Gooey Butter Cake


_MG_4249 When I was young, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and there was no Internet, I got this recipe the way you did back then–you tasted the dish that someone else had made and asked for the recipe, which they would give you on a 3×5 card if you were lucky.  It was called “Gooey Butter Cake” and I didn’t know that there was a history behind it.

Now, thanks to the Internet and Wikipedia, I have discovered that Gooey Butter Cake is something of a thing in St. Louis, where it is said to have originated.  I found out that in many places, it is called “Ooey Gooey Butter Cake”, which is one “ooey” too many for me.  There are a couple of basic versions–one completely from scratch and one based on a cake mix, and there are lots of variations that I never even thought of, like pumpkin and lemon and strawberry.  There is also chocolate, which sounds awesome… because Chocolate.

My ancient, tattered recipe was of the cake mix version, and since I really wasn’t in a baking mood today, I went with that one.

_MG_4257Gooey Butter Cake is not for the faint of heart, the diabetic, or those who don’t like their desserts SWEET.  Because this thing is sweet, and has lots of butter, cream cheese, and a whole pound of powdered sugar.  I’m going to cut it, put it in the freezer, and enjoy it in moderation over a long period of time.  That’s the theory.

According to Wikipedia, Gooey Butter Cake is traditionally served in place of something like a coffeecake, and not as a true dessert.

It is, true to its name, soft and gooey on the inside, but it’s easy to cut and serve.

One nice thing about this dessert is that it’s very easy to make.

Gooey Butter Cake
makes one 9×13 inch cake

For the cake:
1 yellow cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter, softened or melted

For the topping:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the cake: Mix together cake ingredients and press in a greased 9×13 inch pan.  Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly browned.

For the topping:
Mix together topping ingredients and pour over cake mixture.  Bake 10-15 minutes (note: I ended up baking it for 20-25 minutes.  It needs to be just past the jiggle stage, but not too far.  You’ll have to watch it carefully) Sprinkle with more powdered sugar when done._MG_4247

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As the result of a totally new and completely unexpected bout with extremely painful TMJ dysfunction, I’ve been eating soup.  A lot of soup.  More soup than I ever thought I’d eat in a month.  My jaw pain has completely stopped me from being able to do food related things like, you know, chewing.  And biting.  With luck, the oral surgeon that I’m seeing tomorrow will be able to do something to fix it.  Meanwhile…soup.

In my forays through every cream soup recipe I own, I have distilled my likes down to two in particular–Szechuan Carrot Soup, and Mushroom Parsley Soup.  I have just finished a small vat of the carrot soup so I’m a little tired of it at the moment, but this mushroom soup is on its second batch.  And I still have enough for tomorrow.

I came up with this recipe on my own, and I modestly believe it is the best soup I’ve ever eaten.  With all those mushrooms, it’s a real umami feast.

Mushroom Parsley Soup
(serves 2 as a main dish)_MG_2173e

1 leek, sliced
1/2 medium onion, sliced
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 large bunch parsley, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 lemon

Melt butter in medium saucepan.  Add leeks and onion and cook until soft.  Add mushrooms.  Cook together for about 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 20 minutes.

_MG_2177eAdd grated peel of the lemon and all of its juice, and parsley and cook 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Blend with a stick blender, blender, or food processor.  Add salt and black pepper to taste.  If soup is too thick, thin with chicken stock, milk, or cream to taste.




Szechuan Carrot Soup

(serves 4)Carrot soup

1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
a 3/4-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced thin
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 cup coconut milk

Garnish: 1/4 cup sour cream mixed with 2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a large heavy saucepan cook onion, celery, and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened. Add carrots, gingerroot, red pepper flakes, and broth and simmer, covered, until carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and in a blender purée mixture in batches (use caution when blending hot liquids). Return soup to pan and heat over low heat until hot, being careful not to let boil.

Serve soup drizzled decoratively with sour cream mixture.

For both of these soups, I use my stick blender and puree them right in the saucepan they cook in.  Very handy, and no blender to clean up.


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Easy Tomato Basil Soup



Y’all are going to be really happy with me for sharing this with you.

For years now, I’ve been making a really delicious tomato soup, that was all kinds of trouble but it was worth it.  It involved fresh tomatoes, and peeling them, and cooking them, and forcing them through a sieve.  It was worth it.  But the other day I was hungry for soup and I decided to make an easy version.  Turns out, though it’s not as good as the original, it’s just almost as good.  And it takes no time at all.

