Caramel Apple Layer Cake

Brown sugar buttermilk layer cake smothered in apples cooked in brown sugar syrup and finished with a drizzle of the easiest vanilla bean caramel sauce.

Brown sugar buttermilk layer cake smothered in apples cooked in brown sugar syrup and finished with a drizzle of the easiest vanilla bean caramel sauce. 

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While I was off celebrating a family wedding this weekend and pretending not to have internet (don’t lie – we all have those days), something pretty big happened around here: This little blog turned 3 years old!

Yep, that’s right. Stephie Cooks – originally Eat Your Heart Out – is a toddler! Which is only fitting, considering that on Sunday our 19-month-old niece and I both spilled food down ourselves at lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon running around with stains on our shirts. Forever young?

Now is the point in this post where I thank all you for being loyal readers. It probably sounds cliche and dorky when you read that on sites celebrating their blogiversaries, but believe me – we mean every word of it. Think about it – without our lovely readers, us bloggers would just be babbling into the void. Which, while interesting, would also make us a little crazy. Thank you for justifying my babbling and making me less of a crazy person.

Thank you for commenting, liking, sharing, cooking, baking, and – of course – eating! Really, you’re the reason I’m here and still typing away 3 years later. The differences between my original Cream Cheese Ranch Roll-Ups and my new Bacon Ranch Cream Cheese Roll-Ups should serve as evidence enough of how I have grown in the past 3 years. All of that work? For you.

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Bacon Ranch Cream Cheese Roll-ups

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Cream cheese, red peppers, scallions, ranch dressing mix and bacon make these roll-ups the perfect appetizer for a crowd. Try to eat just one…I dare ya.

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I have a recipe on the site that I posted the first summer I was blogging and it has consistently remained one of my most popular recipes. The photos for Cream Cheese Ranch Roll-Ups are beyond pitiful, but the recipe is hard to beat when it comes to feeding a crowd. I have never had a party where these roll-ups weren’t the first thing to disappear.

So when contemplating how to make something containing cream cheese and ranch dressing mix even better, where did I turn? To bacon, of course.

Bacon always makes things better.

This version uses scallions and red peppers just like the original version, but replaces the minced black olives with finely chopped cooked bacon. I also chose to use my Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix in lieu of the packaged mix. If you use the homemade mix, you will need about 3 tablespoons. Of course, you could still use the packaged mix, but I promise that once you try the homemade version, you will never go back.

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Rumor has it that we are hurtling into football tailgating season, so my #12Bloggers cohorts and I have brought you 12 tailgate-friendly appetizer recipes. Whether you are actually tailgating or doing the more comfortable thing and staying at home to watch the game, finger foods are high on the list of must-haves, and boy do we have you covered.

Just make sure not to eat all of your Bacon Ranch Cream Cheese Roll-Ups before your friends arrive.

Make sure to check out the other 11 appetizer recipes perfect for game day:

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Bacon Ranch Cream Cheese Roll-ups
 
Ingredients
  • 4 12-inch tortillas
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup finely chopped red pepper
  • Scant ½ cup finely chopped scallions
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped cooked bacon
  • 3 tablespoons homemade ranch dressing mix
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, red pepper, scallions, bacon and ranch mix. Spread evenly over the 4 tortillas. Roll each tortilla up tightly, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to serve, unwrap roll-up from plastic wrap and slice.

 

No-Chill Sugar Cookies

Perfect cut-out sugar cookies maintain their shape and don't require any chill time. Plus, use any flavor extract to flavor your cookies however you like!

Perfect cut-out sugar cookies maintain their shape and don’t require any chill time. Plus, use any flavor extract to flavor your cookies however you like!

15161669266 6f8a012254 c No Chill Sugar Cookies
I’m an impatient person. I won’t even pretend otherwise. I grew up hearing my mother constantly tell me, “Patience is a virtue.” I usually mentally responded with something along the lines of, “Well, being prompt is also a virtue.”

It’s really no surprise that my future restaurant manager from my college server days would someday love me for my “great sense of urgency.” My current boss finds this same sense of urgency to be quite an asset, as well. I suppose you could say that I have found my people.

So, when I want cookies…I don’t really want to have to wait for them. The Whirling Dervish over here wants to be able to make them, throw them in the oven, and have cookies in front of my face 12 minutes later. Waiting for dough to chill? So not my thing.

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As such, this is my new go-to cut-out sugar cookie recipe. The dough has been fiddled and tweaked until it holds it shape quite excellently without any chilling, meaning that I can be frosting my sugar cookie cut-outs in no time. Plus, you can use any flavor extract you like in these cookies, allowing you to customize them to the season. Fall? Try almond extract. Spring? Give lemon a try! Winter? Peppermint should do the trick. No-Chill Sugar Cookies are indeed a thing of beauty.

