The Tasty Tomato

It’s that time of year again. The garden is in full swing, and I’m slowly filling the freezer and pantry with goodies to last throughout the year.

Now it’s tomato time and I love trying new ways to use this veggie in a variety of sauces. One of my favorites isn’t new at all but it’s delicious and easy to make. This freezer recipe for spaghetti sauce is so yummy you’ll never want to use store-bought again:

Freezer Spaghetti Sauce

20 cups chopped tomatoes

3 ½ cups chopped celery

3 ½ cups chopped onions

1 cup green pepper

5 cups water

1 ¼ cup sugar

1 ½ T. oregano

1 T. garlic powder

1 T. pepper

3 T. canning salt

4 – 12 oz. cans tomato paste

Mix all ingredients, except for tomato paste, in a large pot and simmer for 2 hours, stirring frequently. If you like a smoother consistency, use an immersion blender. Remove from heat and stir in the cans of tomato paste. Cool completely or chill. Then freeze in freezer bags or containers. This recipe makes approximately 14 or 15 pints.

The following tomato sauce recipe is a fairly new one I found and tweaked a bit to suit my tastes. I can it in pint jars for pizza sauce and freeze some in small containers for those recipes that require a small amount of tomato sauce, like sloppy joes.

Tomato Sauce

1/3 cup cooking oil

2 cups finely chopped onions

1 small finely chopped carrot

1 stalk of finely chopped celery, including leafy tops

2 T. oregano

2 tsp. basil

1 bay leaf

2 T. sugar

2 T. chopped garlic

8 cups of fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped. (Remove seeds if desired.)

1 T. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 cans (6 oz.) tomato paste

tomato sauceHeat oil in a large pan and cook onion, celery, and carrot. Cover and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add remaining spices, tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for about an hour until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. Remove bay leaf. Use a blender if you like a smoother consistency.

This recipe makes about five or 6 pints of sauce.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

It’s no secret that I’m a Pinterest Junkie. I find many great craft ideas and recipes there. Most everything I have tried have turned out great.

Going back to my childhood, I have a wonderful recipe for cinnamon rolls that my mother passed down to me. The only downfall to Mom’s recipe is that it has to rise twice, and so you have to plan ahead and start at the beginning of the day to have the rolls made by suppertime. I’m not a morning person. So, when my chef husband started hinting, fairly heavily I might add, that he wanted some really good cinnamon rolls, I turned to Pinterest for some simpler cinnamon roll ideas.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

Here’s what I found, and you can see from the margins of the paper I wrote it down on, it was a winner! (Hubby’s writing, not mine, lol!)

Cinnamon Roll Cake (By Chef in Training)

3 cups flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
½ cup butter, melted




1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Mix everything for the cake together except for the butter. Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

For the topping, mix all the ingredients together until well combined. Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife.

Bake at 350 for 28-32 minutes

2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 Tbsp. milk

Mix and pour over warm cake.

It’s the perfect warm, sweet, homey treat for your winter days. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!


Tried and True Recipes–Maybe

My favorite solution to the question, “What’s for dinner?” is begging my husband to go out to eat. But when that’s not an option and no one else is willing to cook, I scrounge through a recipe file or book of tried and true recipes—especially those belonging to my mom (or somebody else’s mom or grandma) that have been compiled into a church cookbook. These ladies seem to only share the recipes guaranteed to turn out well (at least when they make them.) Since some of these recipes are my favorites from way back when, they’re often made from scratch, which I’m really into—that is, if there are no more than eight ingredients and I can pronounce them all. My take on the recipes that are a “blast from my past” usually make me say, “This doesn’t taste like I remembered,” but they’re still worth trying.

Fixing something that I was served as a kid brings back memories of simpler days when I didn’t have a care in the world except for being exceedingly annoyed when a parent said, “Clean up your plate,” or “I don’t care if it’s cold, eat it anyway.”

With that being said, I’m sharing a recipe for those days when cooking from scratch seems like a really stupid idea. So if you just found out you’re on pie duty at today’s Thanksgiving dinner and Sarah Lee is not available for your dining pleasure, you still have time to fix this super easy feast for the tongue. It takes about five minutes to prepare and a couple of hours to set up, and the best part is that you may have all the ingredients on hand.

I’m guessing though that if you just learned you have to cough up a pie by dinner time, you’re probably not reading my blog—entertaining as it may be. In that case, you can fix this pie tomorrow and eat it all yourself when everyone else is still full. Hmm. Now there’s an idea I can go for.