Here are the ingredients.  Seriously, that’s all.  And you don’t even need to shop because you probably have all these things, or they are easy to keep on hand.

_MG_0879Here’s my easy-peasy recipe, and you are going to love it.

Easy Tomato Basil Soup
Makes 2 large mugs

2 Tablespoons butter
1/4 large onion, diced
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 small can evaporated milk*
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, or to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan and add onions.  Cook until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients and salt to taste.  Heat to a simmer, then blend the soup in a blender or, even easier, with a stick blender right in the saucepan.
*To my daughter Julie, who always complains that my recipes never have can sizes: I already threw the can away and I’m not digging in the recycling.  Look at the relative sizes and use your imagination and your excellent cooking skills.  I love you.

If you’re feeling daring, adding about a tablespoon (or so) of this makes this soup even yummier. I highly recommend this addition.  I promise you.




If you think this soup seems a little thick, you can add more milk, or cream, or stock, or even water.


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Pumpkin “Brownies”



Because ’tis the season for pumpkin, I’m resurrecting an older post.  Actually, this recipe was on this blog within a post that had several recipes in it, but I felt it deserved its own post, since these are just so special.  I make them every year.

_MG_7170And every year I ask myself why I only make them in the fall.  They’re quick and easy, SO moist, and they will keep for a long time in the refrigerator, should you be able to resist them longer than I can.  I know they freeze well without the frosting, but this time I’m going to try freezing a few with the frosting on, and see how that works.

You can make these really thick, in a 9×9 inch pan, or a bit thinner in a 9×13 inch pan.  It’s really your choice, but I like the thinner ones better.  These are not cakey.  They are dense and rich and they have more butter in them than you really want to know about, plus four eggs and a lot of sugar.

Maybe that’s why I don’t make them more often, after all.

I got this recipe from my friend Andrea and I have no idea where she got it, so I’ll just give her the credit.

Pumpkin Brownies with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup melted butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup soft butter (stick works best)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat eggs well. Beat in sugar, butter, pumpkin and vanilla. Add flour, mixing well; then add spices. Spread brownie mixture into a lightly greased 9″ x 9″ pan. (For thinner brownies, use a 9″ x 13″ pan) Bake at 350 deg. for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake and frost using cream cheese frosting.

For Frosting:

Soften cream cheese and butter at room temperature; blend together. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; beat well. Spread over cool brownies. Makes enough frosting for a 9″ x 13″ pan._MG_7169


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Sausage Kolaches



_MG_6984 title


Made these and just ate two of them at one sitting.  I’m feeling slightly bloated, but they were awesome.

Even though I’ve been a Texan all my life I came late to the kolache scene.  My family was surely the only one in Texas that never stopped at the Czech Stop on the way to Dallas and parts north–I don’t know why, but I feel the loss and the years of kolacheless-ness.

A friend’s husband made fruit kolaches and I think those are the first ones I’d ever had, but now I’m a fan of them all.  Buc-Ee’s has some delightful sausage kolaches, if you’re ever in the mood.


I found jalapeño-flavored wieners yesterday and decided to try my hand at kolaches.  It was ridiculously easy to make these.  I tried the recipe on this blog; their recipe says it is adapted from one by the Pastry Queen.  I have all her books so I may go back and make the original unadapted recipe, but probably there’s no reason to mess with perfection.

As a side note, I baked these for 25 minutes and when I make them the next time, I will reduce that by 5 or 6 minutes.

Sausage Kolaches


  • For the dough:
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup water, warmed to 110-115F
  • 1 cup milk, warmed to 110-115F
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled to warm
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 3/4 – 5 1/2 cups flour
  • For the filling:
  • Grated cheddar, optional
  • Fresh jalapeno slices, optional
  • Smoked sausage, cut into 3-4 inch pieces and halved lengthwise if very thick


  1. Sprinkle the yeast over warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Let proof for 5 minutes, until foamy/creamy.
  2. Turn the mixer to low and add the milk, melted butter, 2 eggs, sugar, and salt until mixed thoroughly.
  3. Add the flour in two batches (start with the low amount) and mix only until just combined. The dough will be tacky but should be firm enough to crawl up the dough hook. Add additional flour as necessary.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1-2 hours, until dough has doubled.
  5. Punch down and refrigerate covered overnight or for at least 4 hours.
  6. Divide dough into ~2.5 inch balls (I weighed mine at 2.5 oz each) and set on a lined baking sheet.
  7. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.
  8. Flatten each dough ball and top with a couple slices of jalapeno and pinch of grated cheddar (if using) and place the sausage on top.
  9. Wrap the dough around the fillings, pinching the edges together and placing seam-side down on the baking sheet.
  10. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes, while preheating oven to 375.
  11. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until browned.
  12. Let the kolache cool for 20 minutes and serve.
  13. Leftovers will keep tightly wrapped in the fridge for 3-4 days and can also be frozen.


