Classic Strawberry Fluff

Sometimes something light and refreshing is just what I need. I have come to love an old classic again. Gelatin salads, or fluffs (that have whipped cream), were very popular when I was young but have seemed to lose popularity over the years. The title of salad is a loose one. A gelatin salad generally has some fruit, but gelatin is definitely the star. They are one of the easiest ways to have a summer (or anytime) dessert without the oven. This recipe is a fluff, which I prefer. It is just the perfect little treat at the end of the day.  

I have tried lots of variations of lots of recipes during these hot summer months, and this one is definitely my family’s favorite. My father-in-law even said he was hoping I’d have some when we came over for dinner one night…that’s a win in my book!! We all love this gelatin fluff (or salad if it makes you feel better). Call it what you want, but I know you will love it too. ~Kathy

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  • 1 large package (4.6 oz.) Cook and Serve Vanilla Pudding
  • 1 large package (6 oz.) Cherry Jell-O   
  • 2 ½ c. water
  • 12 oz. Cool Whip, thawed 
  • 2 heaping c. strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • 2 c. mini marshmallows

In a sauce pan, combine dry pudding mix, Jell-O powder, and water over medium heat until it comes to a boil, stirring to ensure all the powder is dissolved and well combined.   

Remove from heat and pour carefully into a large mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool slightly. 

Refrigerate until it has thickened (about 4 to 6 hours, but overnight is fine).

Once it has thickened, using a hand mixer beat until smooth and creamy.  

Fold in Cool Whip (one and a half 8 oz. containers).  This may take a couple of minutes to get well incorporated.  

Fold in strawberries and marshmallows.   

Refrigerate until served.

Scotcharoos

The Scotcharoo recipe was originally printed on the side of a Rice Krispies box in the mid 1960s.  That recipe became an instant classic, but we’ve updated our version to make it even better!  One of the best things about these treats is that they’re the perfect dessert for a hot summer night when you don’t want to turn on your oven. Our version adds the perfect amount of gooeyness that we always thought was missing from the original recipe.   Even if you once thought you didn’t love Scotcharoos, we think you’ll love ours. Make them when you want something sweet that also has a sense of nostalgia!   ~Kathy

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1 c. creamy peanut butter

1 c. plus 1 T. light corn syrup

¾ c. firmly packed brown sugar

3 T. butter

1/8 tsp. salt

½ tsp. vanilla

1 c. miniature marshmallows

5 c. Rice Krispies cereal

1 c. chocolate chips (I prefer milk chocolate, but semi-sweet would work fine)

½ c. butterscotch chips

Instructions:

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray.

In a heavy large pot combine the peanut butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, butter and salt. Place over medium high heat. Stir continuously; the sugar should completely dissolved and the mixture should be smooth and creamy. Remove from heat just as it begins to bubble. Immediately add marshmallows and vanilla. Stir until they are completely incorporated. Add rice cereal and mix carefully to completely coat.

Spread into prepared pan using a spatula. Be careful not to compact it tightly.  Set aside to cool.

In a microwave safe bowl, microwave chocolate and butterscotch chips in 30 second intervals, stirring between, until it is completely melted and smooth. Pour over cereal mixture and spread evenly.

Allow to cool (or refrigerate briefly) until the topping is set. Cut into bars and enjoy!

Cider Donut Bundt Cake

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My closest friends are people who know and understand that it is totally acceptable to eat cake for breakfast!  I first had this Cider Donut Bundt Cake when a friend served it at a brunch.  It has the perfect mild apple flavor to have with a piping hot cup of coffee. Giving the recipe the perfect flavors for fall are the touch of wheat flour and the hint of spices that mix with the apple. And while I have been quoted as saying that “cake is simply a vehicle that enables the consumption of frosting,” you really can’t go wrong with this cake and a dusting of cinnamon sugar. – Tracy

Ingredients:

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. whole-wheat flour

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. ground ginger

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 ¾ c. sugar

1 c. apple cider

¾ c. light vegetable oil (I use canola oil)

¾ c. unsweetened applesauce

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2 T. melted butter

For Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle:

1 T. cinnamon

2 T. sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk together both flours, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In another bowl, combine sugar, cider, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and eggs.  Add egg mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Pour into a very well-greased and floured bundt cake pan.  If using a flour cooking spray, spray generously.

Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

While cake is baking, remember to mix 1 T. of cinnamon with 2 T. of sugar for the sprinkle and set aside.

Place cake pan on a wire rack upon removal from the oven and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes before turning cake out onto plate.  Be careful turning out the cake as the pan itself may still be very warm.

Lightly brush cake top with melted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My older son is headed into pre-finals week of his second semester of college, and when I think about studying, I think about comfort food and care packages.  So, even though I personally hate all things banana, sometimes I have to take one for the team and make something that the men in my household love. “Dead week” is one of those times since both my boys LOVE this recipe – especially when you throw in some chocolate chips (of course, they think everything is better with chocolate chips, and they’re not wrong).  If you are a banana lover, make this your go-to recipe for banana bread. The expert banana bread eaters in my family guarantee you’ll love it. ~Tracy

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • ½ c. stick butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ c. mashed ripe* banana (usually approx. 2 large or 3 medium bananas)
  • ½ c. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mash bananas in small bowl until they form a sticky paste – set aside.

Mix sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Stir in eggs, one at a time, until well blended.  

Mix in bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.

Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt just until all ingredients are mixed together.  

Gently fold in chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into two greased and floured loaf pans (8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½).

Be sure oven rack is centered so that the tops of bread is positioned in the center of the oven.  Bake on 350°F for approximately 1 hour, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean (I start checking mine after about 50 minutes).  If tops begin to brown too much before done, loosely lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the loaves until they finish baking.  