Anyway, here’s the recipe if you want to try it sometime, but if you don’t, that’s okay too.

Chocolate Ice Cream Pie

2 cups vanilla ice cream (let soften a wee bit)

1 small package milk chocolate instant pudding

1 scant cup of milk

Mix the above in an electric mixer and pour into a homemade graham cracker pie crust. (I like Keebler—instructions are easy to follow.)

Chill for a couple of hours.

If you’re feeling like the pastry chef of your dreams, sprinkle chocolate shavings on top. Or if you’re not pressed for time and want to add that ultra-gourmet touch, swirl a dollop of homemade whipped topping (follow directions on a Redi-Whip can) onto each piece and drizzle with chocolate syrup. Hey, I just now thought of that last touch. Bet you’re impressed, huh?

Oh, oh, a maraschino cherry on top would be oh so cute if you’re so inclined!

You have now finished your pie. You may have a piece after you clean up your plate.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fund Raiser Cook Books

This is my ‘go to’ cook book. I’ve had it for 34 years and made many delicious recipes. In my opinion, these are the best kinds of cook books because they are someone else’s tried and true family favorites.

I have many of these kinds of cook books. One has our favorite quiche recipe. One has our favorite rhubarb pie recipe. But I must admit the one that I’m sharing is my favorite cook book. Why? Because I found a cookie recipe that when I make it becomes everyone favorite. As you can see…I even renamed it!

Cookbook 1

I make these cookies almost every Christmas. You can change up the frosting. Caramel pecan is yummy! You can sprinkle the frosting with decorator sugar or crushed candy canes.

Do you have a fund raiser type cook book?



Christmas Breakfast

A lot of planning goes into the Christmas season – shopping, decorating, travel, logistics, the Christmas Dinner menu. One part of the planning that sometimes gets forgotten is Christmas breakfast.

We usually have our main Christmas dinner late in the day. This year, it was at 4 o’clock. Because eating a big lunch wouldn’t leave much room to enjoy a large early dinner, we typically have a late breakfast instead. And we try to serve something special.

We are empty-nesters and enjoyed exchanging gifts with the grands a few weeks ago when my son was home on leave from the Marines. My daughter, who will graduate from Optometry college in May, is home for the holidays, and we’ve enjoyed baking during her visit.

Here’s one recipe we made that was a big hit – it’s a knock-off from the famous Cinnabon rolls recipe. It’s probably not something I’d make very often, but for a special occasion breakfast, such as Christmas Day, it’s perfect. This idea may not work if you have little ones in the house, but this recipe is easily made ahead of time by making the dough the day before.

Ooey Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

Dough ingredients

  • 1 pkg dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm milk
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/3 c. margarine
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 c. flour

Filling ingredients

  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2-1/2 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/3 c. margarine, softened

Icing ingredients

  • 8 tbsp. margarine
  • 1-1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 c. cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/8 tsp. salt


1. n a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast into the warm milk. Add sugar, margarine, salt, eggs. Mix well. Add flour 1-2 cups at a time until well-blended.

2. Using lightly floured hands, knead the dough until it forms a large ball. Place in an lightly oiled, glass bowl and turn until all sides are coated. Let rise in warm room until doubled, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it forms a rectangle, about 16 x 21 inches and approximately 1/4 inch thick.

5. For filling – combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Spread margarine over the dough until it reaches the edges. Sprinkle brown sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the margarine-covered dough.

6. Carefully roll the dough from the long edge. Cut into 1-3/4 inch slices and place with edges slightly touching onto a lightly greased cookie sheet.

7. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.

8. Combine icing ingredients and mix until fluffy. When the rolls are done, spread generously with the icing.

9. Enjoy!




Have You Been Spammed Lately?

In honor of Rose’s new release, Sweet on the Cowboy, the Inkspers are taking time to talk about products that were invented in their home state (or even their home town), as well as anything rodeo, among other topics. Definitely check out Sweet on the Cowboy. It’s another fun read from Rose Ross Zediker.

In Minnesota, we’ve invented a lot of things. Like the Post-it Note from 3M (the headquarters are just north of St. Paul). Who doesn’t love post-its??

But today I’d rather tell you about an amazing food (at least, I think it’s a food) that I think everyone has heard of – SPAM!