A few loyal readers may remember last year’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Chip Cookies and how I proclaimed my eternal love for cinnamon chips and also introduced you to a special partnership between OXO and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. I am supporting the partnership again this year with these No-Chill Sugar Cookies. This fall, while you are out and about, keep your eyes peeled for the following symbol on a number of specially-marked OXO products:

Screen Shot 2013 09 24 at 1.14.06 AM No Chill Sugar Cookies
For every stickered item sold, OXO will donate 25 cents in support of pediatric cancer research as a part of its $100,000 pledge to C4CK*. So now when you purchase helpful items such as this 3-Piece Cookie Cutter Set or this Bent Icing Knife, you can know that you are not just supporting your cookie habit, you are also supporting a great cause.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
No-Chill Sugar Cookies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: About 4 dozen cookies
Ingredients
For the cookies:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¼ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon flavor extract of your choice*
  • 4 cups flour
For the icing:
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3¼ cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ½ teaspoon same flavor extract as used in the cookies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs, vanilla, and flavor extract and beat until combined.
  3. Slowly add the flour, stirring just until combined. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and use your hands to form into a disk. Roll the dough to ⅛ to ¼-inch thick and cut with lightly floured cookie cutters. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets.
  4. Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, or just until the edges barely start to turn golden. Remove from the baking sheets to a rack to cool before icing.
  5. For the icing, beat the butter with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the powder sugar, then add the milk and flavor extract. Beat until combined, adding more milk or more powdered sugar as needed to achieve desired spreading consistency. If coloring, beat in food coloring. Spread onto cookies and allow to set before storing.
Notes
*Please use a high-quality flavor extract. My favorite for these cookies is Nielsen-Massey Pure Almond Extract or Nielsen-Massey Pure Lemon Extract.

Support OXO and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer on social media:

Twitter: @OXO@Cookies4Kids

Instagram: @OXO@Cookies4Kids

Facebook: facebook.com/OXOfacebook.com/CookiesForKidsCancer

Pinterest: pinterest.com/OXOpinterest.com/Cookies4Kids

*In 2014, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through specially marked baking tools, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts. Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.

During the month of September, OXO will donate $100 to C4KC for each blog post dedicated to this campaign. I received samples of specially-marked products as part of the campaign, but received no other compensation for this post. All opinions are my own and simply reflect my desire to support a worthy cause!

Mexican Corn Casserole {Gluten-Free!}

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Gluten-free corn casserole made with fresh corn, green onions, and melty Chihuahua cheese. Your favorite Mexican meals need no other side dish than this.

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So I have this thing with corn-based side dishes. You know the ones I am talking about: corn pudding, cornbread, creamed corn, corn casserole. Anyway, I have this thing with them – I can’t stop eating them.

Cornbread? Gone in 60 seconds. Corn pudding? Is there such a thing as leftovers? Creamed corn? Just hand me the dish and a spoon, pleaseandthankyou. Corn casserole? Step away from my side dish and no one gets hurt.

And yet, I realize that in nearly 3 years time, I have not shared any such corn recipe with y’all. And then I remember that I ate half of this conveniently gluten-free Mexican Corn Casserole by myself in approximately 5 minutes and understand that I can’t be trusted to recipe test these things. I go from a responsible adult to a baby bunny who doesn’t know when to stop eating in about 13 seconds.

This corn casserole is made with a combo of corn flour and corn meal to make it gluten-free. Corn flour is more finely ground than corn meal, which assists with the texture of the casserole. If you can’t find corn flour at your local grocery store, Bob’s Red Mill makes one that you can get on Amazon. Rumor has it that if you have Amazon Prime, it’ll be on your front step faster than you can hit the “confirm order” button, allowing you to have corn casserole in your face pretty much immediately.

Serve your Mexican Corn Casserole alongside a bowl of chili, your favorite steak tacos or, if you happen to be like me, in a bowl with a spoon. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re wrong.

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5.0 from 1 reviews
Mexican Corn Casserole {Gluten-Free!}
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: 4-6 side dish servings
Ingredients
  • 2 ears corn
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup corn flour
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup cornmeal
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • ⅓ cup chopped scallions
  • ⅓ cup shredded chihuahua cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish. Set aside.
  2. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs. Using the back of your knife, scrape up the cobs to release the "milk". Reserve this "milk" with the corn. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter. Mix in the corn flour and water until thoroughly combined. Add the cornmeal, sugar, sour cream, egg, salt and baking powder; mix until combined. Add the corn, scallions, and cheese and mix.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake, covered, for 40-45 minutes, or until center is set.

