Rainbow Cake in a Jar

Rainbow in a Jar!!!!  I am having so much fun with this!
My friend, Lori J., posted a picture of these on Facebook a few days ago.  I haven't been able to get it out of my head.  They made me smile.  Who doesn't need to smile?  I followed the link to http://blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/2011/04/08/rainbow-cake-in-a-jar/ .  I knew I had to try it.
I have jars.  I even have cake mix.  I don't have canned frosting, but that is super easy to make.  Can't stop smiling.  They are so fun!
I used 2 cake mixes and 1/2 pint jars.  (I thought that a full pint 'o cake would be too much.)  Here is what I did.
Rainbow Cake in a Jar
12 - 1/2 pint canning jars
2 white cake mixes
neon gel food color in purple, teal, green, yellow and pink
white frosting (I'll put my recipe at the end)
rainbow sprinkles
Make the cake mix according to the package directions (I used 3 whole eggs instead of 4 egg whites.)  Divide the batter between 5 bowls, about 1 1/2 cups of batter per bowl.  It doesn't have to be exact.
Color each bowl of batter a different color, make it as vibrant as you want.
My kiddo, Emily, was in charge of this part.  It looks like a batter you would see in the Wonka factory.
Spray each jar with non-stick cooking spray.  Divide the purple batter into each jar, about 1 Tablespoon.  Repeat with each color (we did purple, teal, green, yellow then pink) being careful not to stir the colors together.
Put the jars in a large baking dish and fill the baking dish with about 1/4 inch of water.
Place in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick test comes out clean.  Don't worry if they are above the rim of the jar, they will sink a little as they cool.
Cool on the counter.
Frost and sprinkle and smile.
You can put the lid on the jars and keep them in the fridge for up to a week.  Happy day.
Easy Frosting
1 stick butter (8 ounces), softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat all the ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth.  Isn't that easy?  It's so much better than what ever it is in the canned frosting.


Chili and Cornbread

Chili and cornbread.  Cornbread and chili.  Hmmm.

Whichever way you say it, it's one of my favorite meals.  It's got it all.  Comfort, taste, all the food groups.  What not to love.

The chili I make to eat out of a bowl with cornbread is different from the chili I make when making Frito pie.  I don't know why it's different - it just is.  Don't judge me.

The cornbread I make to eat with chili in a bowl is a sweet cornbread (western friends, think Marie Calendar's cornbread.)  That's how I like it.  I also add a dollop of sour cream to my chili.  Yep.  It's good.

Writing down the recipe for chili is weird.  I've never actually measured anything to make chili.  I'm surprised at how much chili and cumin I use.  Ah well, it tastes good.


1 1/2 pounds hamburger, get the lean stuff
2 small or 1 large onion, large dice
2 bell peppers, orange or yellow or red, large dice
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3-4 Tablespoons chili powder (I use 4)
3-4 Tablespoons cumin (I use 4)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 14.5 ounce can tomato sauce
fill the tomato sauce can with water and add it
4 14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 14.5 ounce cans beans, whatever kind you like - I like kidney and black, rinsed and drained

Brown the hamburger in a large sauce pot.  Drain the meat, if needed.  Add the onion and cook until softened.
Add the pepper and cook.  Add the spices and stir and cook for about 5 minutes to release the flavor of the spices.  Dump in the tomato sauce, water, and undrained tomatoes.  Stir it up.
Rinse the beans and add them to the chili.  Taste it.  Add whatever you think it needs.  Really.  Your opinion is important.
Let the chili simmer for 1/2 hour or all afternoon.
Eat it up.


2 cups flour
2 cups cornmeal
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons baking powder
2 eggs
2 cups milk
2/3 cups oil

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Mix wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
Combine wet and dry ingredients together. (Kinda like they're getting married.  Oops, I guess that depends on what state you live in.)
Stir till combined.
Pour into a greased 13x9 pan and bake 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees.

*if you don't want that much cornbread, divide everything in half and bake in an 8x8 pan.