I asked my son the other day if he’d ever had SPAM. (I must have seen a commercial with Sir Can-a-lot.) When he said no, I realized I had failed him. How was it possible that I never fed him this Minnesota original when I practically grew up on it? One of these days I’m going to buySir Can-a-lot a can just for him. The biggest question will be how to prepare it. There are SO many options. But before I share a few, here’s a little history of this national icon…

First of all, what IS Spam? According to “Made of pig parts and secret spices, cooked in it’s own cans right on the assembly line, SPAM rolls out of its far-flung factories at a rate of 44,000 cans an hour.” According to it’s made of “six simple ingredients – pork with ham (2 parts of the same piggy), salt, water, potato starch, sugar, and sodium nitrate.”

The name SPAM comes from what it’s made of – “spiced hormel-logoham.” The brother of a Hormel executive came up with the name when the luncheon meat was introduced in 1937 and won $100. (What? No SPAM for Life?)

In 1946, a troupe of former servicewomen formed a drum and bugle corps to spread the word about SPAM. Known as the “Hormel Girls,” the group grew to 60 members by 1948, including a 16-piece orchestra. The popularity of the troupe led to a national radio show featuring (you guessed it) SPAM. The group disbanded in 1953.

In 1959, the one-billionth can of SPAM Classic was produced. In 1970, the two-billionth. In 1994, the five-billionth. And on it goes.

There are 18 varieties of SPAM including SPAM Lite, Turkey SPAM, Jalapeno SPAM, Hickory Smoked, SPAM with Cheese, SPAM Spread, and SPAM Singles.

So where dSpamMuseumAustinMN2006-05-20o these amazing fun facts come from? The SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota, of course, which opened in 2001. Here’s their boast: “The family-fun packed museum features 16,500 square feet of tastefully presented SPAM®-filled history. You won’t have to fight for tickets because admission is free. Visit and you’ll be tinkled pink by the SPAM® trivia and vintage SPAM® brand advertising. Plus numerous SPAM® displays including the World War II exhibit, SPAM™ Game Show quiz, Monty Python tribute (Spamalot!) and more. There’s even a SPAM® store so you can stock up on priceless SPAM® collectibles on your way out.” Within the SPAM Museum is the current radio station, KSPAM. (No, I’m not kidding.)

So let’s get to the meat of this blog – SPAM recipes! Since I don’t have room to provide the whole recipe here, I’ll just give you a taste by rattling off some yummy ideas. You can find them on the SPAM website.

SPAM Mini Maple Doughnuts

Maple SPAM Doughnuts
Buffalo Spamburgers
Huevos SPAM Cheros
SPAM Musubi
SPAMSGiving Day Delight (in case your turkey doesn’t turn out)
Veggie SPAM Skewers
Bacon Wrapped SPAM Bites
SPAM French Toast Sticks
SPAM Thai Style Meatballs
SPAM Benedict
and SPAM Apple Turnovers (the top photo is that delicious treat!

I could go on and on but we’d be here all day (and forever – the list is endless). Check it out for yourself.

I will leave you with one final piece of trivia from Wikipedia:  “On average, each person on Guam consumes 16 tins of SPAM each year and consumption is similar in Hawaii, and Saipan. These areas have the only McDonald’s restaurants that feature Spam on the menu.” So the next time you’re in Hawaii, skip the fish and order some SPAM.

Oh, and don’t forgSPAM Lapel pinet to stop by the SPAM store to pick up a gift or two. For those hard-to-please people, consider the SPAM Lapel pin.

Do you have a favorite SPAM story or recipe?


Every time you leave a comment between Monday, August 4 and Friday, August 15 at midnight, central time, you are entered to win a copy of “Sweet on the Cowgirl.”

sweet on the cowgirl2

Today is National Vanilla Pudding Day

With a little research, I learned vanilla pudding dates back to the 19th century. Historians agree it evolved from custards which date back to Ancient Rome. So without further ado, you have my permission to take a vanilla pudding break.

Don’t get me wrong–I love chocolate, but for pudding, pie, cake, or even ice cream–not so much. Chocolate is best in candy bar form–milk or white. But for other desserts, I like vanilla. It’s so versatile. With vanilla instant pudding, you can go crazy with toppings. Vanilla  becomes coconut, strawberry or banana pie. Yum. I love vanilla pudding with fruit. Or you can add chocolate chips and syrup, or caramel or both.  Here are two of my favorite recipes.

My favorite place to get recipes since I hate baking is the Cool Whip label. That’s where this one came from:


1 package Oreo Cookies

2 packages Vanilla Instant Pudding

3 cups Milk

16 oz. Cool Whip

1 cup Powdered Sugar

8 oz. Cream Cheese

Place the Oreos in a plastic bag and crush them. The easiest way to crush a large amount of Oreos at one time is to put them in a gallon size plastic bag and crush them by using a rolling pin. Mix the vanilla instant pudding, milk, cool whip and cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar until well blended.

