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Pouring batter into baking panCooking should be fun, and there is little more rewarding and fulfilling than sharing the kitchen with a grandchild who likes to learn. We have a young grandson who loves to be in the kitchen when we are preparing anything from soups and salads to desserts. He is one of those children who snacks continuously, and enjoys trying most new food items to which we introduce him. He uses one of those 2-step ladders to reach the counter top, and even likes to prep and sanitize the work area, under close supervision, of course. In this photo he is pouring the cake batter to make a pineapple upside down cake.

Recently, during a visit, out of the blue, he stated that we should make a pie. A few months ago he and I made a raisin pie with a lattice top, and he enjoyed learning to cut and place the lattice on top. Checking what we had on hand to make a quick pie, I found a deep-dish graham cracker crust in the freezer, and in the pantry were a can of apple pie filling and another of lemon pie filling, along with a box of Crumble Crisp Topping. A perfect project for the little guy! Here’s how we put it together.

Steps in Sour Apple and Graham Cracker CrispIngredients:
1 Deep dish Graham Pie Crust (two layer)
1 can (21 oz) apple pie filling
1 can (15.5 oz) lemon pie filling
1 box (10 oz) Crumble Crisp Topping Mix
2 Tbsp butter, melted (or amount specified by the topping mix)
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 F
2. Place the room temperature graham pie crust on a cookie sheet
3. Place in preheated oven for 5 minutes, then cool before filling
4. Add the apple pie filling, spreading evenly over the crust
5. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the layer
6. Add the lemon pie filling, spreading evenly over the bottom layer
7. Prepare the Topping according to instructions on the box
8. Spread the crumb topping evenly over the pie, spreading to the edge
9. Place in oven, on the cookie sheet, and bake 25 minutes.
10. Spoon into bowls while still warm, and, if desired, top with a scoop of ice cream.

This quick and easy dessert was a hit with the family! The contrasting sweetness of the apple and lemon pie fillings, combined with the Crumb Topping made for a festival of flavors going on with every bite. It was fun to make, and fun to eat! And, if you have little ones that like to help, this goes together quickly, keeping their interest, and the short cooking time gives them almost instant rewards. Enjoy!

Google recently released their “Google’s Year in Search 2016.” One category included was a listing of the top-searched food recipes for the year. We took a look in our own collection to gather our recipes for these delicious, and sometimes, just fun, items to create our own list of favorites in 2016.

1. Green Bean Casserole
Green Bean CasseroleThis classic casserole might be the star of your holiday table, but it isn’t just for holidays and pitch-in dinners any more. In 2016 home cooks were bringing this side dish to their table throughout the year, and we commonly see at least a couple of versions of this dish on pitch-in dinner tables. We are always delighted to try other’s approach to this staple. Here is our recipe for a Green Bean Casserole, with Mushrooms, Bacon, Onions and two optional Cheeses.

2. Brussels Sprouts
Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts with Cipollini OnionsThe Brussels sprout continues to be super popular this year; it’s the only green vegetable that got its own Google search spot in the top 10. Here is our recipe for Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts, and, you might also like our Browned Brussels Sprouts with Cipollini Onions.

3. Hashbrown Casserole
Hash Brown CasseroleCasseroles continue to dominate the top 10 list, and for good reason; they can be prepared ahead of time, chilled, warmed, and served later, making them very versatile and reliable. One of the most popular recipes searched is the ever-popular hashbrown casserole. This has been a Christmas Breakfast staple at our house for many years, and I prepared it a number of times for Men’s Breakfast at church. Get the recipe here.

4. Guacamole
GuacamoleAnother simple-to-make delicacy made it to the top of the charts this year. It’s guacamole made from wonderful Haas avocados. Avocados are full of monounsaturated fat and nutrients, especially potassium, B vitamins, 11 different carotenoids, and vitamin E. It makes a great dip with tortilla or corn chips, excels when planted by the spoonful on top of entrees, sides, salads, and even when served sliced in soups and tacos. The process is quick and easy, and produces a luscious, silky smooth dip with a hint of lime. You’ll find our recipe here.

5. Chicken Marsala
Chicken Tenderloin MarsalaThis is a delicious, classic chicken dish that used to be taught in junior high school cooking classes. Our Italian-American version calls for breaded chicken breasts that are braised with Marsala wine, mushrooms and onion. Paprika provides a smokiness to offset the sweetness of the wine. Quick and easy to assemble, this dish is ideal for a simple weeknight dinner, and is elegant enough to gain status as a longtime favorite for entertaining company. You can find our recipe here.