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Blackberry Cheesecake Bars




These are blackberry cheesecake bars.  But they could just as easily have been blueberry, or raspberry, or peach, strawberry or apricot, or just about any other thing.  Because the fruit is supplied by jam or preserves, and those come in just about any flavor you can imagine.  I’m thinking right now…jalapeño cheesecake bars, maybe, using jalapeño jelly.  Hm…something to think about for next time.


The base is shortbread, and very easy.  I make it in the food processor.  The important thing to remember is to process it just enough so that the butter moistens all the other ingredients and starts to clump together.  This will ensure that the crust will hold together.  Bake the crust, then spread the warm crust with the jelly/jam/preserves of your choice, then pour over the cheesecake filling.  I make the cheesecake batter in the food processor while the crust is baking, and I don’t even wash it out in between.  After the layers are on, just bake the whole thin_MG_6659eg another 30 minutes or so, until the cheesecake layer is set.

This recipe comes from the sadly-now-defunct magazine Gourmet.  Blueberry was the original filling for these.

Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

16 oz cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup blueberry or other fruit preserves

Shortbread Base
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For Shortbread Base:

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces. In a food processor process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan and with a metal spatula press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes. While shortbread is baking, prepare topping.

For Topping:

In a bowl [or food processor] whisk cream cheese until smooth and whisk in eggs, sugar, and vanilla. Evenly spread preserves over hot shortbread and pour cream-cheese mixture over it. Bake in middle of oven until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars. Bar cookies keep, covered and chilled, 3 days.




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Almond Joy Brownies

_MG_6120etitleOoey-gooey delicious.

I found the basic recipe here and then I changed it from Mounds Brownies to Almond Joy Brownies, because I like Almond Joy better than Mounds.  So there.

_MG_6122eThese are very, very messy.  Let me emphasize the “messy” part, as in hard-to-get-out-of-the-pan, hard-to-serve, and hard-to-figure-out-how-to-eat-it.  But I am putting in the work, because of Dedication.  And Chocolate.

If you make them, heed well the admonition to use foil in the pan, and spray that foil really, really well with cooking spray.  Really well.

Do not, as I did, try to hurry the cooling/setting process by refrigerating and then trying to immediately cut them through the hardened chocolate topping.  Disaster will follow, in the form of broken topping.

Of course, you could just piece the topping back on and not worry about it, as I did.  It still tastes the same.

The recipe says that these will keep in the freezer.  I love frozen candy and cookies eaten straight from the freezer, so I may give that a try for these.  It would certainly make the messiness-while-eating factor a little easier.

All of those admonitions should be balanced against the deliciousness factor.  If you like brownies, and coconut, and chocolate…well, you will love these.  And damn the messiness.

Almond Joy Brownies (originally from Averie Cooks)

6 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used TJ’s 72% Pound Plus bar)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon coffee (leftover from the morning brew is fine), optional but recommended
1 teaspoon instant espresso granules, optional but recommended
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut flakes, loosely packed
one 12-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
sliced almonds to taste, toasted in a dry pan until slightly browned

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8×8-inch pan with aluminum foil leaving overhang, spray with cooking spray; set aside. It’s mandatory to line your pan or you’ll never get the brownies out.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the dark chocolate, butter, and heat on high power to melt, about 1 minute. Stop to check and stir. Reheat in 15-second bursts until mixture can be stirred smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, optional coffee, optional espresso granules, and whisk until smooth. Coffee and espresso don’t make the brownies taste like coffee; they enhance the chocolate flavor.
  4. Add the flour and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
  5. Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula and bake until brownies are just set and done, about 28 minutes in my oven. Start checking at 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Don’t overbake because brownies go back into the oven after they’re topped with coconut.
  6. While brownies are baking, in a large bowl (the same one you used for the brownies is fine, just wipe it clean with a paper towel) combine the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and toss to coat evenly; set aside until brownies come out of oven.
  7. When brownies are done and removed from the oven, evenly top with the coconut mixture. Smooth the top lightly with a spatula, pushing mixture gentle into all corners.
  8. Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  9. Return pan to oven and bake for 5 minutes.
  10. Remove pan from oven and using a spatula, lightly smooth the chocolate chips. They will be have softened enough to smooth out when pressed lightly with a spatula. Immediately sprinkle with almonds.
  11. Place pan on a wire rack and allow to cool, undisturbed, for at least 2 to 3 hours, or until top chocolate layer has set; allowing to cool overnight is best.
  12. When ready to serve, lift brownies of pan using foil overhang, place on a large cutting board, and slice with your biggest and sharpest knife. Slicing is messy, but the longer brownies cool, the easier and less messy it is. Brownies will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months._MG_6126e
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Pumpkin Apple Cake