Place a layer of crushed Oreos on the bottom of the cake pan. Then alternate layers of the cream cheese mixture and Oreos. Sprinkle Oreos on top for garnish.

Let sit at least 8 hours, so all the tastes blend and get mushy. In Arkansas, since the Oreos look like potting soil, it’s an open invitation to put gummy worms in your cake. Or put a small portion of the dessert in a small flower pot. Add silk flowers and gummy worms.


This one came out of my head:


2 packages Vanilla Instant Pudding

3 cups Milk

8 oz Cool Whip

8 oz Cream Cheese

1 cup powdered sugar

2 cans Pineapple Tidbits

Pour pineapple in large strainer and let drain while you prepare the ingredients. Mix cream cheese, cool whip, and powdered sugar together. Mash the pineapple in strainer to remove as much juice as possible. Mix pudding and milk together. It will be thick. Pour half of the pudding in a large truffle bowl. Layer a third of the pineapple and half the cream cheese mixture. Layer with a third pineapple and remainder of pudding. Layer final third of pineapple and top with remainder cream cheese.

Can you tell I love Cool Whip and Cream Cheese with my vanilla? What’s your favorite topping or vanilla pudding dessert?

Verrrrry Pinteresting . . . .


The mere thought of it conjures up images of crafts I will never do, landscaping that is out of reach, entertainers that don’t know I’m alive, and recipes that makes my husband actually encourage my love of all things “pinned.”

You see, when I started with Pinterest, I had the basic boards – “Sweets to the Sweet” for desserts; “Savory Solutions” for, you guessed it, savories; “Entertainment” for things such as Doctor Who, Castle, etc.; “Inspire Me” for inspirational quotes and blogs; “Crafty? Me?” for all things crafty; “DIY (or, bigger than “crafty”)” for home improvement, etc.

Now I’ve subdivided until I have fifty boards and nearly 9,000 pins. Yes, you read that right.

I mean, once you have over 200 pins in a board, it’s just too hard to find things . . . so you create more boards. Just one “sweets” board? Au contraire . . . There are now four. Just one “crafty” board? You’re kidding, right? Now you can find four of those, as well. And, I now own a sewing machine.

What is the draw of this thing called “Pinterest?”

It lets you hoard ideas and pictures somewhere besides your top dresser drawer . . . or the junk drawer in the kitchen . . . or the basement . . . or the attic . . . or the closet in the hall . . . or all of the above!

It’s hoarding for neat freaks!

Now if I could just get them to make the organizing part easier . . . for instance, when I create a whole new board, I have to move ONE PIN AT A TIME, where if there were check boxes, you could move them en masse . . .

Pinterest may prove to be a gateway drug for something big and bad, but for now, I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to continue trying out recipes that prove to be the BEST I’VE EVER EATEN. I’m going to try those household tips that REALLY WORK. I’m going to sigh when I read a Doctor Who quote I’ve not seen before. I’m going to (eventually) make some of those crafts that look so EASY (or talk someone else into doing it!).

And I’m going to share the wealth with my pinning buddies.

Happy Pinning!

Oh . . . did I mention there are also pictures of KITTENS? 🙂

Lunch on the Deck

When a good friend of mine was reading our blog posts last week, she had the audacity to laugh at me! Knowing me oh-to-well, she couldn’t imagine what kind of recipe I would come up with. Well, I make a mean Kraft macaroni-and-cheese if I do say so myself! Sometimes, I even add tuna just for my husband! So take that, Beth!

Okay, okay, I see the rolling eyes out there. Unfortunately, my friend is oh-so-right. My recipe box is mostly empty, and what’s in there is for bland-palated Scandahoovians like me.

But, I do have a secret weapon! A friend of 30+ years who is an exceptional cook. Recently she’s taken to posting her daily “Lunch on the Deck” on Facebook, leaving all her friends drooling.

And problem solved for me! Yah!

So let me introduce you to Kelly Jo Yaksich, my devoted, quirky, and uproariously fun friend and cook extraordinaire, someone who’s completely in love with Jesus!

Welcome to Lunch on the Deck!

This past January, I chose to walk another path set before me. I had just turned 49 and decided that coming around the corner of 50, my life needed some shaking up! I started a weight loss journey that quickly turned into a lifestyle change that soon caught on with my whole family.

