though, was that I took some of them to my dad, and he was really excited to have his mom’s cookies again.

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Here’s how to make Grandma’s snickerdoodles:

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1 cup shortening, butter or margarine (I used margarine)

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

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Beat the shortening/butter, 1 1/2 cups sugar, and eggs together. In a separate bowl, sift to combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix well. Chill the dough for an hour or so.

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In a small dish, combine the 2 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon. Roll the chilled dough into walnut-sized balls. Roll them in the sugar-cinnamon mix and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are slightly browned but still soft. Enjoy!

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January 14, 2011

Pomegranate scones

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Up until this week, I had gone my entire life without ever eating a pomegranate. Sure, I’ve tried pomegranate juice, and pomegranate-flavored yogurt. Heck, one of my favorite lines of bath products smells like pomegranates. For some reason, when I walked by them in the produce aisle this time, I just really wanted one. Later, my mom told me that her folks brought them home regularly for the kids to eat. I wonder why I never had one until now?

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I did a little research on different methods of getting through the thick skin to the juicy pouches inside. I learned that those pouches are called arils. They contain a small seed, but you can just eat it with the fruit. So I took a sharp knife and cut the end off of the pomegranate, then sliced down the sides. It was like a treasure chest in there! I cut away membrane after membrane to reveal pocket after pocket of juicy arils. I used a spoon to scoop them out into a bowl. Before I knew it, I had a mound of what looked like sparkling rubies. I couldn’t hold the kids back any longer. We all dove in and tasted a pomegranate together for the very first time. It was amazing!

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We ate and ate, and I still had almost a cup of arils left, so I decided to use them in a recipe. Coincidentally, I’ve been wanting to make scones. Why not try pomegranate scones? Here’s the recipe:

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1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp. orange zest (or you could use lemon, or even grapefruit)

2 tsp. vanilla

1 large egg

2 cups white whole wheat flour

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. chilled butter

1 cup pomegranate arils

1 egg white, beaten

Sugar

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Whisk the first five ingredients together in a medium bowl. Then, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the chilled butter with a fork (I used a Foley fork, also called a granny fork), until well incorporated. Add the pomegranate arils and stir gently to combine.

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Add milk mixture to the large bowl, and stir gently, just until moist. The dough will be sticky, and that’s OK. On a floured surface, knead the dough carefully a few times with floured hands. Form it into an 8″ circle, about 3/4″ thick. Place the dough onto a greased cookie sheet, and cut part-way through to form 8 or 10 pizza-style slices. Don’t cut all the way through. Brush the beaten egg white over the top and sprinkle with sugar

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Bake at 375 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until golden.

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I loved these scones, and the kids liked them pretty well too. My favorite part about them was that even after being mixed into the dough and baked, the pomegranate arils retained their juiciness. When biting into the scone, the little pouches just exploded and released their juice. This was the perfect complement to the dense scones. Another major bonus is the cost savings. You can’t get a scone at the coffee shop for less then a few dollars, and since the pomegranates were on special, I doubt I spent more than $3 on the entire batch of scones.

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My husband said he didn’t like the “thud” of them. I just don’t think he’s a scone guy. Scones are a heavy biscuit, not the fluffy baking powder biscuits or cake-like doughnuts he likes. I didn’t mind that he didn’t love the scones, however … that just meant leftovers for my morning coffee the next day! I’ll definitely be buying pomegranates again, and I’ll be making these scones again as well!

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January 9, 2011

Creamy chicken nachos

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It’s a football playoff weekend, and our beloved Chiefs are playing tomorrow, so we decided to spend our weekend tailgating! We were foolish enough to actually go to a playoff game 15 years ago, and my feet are still numb from sitting in the stands at Arrowhead Stadium in below-zero temperatures for 4 hours. This year, we’ll be watching from our cozy house, with yummy treats like these nachos. (We also had chili cheese fries today, and tomorrow we’ll be having pulled pork sandwiches and spicy chicken wings. Yum!)

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There’s really no recipe for nachos, but here’s how I make mine. Cover a jellyroll pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Put down a layer of tortilla chips, then add 1 cup cubed cooked chicken, 1/2 can drained black beans, 4 ounces cubed cream cheese, and a cup of shredded cheese (I like Colby Jack). 

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Pop the pan under the broiler for a few minutes until everything is melty and creamy. Then add another layer of everything, starting with the chips and ending with the cheese. Under the broiler again for a few minutes.

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Of course, you can add tomatoes, peppers, or anything else you like to these nachos. I love these creamy nachos, and the flavor combination of the chicken, cream cheese and black beans. Enjoy the nachos, and Go, Chiefs!!

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January 8, 2011

Peanut butter-chocolate swirl brownies

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Today, we wanted brownies. It’s that kind of day. Rather than making plain old chocolate brownies, though, I decided to mix things up a little and make these peanut butter-chocolate swirl brownies. Peanut butter and chocolate are so good together, which makes these brownies hard to walk away from. My oldest son, Jake, couldn’t even wait until I was done taking pictures to sample one.

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2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 Tbsp. milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup peanut butter baking chips

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1/2 cup chocolate chips

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Beat sugars, butter, eggs, and milk until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well. 

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Divide batter in half. Beat peanut butter into one half, then stir in peanut butter chips. Stir cocoa and chocolate chips into the other half.

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Spoon the batter into a greased cake pan, forming a checkerboard pattern, alternating the chocolate and peanut butter batters. Run a knife through the batter to swirl the two batters.

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Bake at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting. If you cut them too soon, the peanut butter and chocolate sections will separate. Enjoy!

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January 8, 2011

Stuffed French toast

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I saw a commercial for a “breakfast all the time” restaurant promoting their stuffed French toast, and it looked really good. The chances of me getting my family around on the weekend and going clear to the city to go to a restaurant for breakfast are slim to none. Instead, I decided to try and recreate this tasty dish at home!

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I’m happy to say it was a huge success. Everyone loved it, and my 9-year-old said, “This is awful … awfully good!” This breakfast looks and tastes fancy, but it’s really easy. It would be perfect to make when company stays over.

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1 loaf French bread

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

4 eggs

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup fruit preserves

1/2 cup orange juice

Butter

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Slice the French bread into 2-inch slices with a slit in the middle of each. I found the easiest way was to make the slit and then slice the 2-inch piece from the rest of the loaf. Then you can hold onto the loaf rather than having to make a slit in a single slice.

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Beat the cream cheese and vanilla until fluffy; stir in chopped nuts. Spread this mixture inside the slit of each piece of bread. You could also add raisins to this mixture, or chocolate chips, or anything you like!

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In a small saucepan, heat the preserves (I used strawberry, but you can use any flavor) and orange juice, stirring and cooking until thickened and bubbly.

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Beat eggs and whisk in the whipping cream and nutmeg.

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Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a non-stick skillet. Dip the stuffed bread slices into the egg mixture, completely coating them on both sides. Cook in the skillet until browned on one side, then flip them over and repeat.

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Serve with the fruit sauce or maple syrup, and top with additional chopped nuts if desired. Get ready for rave reviews from your family!

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