Stuffed Shells

These definitely got the stamp of approval from my family.  They were pretty easy, too.  I had just made my own red sauce to bottle (I posted that recipe right before this so I didn't forget what I did) but use whatever canned red sauce that you like. (I like Prego)

Stuffed Shells

12 oz. box of jumbo shells
24 oz. container of ricotta cheese (just come close)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 egg
1 cup mozzarella cheese, divided
12 basil leaves, chiffonade (cut up), you can leave this out but it is good with
1 cup spinach, I used frozen chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 pounds mild Italian sausage, loose
1 quart favorite red/marinara sauce

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the sausage in a skillet.
  When cooked add the sauce and stir it up.

In the meantime, cook the pasta according to the package directions less 2 minutes (it will absorb some of the sauce when cooking.)  Drain and rinse in cool water.

In the other meantime, combine the ricotta cheese, 1/2 of the Parmesan and 1/2 of the mozzarella, egg, basil, spinach, salt and pepper.  Stir it up.

Put 1/2 of the sauce/sausage mixture in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish.

Into each shell, put about 1 Tablespoon of the cheese mixture and place stuffed shell in the baking dish on top of the sauce.  Fill up that dish.

When all the shells are stuffed, pour the remaining sauce over them.  Sprinkle the remaining cheeses on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until it is hot and bubbly.

Tomato Sauce (red sauce)

My tomatoes are ripe and my friends tomatoes are ripe.  Everyones tomatoes are ripe.  I ended up with another sink-load of tomatoes.  All kinds of tomatoes.  Red ones, yellow ones, pink ones, green striped ones.  Tomatoes everywhere.

Other than throwing them at my kiddos (it's nearing the end of summer, no one would blame me), I needed to can them.  Again.

This is a good sauce.  You can use it for many things - pasta, pizza, add meat later, whatever.  I like this one.  It's chunky.  I like chunky.  It has a lot of veggies.  I like veggies.  I don't peel the tomatoes because of political and possibly religious objection, but the peel just gets lost in the chunkiness of the sauce.  You won't even know the skins are there.

This recipe yielded 7 quarts.  Told you I had a lot of tomatoes.  Feel free to cut it down.  Use those math skills.  You can do it.

Tomato Sauce

4 onions, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, minced
8 carrots, shredded
2 bell peppers (I use red, orange or yellow.  I don't like green.), chopped
8 bay leaves
1/2 cup fresh parsley (or 2 1/2 tablespoons dried)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 2 1/2 tablespoons dried)
4 Tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 tablespoon dried)
6 quarts (24 cups) fresh tomatoes, chopped
4 (6 ounces each) cans tomato paste
4 Tablespoons honey
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice or vinegar

Saute onion and garlic in a splash of vegetable oil until tender.  Add carrots, peppers, and all the herbs.  Stir it up.  Add tomatoes, paste, honey and salt and pepper - you can always add more salt and pepper later.  Simmer for about 1 hour.  Remove bay leaves and serve, freeze or can.
To can, ladle into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch of top.  Add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar per pint to assure acidity, seal with sterilized lids and process full jars in boiling water bath for 35 minutes.


Chicken and Rice (just 5 ingredients)

This is an easy, tasty dish.  It is a snap to put together, though it does take a while to bake.  Only 5 ingredients!

Chicken and Rice

2 cups of white rice (not instant)
4 cups (1 quart) of chicken broth
chicken - I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs this time because they were on sale.  I have used legs, breast, tenders, with or without skin and bone and it all turned out fine.  Put on as much as your family eats.  Mine was about 1 1/2 pounds.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet of onion soup mix (like Lipton)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Into a 13x9 baking dish, pour the uncooked rice.
Pour the chicken broth on the rice.
Put the chicken on top of this. I bet you didn't know chicken could swim. *teehee*
Blob the mushroom soup on top of the chicken.
Sprinkle the onion soup mix on top of everything.
Cover the whole thing with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 2 hours (or until the rice is soft.)
That's it.


Macaroni and Cheese

How many of you like Macaroni and Cheese?  How many of you have ever made it without the box 'o stuff?  Don't get me wrong - when my kiddos were little the box was an easy lunch.  They loved it.  I didn't.  I don't know what the orange powder is, but I'm pretty sure it's not cheese.  Now that my kiddos are older, I won't buy the box.  That's right.  I won't.  I don't tell my kiddos that they can't eat the orange powder.  Not at all.  If they want it, however, they can buy it themselves.