Mixed Berry Cobbler

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Fruit cobbler made with tart mixed berries and a lattice crust. It is the best possible combination of pie and cobbler you’re gonna find.

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I know I probably should have shared this with you before Labor Day, what with holiday cookouts and all, but part of me just wanted to hang onto summer for a few minutes longer.

This hasn’t been an all-around outstanding summer. This past month (which was admittedly pretty crappy) aside, it was just…a summer. We worked a lot. We don’t have any outdoor space so the Mr. didn’t get to grill very much. I spent most of my weekends in the kitchen and forgot to do things like sit outside in the sunshine or go berry picking. So while everyone else is ready to hurry right along to the land of pumpkin spice everything, a part of me is ok with hanging on to summer sun for just a minute longer with Mixed Berry Cobbler.

This recipe is adapted from a family favorite Blackberry Cobbler recipe from an old Southern Living cookbook (Southern Living 1999 Annual Recipes, to be exact). Since blackberries are admittedly a bit expensive even under the best of circumstances (unless your grandfather happens to accidentally grow to many and gives your family several dozen pounds…not that we have ever had that happen or anything…), I went ahead and made a few changes to the recipe, including swapping out the blackberries for mixed berries. Feel free to use any berries you like in this recipe – if you happen to have several dozen pounds of blackberries (or raspberries, or strawberries or…you get the idea) hanging around, go ahead and use those! Otherwise, a mix of fresh or frozen berries will do just fine.

Oh, what’s that? Now that you see this recipe, you want to hang onto summer a bit longer, too? Then may I suggest topping your luscious Berry Cobbler with some homemade peach ice cream? I mean…duh.

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5.0 from 2 reviews
Mixed Berry Cobbler
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
For the crust:
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ⅔ cup half-and-half
For the filling:
  • 8 cups mixed berries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen berries, thaw completely)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup butter, cut into pieces
Instructions
Make pastry:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Add the half-and-half, stirring with a fork until the mixture is just barely combined.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead 6-8 times, until dough forms a ball. Roll ⅓ of the pastry into ¼-inch thickness and cut into strips 1½-inches wide (reserve the rest of the dough). Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Make the filling:
  1. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the berries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract. Let stand until sugar dissolves. Spoon half of the mixture into a greased 13x9-inch baking dish. Break the baked pastry strips into pieces and lay on top of the fruit mixture; top with the remaining berries. Dot with the butter.
  3. Roll the remaining pastry dough into ¼-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch wide strips. Weave into a lattice over the filling. If desired, brush the pastry with additional half-and-half and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes or until bubbly and golden.
Notes
Half-and-half is a mixture of half cream, half whole milk. If you do not have access to half-and-half, feel free to use milk instead.

Life Updates: The Sequel

final collage

Spoiler alert: We are cancer free!

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As regular readers will know, the first of the month is normally reserved for my “Friends First” series. This month we are going to take a little break from the series – partly because I didn’t have anyone lined up when the sh** hit the fan earlier this month, and partly so that I can give you a follow-up from my previous life updates post.

After that post went live, our family received the biggest outpouring of love via social media. A day or two later, we put out the call on social media for anyone who wanted to paint their toenails blue (or wear blue) and send us a picture to include in a collage, with the idea being that we were collectively kicking colon cancer in the butt. I am so happy to say that the response was completely overwhelming – we ended up with over 75 photos from friends all over the country – nay, all over the world! A huge chunk of these people have never even met my mom, but know and love her via the internet. You can see the finished collage above – isn’t the internet a cool place?

Momma’s surgery went smoothly and, while recovery has been going slower than she would like (although she would like to have been back to her normal lightening speed a week ago), she has been doing great.

And the best news? She had her follow-up appointment with the surgeon this past Friday and was officially declared cancer free – they were able to remove all of it and there are no traces in her lymph nodes!

To say we are relieved would be an understatement. She will be under close watch the rest of her life, but regular colonoscopies will allow the doctors to catch anything new early and take care of it on the spot. It has been a long month, but we are so blessed that this did not last any longer – so many people are not nearly as lucky. We aren’t exaggerating when we say that colonoscopies save lives, friends.

Thank you all again for your prayers, love, and support this past few weeks. The love our family has been shown has truly meant the world to us. We send it all right back to you.

xoxo,

-S

For helpful information on colon cancer, screening and how family history plays a role, visit www.ccalliance.org