6. Chicken Tetrazzini
Chicken TetrazziniIf you’re not familiar with Chicken Tetrazzini, this essentially is a bowl of luscious pasta loaded with lots of chicken and mushrooms. This is one of Lea’s favorite dishes, to make, and to eat. If you have time to make your own delicious egg noodles, you can take this dish to a whole new level. Get the recipe right here.

7. Snow Cream
Homemade Ice CreamSnow cream can be one of two distinct desserts; a cream-based dessert with one or more flavoring agents added, or, a dessert in which snow is mixed with a sweetened dairy-based liquid to make an ice cream substitute. We rarely see snow here in Central Texas, so we tend to go with the cream-based version. Get the recipe here. Our recipe is located here.

8. Buttercream Frosting
Buttercream frosting on mini-muffinsIt’s great that there are enough cooks out there that want to learn to make their own buttercream frosting, rather than giving in to the ease of buying it at the store. It’s completely simple to make, and totally essential for baking when you want that extra measure of flavor that comes only from homemade buttercream. Our recipe includes a tip to avoid getting the frosting too runny. The recipe is located here.

9. Pork Chops
seared-pork-tenderloin-medallions2_smlThe ever-popular pork chop topped this year’s Google search charts again, which is not so surprising considering how easy or elegant this homey dinner staple is to prepare. We have lots of pork chop recipes on our Entrees page, and one of our favorites, Apple-Ginger Thick Cut Pork Chops, is located here.

10. Turkey Gravy
Pan Gravy with Chicken Fried ChickenSearches for turkey gravy rose to new heights in the last few weeks prior to Thanksgiving, and, according to Google, it was very popular this year! Once you learn to master gravy making, you can pretty much turn pan drippings and fond from any dish into a silky smooth and extra flavorful pan sauce or gravy to serve with your meal. Here’s our recipe and some tips to help.

These delicious recipes are essential for every recipe starter collection, and all have countless versions that have been developed by seasoned cooks over the years. Historically, the most adventurous cooks had extensive libraries of cookbooks to use for inspiration and exploration. Trading recipes with others who had an interest in expanding their meal offerings was a very common practice. Today, there are many other ways to find a recipe, including that quick search on the web, including our own collection. We hope you enjoy our tried and true recipes, and look forward to hearing about your favorite variations, too.

American Apple Pie
Pie with baked and browned crustWe always chuckle when we hear, “As American as apple pie.” The first recipe for apple pie was written in 1381 England, and used figs, raisins, and pears as sweeteners. Early apple pie recipes rarely called for sugar, an expensive and hard-to-get item at the time. (Never fear . . . our recipe calls for sugar). This is an excellent, and easy to make apple pie. Get the recipe here.

Old Fashioned Cherry Pie
Old Fashioned Cherry PieThis is the classic cherry pie of old, made from fresh sour cherries (we list some alternatives in case you don’t have a cherry tree in your back yard). This recipe even includes directions for making your own delicious pie crust from a very old recipe Lea found in an old church cookbook many years ago. The recipe also is listed below. It is, by far, the best pie crust we have ever had. It is very easy to make, and it never fails to please. Find the pie recipe here.


Classic Peach Pie

Peach Pie with Butter Dots

Peach Pie with Butter Dots

The delicate flavor of the peach is very unique and produces a very delicate aroma and taste sensation that is highly valued throughout the world. The sweetness of the ripe peach is due primarily to the natural sugars giving the fruit a very sweet taste. Served with an outstanding flavorful crust, the peach pie becomes a work of art that is well received at the dining table. This peach pie is classically prepared, and quick and easy to assemble. Mix peaches, cinnamon, nutmeg and tapioca for a special treat that will bring them back for more. Get the recipe here.

Raisin Pie
Raisin PieBefore there was refrigeration, fresh fruits were not readily available, but most homes had dried raisins on hand. This pie became a favorite because the ingredients were always available and the pie kept well. Some recipes include milk, making it more like a custard pie, and others include water, but they all seem to agree on the necessity of a double-crusted pie, usually with a lattice top. Get the recipe here.

Nestle’s Toll House Pie
Nestle's Toll House PieLarry wasn’t kidding when he summed up what this pie is; a chocolate chip cookie on a pie shell! Why is the toll house cookie one of the best loved cookies, and why is this pie version of it so special? Let me count the ways; Butter, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, chopped nuts, and a whole lot of semi-sweet chocolate chips on a pie crust! Get the recipe here.