Happy Day.

Here is my go-to recipe for Mac and Cheese - using real cheese. You know, the kind you have to grate.  It really is better.

Macaroni and Cheese

 1 pound macaroni, cooked and drained
1 whole egg
1/2 stick (4 Tablespoon) butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk
1-2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 pound sharp Cheddar, grated but not pre-grated - they add plastic to the pre-grated so it won't stick together. (I usually use cheddar and whatever else I have - even brie and goat cheese) Salt Seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated pepper

If you are going to bake it, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, beat the egg.  In a large pot, melt the butter and sprinkle in the flour.  Whisk together over medium heat.  Cook for a couple of minutes, whisking constantly.  Don't let it burn.  Pour in the milk, add the mustard and whisk until smooth.  
Cook until thick, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low.

Take 1/4 cup of the sauce and slowly pour it into the beaten egg, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg.  Whisk together until smooth.  Pour the egg into the sauce, whisking constantly.  Stir until smooth. (You can skip the egg part, but it really does add something good.) 
 Add the cheese and stir to melt.  Taste to see how much salt it needs.  I will usually add about 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoned salt.  Sometimes, I will add a squirt of ketchup to the sauce and stir it in - but don't tell Jacob.  He hates ketchup, but loves my mac n' cheese.

Pour in the drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine.  Serve immediately (while it's still very creamy) or pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese and bake until bubbly and golden on top, 20-25 minutes.


Banana Bread

What do you think of when you hear "banana bread"?  Do you think of your grandma?  The smell?  The taste?  Love it?  Hate it?  Is it for breakfast or dessert?  Do you make it?  Have a favorite recipe?  Nuts or not?  Chocolate chips or not?

I have a favorite recipe for banana bread.  I also like it with no nuts.  My kiddos like it with chocolate chips or cream cheese.

When I buy bananas, they get eaten pretty fast.  Mostly.  My kiddos have figured out that if they leave the last 2 or 3 bananas until they are brown, chances are I will make them into bread - I hate wasting food.  Sneaky kids.  I really like that about them.

Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice (I have used vinegar in a pinch)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a loaf pan.
Cream butter and sugar.

Add eggs and beat.
Add bananas, milk and lemon juice.  (This is going to curdle the mixture.  Don't freak out.  This is good.  It will make it very moist.)
Add dry ingredients and mix it.
Add nuts and/or chocolate chips.  Or not.
Bake in the loaf pan for 1 hour.


Pot Roast - Super easy in the slow cooker

Some days (like yesterday) you need to come home to dinner already done.  This pot roast is VERY easy.  Throw it all in the slow cooker in the morning and come home to dinner.  I will sometimes make a different pot roast that is more complicated (uses red wine and a lot of yummy herbs and veggies), but this one is my family favorite.

I don't put the potatoes in the slow cooker with the meat because I think it makes them soggy, but you can if you want.  Go ahead - do it!  I will usually make mashed potatoes to go with this, but yesterday I was out of potatoes.  Hmmm.  Then, I remembered how Mom would sometimes make white rice to go with the gravy.  So good.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

pot roast, use whatever hunk 'o beef that you have. Mine was a 4-5 pound roast
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
salt and pepper
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 pound carrots (to make it easy, I used a bag of baby carrots)
1 onion, course chopped
1 package dry onion soup mix (like Lipton)
1 cup water

In a hot skillet, add oil.  Season meat with salt and pepper and brown in skillet, about 3-4 minutes per side.  (this really does make a difference to the finished product)  Watch out, this splatters all over, but it's worth it.
Add chopped veggies to the bottom of the slow cooker.
Place meat on top of veggies.
Sprinkle soup mix on top.
Pour water over everything in the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

To make the gravy:
Remove meat and veggies from the slow cooker.  Cover with foil to keep warm.
In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter.  To the butter, add 1/2 cup flour, whisking continuously.
Strain the liquid from the slow cooker into the saucepan, whisking continuously.  Cook until thickened.
If you need more, whisk in beef broth.
If the gravy is a little bland, season as you like or add a teaspoon of "Better than Bouillon" beef stock (that's what I do, it's good.)