I am a mom, born and raised in Minnesota, that was transplanted with my husband and four teenagers to Nebraska. In Minnesota I was surrounded by lakes and rivers and bodies of water. Water sounds calm me. Here in Nebraska I am surrounded by city noises, fake lakes and wind! I needed calm!

So in March, I took drastic measures. I removed the leaves from my dining room table that allowed our whole family to eat inside and announced all meals would be eaten out “on the deck”! I started to put into practice my method of madness by eating my lunches on the deck. I took pictures and posted them on Facebook so that maybe I could inspire others to do the same while keeping myself accountable.

It took a couple weeks, but soon my family began to join me. Now, not only do we eat lunch out there, but every night for supper we head to the “famous deck”! I have had people call to make reservations to eat with me on my deck! I have had friends buy me beautiful planters to adorn my table on my deck! I have even bought prettier napkins to use on the deck! Now my calm comes from the beautiful, simple food I create, the fellowship of family and friends, and, of course, the deck!

Now, won’t you and your family join me for Lunch on the Deck?!

Today’s Menu:  BLT Pita’s, Fresh Fruit, and Homemade Rice Pudding, served with Arnold Palmer Tea!

BLT Pita’s
3 slices of precooked bacon
3 large slices of fresh tomato
1/2 cup of shredded lettuce
1/2 tablespoon reduced fat mayo made with olive oil
1/2 of a whole grain pita pocket
Layer ingredients in pita pocket and enjoy!

Homemade Rice Pudding
1 cup precooked rice (white or brown will work)
3 egg whites
1/2 cup stevia sweetener
3 1/2 cups of 1% milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup of raisins (optional–I don’t like them so I left them out!)
In a two quart casserole, beat the eggs with the stevia sweetener until well mixed.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk and rice well.  Gradually fold into the two quart dish.  Turn your oven on to 300 degrees.

While that is heating up, boil 2-3 cups of water on the stove top.  Take a 9 x 13 pan, and set your two quart casserole dish in there.  Carefully place it in the oven when it is heated up to 300 degrees.  Slowly pour the boiling water into the 9X13 pan until it is about 1″ from the top.  Close oven and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until knife comes out clean.  Enjoy!

Arnold Palmer Tea
This is a FAVORITE among Nebraskans!!

In one two-quart pitcher pour 1 packet of sugar free lemonade mix (Crystal Light or store brand) and 1 packet of sugar free tea with lemon mix.  Add a couple handfuls of ice and fill with water.  Stir until dissolved.  Serve over ice–goes well with vodka too!  Just sayin’!

Summertime Desserts—For All Tastes

Though this Inksper with a sweet tooth is really trying to cut back on sweets, there are times when family members request a sinfully rich dessert, especially for their birthdays. I made this cake earlier in the week for my daughter and it is very similar to a Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake. Here is the recipe for my homemade version.

Ice Cream Cake 

Half gallon cookies and cream ice cream

Half gallon vanilla ice cream

½ package of Oreo cookies (approximately)

Chocolate syrup

½ jar hot fudge topping

Spring form cake pan 

Crush cookies into small pieces and place in mixing bowl. Slowly stir in chocolate syrup until pieces are evenly coated, though not soaked. Set aside. 

Let the ice cream sit out until it becomes soft and easily spreadable. Spread an inch of vanilla ice cream around the inside of the cake ring. Fill the middle half-way up with cookies and cream ice cream and top with cookie crumbs. Using a knife, cover the crumb layer with approximately ¼ inch layer of room temperature hot fudge sauce. Fill the remainder of the middle with vanilla ice cream almost to the top. Freeze for several hours. Take out of freezer about 10 minutes before serving. 


Chocolate ice cream can be used instead of cookies and cream. 

The picture shows the cake trimmed with whipped cream. I would not advise this as the whipped cream melts quickly when removed from freezer.

Ingredients mentioned do not have to be exact. Add more or less according to preference.


For a healthier dessert, or salad, try this refreshing and yummy recipe: 

Frozen Fruit Salad

1 ½ cups water

1 cup sugar (or less)

1 12 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate

2 cups chopped apples

2 or 3 fresh chopped peaches

5 or 6 chopped bananas

1 pint chopped strawberries

1 can crushed pineapple

2 teaspoons lemon juice 

In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in the water and stir in can of thawed orange juice concentrate. Add chopped fruit to this mixture and stir thoroughly. Freeze several hours.


If frozen in individual cups, remove from freezer about 20 minutes before serving. If freezing the entire bowl, remove from freezer 45 minutes to 1 hour before serving.