Lea’s Pumpkin Pie
:ea's Pumpkin PieLea received this recipe on a postcard from Dottie Vaughn in 1970 when we lived at 924 Sunset Ridge Drive, Danville, Illinois. This recipe has always been our favorite pumpkin pie! The original recipe name was “Prue’s Pumpkin Pie”, but Lea figures that she has made it enough, she’ll will make it her own! Creamy pumpkin mixed with brown and white sugar, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger delivers the silkiness and flavors that have well passed the test of time. Get the recipe here.

Old Fashioned Homemade Pie Crust
Lea's Pie CrustNothing shouts “home-made!” like a buttery pie crust. Yes, you can easily make your own homemade pie crust, and the result is so much better than store-bought frozen pie crusts. The most classic pie or pastry crust is made with butter, but can take some practice to master (f you handle it too much it will end up tough). A more forgiving pie crust is one that is made with a mixture of butter and shortening. That way you get the flavor of the butter, with the easy flakiness that comes from using shortening. Our recipe goes one better: butter flavored shortening! Get the recipe here.

You can be this year’s pitch-in dinner rock star, with tried and true recipes for some of the best flavors that have withstood the tests of time! With easy-to-follow instructions on how to prepare each recipe, you’ll easily master old favorites with new successes.

There is always room on the dessert table for easy snacks on the go, and nothing fits the bill better than homemade cookies. Here are some of our favorite recipes that are always a hit at every pitch-in.

Snowballs
Snowball CookiesThese cookies are known by many names, but they are snowballs to us, and they have been a family favorite for decades. These are a joy to make, go together quickly, and bake for only a few minutes. Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla, and your choice of almonds or pecans, and roll them in powdered sugar, and you’ll have a new family favorite! Get the recipe here.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Peanut Butter CookiesPeanut butter cookies served warm have always been a favorite around our house! These cookies taste great without the additional sprinkle of sugar on top, but they do have some additional eye appeal with those sparkling crystals on the surface. These are good any time, but, for the youngsters, they take on a whole new dimension when served alongside a cup of hot chocolate for dipping! The recipe is located here.

Spritz Cookies
Spritz CookiesLea has been making these cookies since before we had children. They are one of her favorite Christmas cookies. She often colors the dough with a few drops of green food coloring and sprinkles them with red colored sugar. The green Christmas trees really look nice on a tray of Christmas goodies. The recipe is located here.

Snicker Doodle Cookies
Snicker Doodle CookiesThe Snicker Doodle is a classic cookie, and is a very widely available old-fashioned recipe. But, you just can’t argue with delicious! So, although this may be a recipe that exists in every cookbook, old and new, and on every baking site, here is the version we have used for years. If nothing else, this is simply a reminder of how delicious cinnamon, sugar and butter can be when creamed together! This was one of our children’s favorites, and now the grandsons clamour for them. The recipe is located here.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies
Chewy Oatmeal CookieChewy and moist, these cookies are the basis for so many potential variations it challenges the imagination. You could add chocolate chips, if you like, or your favorite dried fruit, chopped nuts. Or, use canned pumpkin, mashed banana or applesauce to moisten. Instead of vanilla extract, you can substitute with 3 tablespoons of dark rum. This cookie is so versatile, you can use it as the basis for a whole cookie section with endless varieties of variations. Find the basic recipe here.

We all have friends and acquaintances who are known for one or two dishes that are their specialty and theirs is the oft requested contribution for every pitch-in. Perhaps one of these recipes will become “your” dish! Have some fun, and give them a whirl!

Christmas morning is a time that you shouldn’t have to spend any more time in the kitchen than you want too. Here is a small collection of some of the dishes we would have at our house when our children, and then the grandchildren, would come to spend Christmas eve with us.

Walton House B&B Christmas Table SettingAfter the children were tucked into bed, adults set the breakfast table and prepared some casserole dishes that could be slipped into the refrigerator over night, and then into the oven in the morning. Buttered toast and hot chocolate were served first thing Christmas morning while we admired with anticipation all the presents under the tree. After opening our presents, the aromas coming from the kitchen foretold a delicious brunch featuring some of our favorite dishes.