Or Apple Pumpkin Cake.  I can taste both, kind of equally, so I guess you could say it either way.


My house smells like Fall.  Even though outside it’s in the 90’s with about a million percent humidity (you only think I’m exaggerating), in here it’s all cinnamon-toasty-apple-yummy smells coming from the kitchen.

I went scouring the Internet for something that had both apples and pumpkin in it, because I’m ready to taste both and they mean Fall to me.  I didn’t care if it was sweet or savory, cookies or soup or something else.  This recipe was the first one that jumped out at me from the Google Machine, and I had all the ingredients, so…it was fate.

I didn’t take any process pictures, because frankly I think that baking process pictures are boring.  Everything of this cake’s type is pretty much made the same way–combine wet ingredients, combine dry ingredients, put them together, fold in the chunkies.  And that is indeed what you do to make this cake._MG_4578e


I am such a sucker for a moist cake.  And this cake more than delivers in that department.  I don’t know how long it will stay moist, but I suspect it will be just as long as there’s a crumb left, which  may not be that long.

The addition of caramel sauce, as suggested by the author of the recipe, is not necessary but boy, do I recommend it too.  Chopped nuts would be nice but I left them out this time.

Make this recipe, and your house too will smell like Fall.  Even if you live in South Texas.


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Spicy Pasta Salad with Smoked Gouda, Tomatoes, and Basil


Since everyone in America watches the Pioneer Woman (except me), this salad is probably old news to most people.  But I do follow her on Facebook, and today she greeted me with this pasta salad that I immediately craved and had to reproduce.

I will not recreate the process here, because her blog is great and her pictures are better than mine, so there would be no point.  But I will say that this salad was really, really good, and it will go on my regular list of things to make.

I did make one change, and I think it’s for the better, at least for me.  She added smoked gouda that was cut into small cubes.  I grated mine; I think it distributes better, and you don’t run the risk of getting a large chunk of cheese in a mouthful. I’m not a cheese hater, but it’s not high on my list of ingredients, and I’d rather avoid…the large chunk of cheese in my mouth.  Anyway.

But do use the smoked gouda.  That, with the chipotle pepper, give this salad a delicious smoky taste that sets it apart from any other pasta salad you’ve had.  _MG_3827efilter

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Pulled Balsamic Pork Chalupas

_MG_3814etitleThis was one of those times where I saw a recipe online and decided to just take parts of it and make it into something else.  Go figure.  I thought the recipe as it was written sounded wonderful, but events conspired against its complete creation.  It was presented as slow cooked balsamic pork that was to be served on cheesy polenta.  That sounds delicious, but polenta is really, really hard to find around here.  I found already-prepared polenta, which wouldn’t work at all, and I found quick-cooking polenta, which I might have been able to adapt–but in the end, I saw the package of fresh corn tortillas sitting on the counter and I thought this pork would make excellent chalupas.  And I was right.

_MG_3790eSo I slow-cooked the pork loin for six hours in a savory balsamic broth, used two forks to shred it, and then took some of it and chopped it a little finer to use on these chalupas.













Then I made the delicious avocado-cilantro-yogurt and lime sauce…_MG_3816e

…and crisp-fried my tortillas, and combined everything with a sprinkle of Monterrey Jack on top.

The sauce is very tart and would be an excellent dip for vegetables.

The recipe is as follows:

Pulled Balsamic Pork with Avocado Cream
serves 4-6
2½ pound boneless pork loin
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours.  Shred pork and return to broth.

To make chalupas, fry corn tortillas until they are crisp, add warm pork and sprinkle with Monterrey Jack cheese.  Dollop with Avocado Cream.

Avocado Cream
1 avocado
juice of 1 lime
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cilantro
Combine in mini-processor or puree in hand blender.  IMG_3809e

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