Homemade Hot Chocolate with Buttered Toast
Hot Chocolate with Buttered Toast Sliced for DippingHomemade hot chocolate mix makes it really easy to make a warm, comforting, drink for everyone with very little fuss. Hot chocolate with buttered toast sliced for dipping was always a family favorite for early Christmas morning. We also kept a quart jar of the mix in the guest coffee area at our bed and breakfast so guests could enjoy a cup by one of the fireplaces any time they wanted. Get the recipe here.

Egg and Breakfast Sausage Casserole
Egg and Breakfast Sausage CasseroleWe made this a number of times on Christmas eve for our Christmas morning brunch. It’s always fun to get everyone in the kitchen mixing and preparing casseroles late Christmas eve after the children were in bed. Come morning, it is so nice to be able to pop everything in the oven, and then take a break from opening gifts and sit down to a great meal. We always had this with the Good Potato Casserole. Get the recipe here.

Egg and Sausage Casserole with Biscuit Mix
Egg & Cheese CasseroleThis is Larry’s recipe, which he developed during their Bed & Breakfast days. Using biscuit mix, rather than bread crumbs, it is loftier, and presents great eye appeal. It was always a hit with their B&B guests, and has the old familiar warmth of the Italian fragrance and flavors that really stimulated our appetites on Christmas morning. Get the recipe here.

Good Potatoes (Hash Brown Casserole)
Hashbrown Casserole with Chicken Soup and Corn FlakesTalk about wonderfully flavorful comfort food for those cold winter mornings! Using frozen hash brown potatoes, chicken soup, sour cream and cheese, topped with corn flake cereal, this dish is too simple for the wonderful aromas it creates. It can be prepared the night before, covered and refrigerated until morning! This is one of our favorites, and the entire family has delighted at this dish for many Christmas mornings. Get the recipe here.

Walton House Orange French Toast
pix-2008-walton-house-orange-french-toastLarry delighted a great many B&B guests with this delightful breakfast! It was the favorite of a lot of returning guests. We were amazed at how many people would remember exactly what they had eaten on a prior visit, and asked him to fix it again! The French toast in poached over medium low heat, and served upside down on a garnish of raspberry sauce, sprinkled with powered cinnamon-sugar, and topped with whipped cream. Get the recipe here.

Carrots, Potatoes and Onions
Fried Carrots, Potatoes & OnionsThis is a very simple, but comforting, dish that can be assembled very quickly, and with very little fuss, left on the stove top to cook over medium heat. The dish only needs to be turned over once when the bottom layer is cooked through and begins filling your home with delicious aromas. Originally this was fried in bacon grease for extra flavor, and has long been a long time family favorite. Get the recipe here.

Christmas Morning Coffee Cake (Monkey Bread)
Christmas Morning Coffee CakeOur family has enjoyed this Monkey Bread recipe several different times at Christmas; so much so that our granddaughters dubbed it Christmas Morning Coffee Cake. But, it would be a nice breakfast surprise any time! Simple to assemble and bake, it will become a favorite in your family, too. We’ve seen a lot of variations of this, but find that we keep coming back to this version. Caution….do not try to put more than the number of rolls called for in this recipe, as they may spillover while rising. Here’s our recipe.

Comfort food is what we like to call it, and we all love it. Food that warms the soul and creates a warm and comfortable feeling to combat the cold weather doldrums. Here are some of our dishes that fill the bill and are great additions to the wintertime dinner table.

Roasted Pumpkin with Maple Chipotle Glaze
Roasted Pumpkin with Maple Chipotle GlazeHere’s a spin on traditional pumpkin dishes for the fall and winter seasons. Using a small 2-pound pie pumpkin that is first boiled and then roasted, the wedges are colorful and full of flavor. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce combined with maple syrup create an exciting mix of flavors, and the roast delivers the beautiful fall color. Get the recipe here.

Barbecued Pork Spareribs
Smoked BBQ Pork RibsIf you haven’t tried to barbecue pork ribs, here is a detailed set of instructions to take you through the steps of creating a flavor much like an outdoor campfire style Kansas City sauce. The BBQ is wonderfully delightful with an additional pepper-caramel note after the flambe step. The sauce exchanges flavors with the dry rub during the tented process, and creates a flavor that is better than either one by itself. Get the recipe here.

Polish Sausage with Peppers and Onions
Polish Sausage with Pepper and OnionsThis is one of those surprise recipes that are tossed together with whatever ingredients you have on hand, and it instantly became a hit, being spread throughout cooking sites with their own little variations of it. There are many similar recipes available on line now, but this is the original that Lea put together for an impromptu lunch one chilly day. Get it here.

BBQ Pulled Pork SandwichBBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

You have a number of options with this recipe; If you want to serve the large, stadium size buns (5″), you will need to increase your pork accordingly because you will be going from a 1/3 lb serving to 1/2 pound per sandwich. You lose about 1/3 of the weight when you slow cook pork, so you can adjust your recipe as needed. The recipe is located here.

Baked Pasta Beef Tacos
Baked Pasta Beef TacosThis is a hardy comfort food that uses jumbo pasta shells stuffed with a rich, spicy blend of cooked ground beef, cream cheese, and chili powder with taco sauce topped with cheeses and sour cream. The combination creates a Mexican flavor delivered in a pasta shell! Garnish with diced tomatoes, lettuce, sliced avocados, ripe olives, or verde sauce, if desired. This is a very versatile dish that you can customize to make your own. The recipe is located here.

What recipes do you use to spice up your wintertime tables? Do you have favorites that will be passed on to your families? Drop us a note and share your thoughts. Happy cooking!

Pitch-in dinners are a fun way to share togetherness and fellowship with friends and family, and you can kick up the fun factor by making it a themed pitch-in. Make it an “Appetizers Only” party, Munchies Only, with dips and things to dip into them, “Some like it HOT,” featuring spicy dishes, Hot Casseroles Only, Cold Salads Only, or, “How Sweet it is!” desserts only. Here are some dishes, with links to our recipes, that you can pass along as ideas.

Appetizers Only
Sweet Swedish Meatballs
Cheese and Sweet Pickles
Breaded Mushrooms
Honey Roasted Cipollini Onions

Munchies Only
Rye Bread with Dill Dip
Herb Oil Fried Zuchinni with Ranch Dip
Spinach Artichoke Dip
Stuffed Baby Portobello Mushrooms

“Some like it HOT”
Campfire Chili
Gene Vaughn’s 2-Alarm Chili
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Peppercorn Encrusted Roast Chicken

Hot Casseroles Only
Creamy Four Cheese Macaroni
Orange & Gold Potatoes au Gratin
Sour Cream and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Cold Salads Only
Grapefruit and Fennel Salad
Sweet and Sour Yellow Beets
Cauliflower and Broccoli Salad
Green and Gold Pea Salad

How Sweet it is! desserts
Peach Cobbler
Butternut Cream Pie
Gooey Butter Cake
Pear Bread Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

Have fun with your pitch-in dinners! Select a theme and see how much more fun the party is when you elevate it to a whole new level. And, be sure to let us know how your idea worked out!

Harvesting apples in the fall is such a rewarding undertaking! We, and our friends and extended families, always looked forward to the apple harvesting season. We would drive out to one or more of the local orchards where we could gather all we wanted of the various varieties of apples. Apple Cider PressWe like to press a blend of apples to make apple cider, applesauce, and apple butter, each of which requires a crafty blending of a variety of types of apples. We also would make up a couple dozen pie shells using Lea’s pie dough recipe. We then peeled and sliced apples, arranged some in pie shells, others in freezer bags, seasoned them up, and wrapped them tightly for storage in the freezer for later use.

Sliced Johnathan and Granny Smith ApplesApples are such a versatile fruit they can be used as stand alone snacks, of course, and also used to make sauces, glazes, side dishes and desserts. They are canned, pressed to produce apple juice, baked, fried, sauteed, braised, and all the other techniques. Raw or cooked, apples are glorious. We have a few favorite apple items that come to mind when the cooler weather arrives.

Cinnamon Apple Tortilla Roll Ups, Apple Stuffed Pork Chops, Apple-Ginger Thick Cut Pork Chops, Apple Dump Cake,Apple Pie with Rum Raisin Sauce and one last mention of the slice of hot apple pie with Rum Raisin Sauce. If you don’t care for the rum, here’s a version of Raisin Sauce you might like better.

For all of these reasons, we are real fans of the glorious apple. Oh, and if you’ve never tried it, one of the great variations on apple pie is melting a slice of cheddar cheese on top and then drizzling with a cinnamon sauce. I first ran across this delectable treat decades ago when I was an announcer at a local radio station, and the pharmacy across the street still had a lunch counter where they served their apple pie with this topping. Here’s a snapshot4 Year old lattices a pie from the scrapbook: our 4-year old grandson putting the lattice on a treat just before going into the oven. It’s as easy as apple pie!

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