When done, cool for approximately 10 minutes before removing from loaf pans. Cool completely before slicing.  

*Bananas are best for banana bread when the skin begins to blacken slightly and the bananas begin to feel somewhat mushy.

Lemon Cheesecake


Let me tell you a little story about how we stole a cheesecake from my sister.  It was totally by accident, I swear.  It was the day before Christmas Eve that we drove to my sister Tracy’s house for our side of the family’s Christmas celebration.  Tracy lives about two and half hours from us so we’re talking about a fairly significant road trip here.  When we got there, we put the food items we brought in their spare fridge in their garage.  Fun was had, gifts were opened, food was eaten and then returned to the garage fridge until time to go home. 

Fast forward to time to load the car.  My husband grabbed our food from the garage fridge before heading home.  We arrived home very late so we left the food in the car, since it was plenty cold outside.  The next morning, we realized we had an extra cake carrier, containing a creamy, dreamy pumpkin cheesecake that was meant for Tracy’s in-laws Christmas that day.  Oops!  Luckily, Tracy found it hilarious that we accidentally stole her cheesecake… after the initial shock wore off. 

My poor husband felt so bad that he offered to drive it all the way to their house.  Tracy insisted it was not necessary but my nephew was not so easily consoled.  He was looking forward to that cheesecake. (Can’t say I blame him…it was beyond delicious.  I tried really hard to feel guilty as I ate it).  As consolation, I offered to make him any cheesecake flavor he wanted for his upcoming birthday. That’s where this Lemon Cheesecake comes into play.  This was the birthday cheesecake he chose. 

His birthday was a month ago and I’ve made it again since then, plus I plan to make it for Easter as well.  It’s the kind of dessert that’s both rich and refreshing at the same time…it leaves you wanting more!  The crust is buttery, the filling is creamy, and the topping is an extra punch of sweet, tart lemon.  Worth every bit of effort to make all three components.  It’s sure to impress everyone who tastes it!  In fact, I am impressed every time I make it, if I do say so myself.  It’s hard to be humble.   ~Erin 

Lemon Curd Topping Ingredients:

  • The zest of 4-5 lemons
  • 1 ½ c. sugar
  • ¼ lb. (1 stick) real butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • ½ c. fresh lemon juice
  • A scant 1/8 tsp. salt (a generous pinch)

Crust Ingredients:

  • 3 c. finely crushed graham crackers (I crush them in a gallon baggie with a rolling pin.)
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 1/3 sticks of real butter, melted

Filling Ingredients:

  • 24 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ c. sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature*
  • The zest of 5 lemons (avoid the white pith)
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

Instructions for Lemon Curd Topping:

In a medium sauce pan, combine the lemon zest with the sugar.

Cream the butter into the sugar/zest mixture.

Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully combined; then stir in the lemon juice and salt until combined.

Cook over low/medium heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly, or until it coats the back of a spoon.  It may simmer slightly but don’t let it come to a boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool; transfer to the refrigerator to cool for at least 4 hours.

Run through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth if bits of egg are present in the curd.

Instructions for Crust:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large baggie, crush graham crackers a few at a time (I use a rolling pin to crush them) until you have approximately 3 cups.

Add to a medium bowl and stir in the sugar until well combined.

Stir in the melted butter until crumbs are well-coated.

Press graham crackers into the bottom and up the sides of a nine-inch spring form pan.

Bake for around 15 minutes.

Removed from the oven and set aside to cool.

Instructions for Filling:

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer.

Add eggs, one at a time, thoroughly incorporating each one before adding the next.

Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and combine thoroughly.

Add the filling to the crust and bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes. 

Remove from the oven an allow to cool for 30 minutes at room temp.  Transfer to the fridge to cool for at least 4 hours. Removed the sides of the spring form pan and spread on the lemon curd topping before slicing and  serving.

Coconut Lime Bars

At my house, it’s definitely not close to being spring.  I absolutely love the intermountain west, but this has been a LOOOONG winter.  There is NO sign of green grass here.  Seriously, we are still completely covered in snow!!!  I start to crave warmer days and “summer food”.  So until the snow is gone, these Coconut Lime bars are helping fill my need for warmth. Travel through food when necessary, I say!   You can eat these bars as soon as they are done, but I highly recommend letting them chill several hours before devouring!  ~Kathy

Ingredients for Bars:

  • 1 stick butter, softened (8 oz)
  • 1 1/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. lime zest
  • 2 1/8 c. flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. coconut toasted
  • 3 oz. white baking chocolate, finely chopped

Ingredients for Frosting:

  • 1 pkg. cream cheese, softened (8 oz)
  • ¾ c. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tsp. lime zest
  • 4 oz. white baking chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • ½ c. toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 350°.   Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.  

Start by making sure butter is extremely soft, just shy of melting.  Mix together softened butter and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Add in eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla and lime zest.  

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt.   Add to butter mixture and mix, just until combined.  Gently fold in coconut and white chocolate.

Spread the batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 19-23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For the frosting, beat the softened cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth.  Add in powdered sugar and lime juice.  Mix in zest and cooled melted white chocolate, combine well.   Spread over cooled bars and top with toasted coconut.   Chill 4 hours or overnight before serving.

Orange Cranberry White Chocolate Bars

Each year, I search and search for a recipe to send out with my Christmas cards. I found a similar recipe to this, tweaked it just a bit, and perfection was born. These have a ton of great flavor…they are a little sweet and a whole lot of delicious! You can use light or regular cream cheese for the frosting, add a little more or a little less orange zest, depending on your taste. Completely customizable to your tastes.  Plus, they turn out really pretty. Great for a holiday cookie exchange, gifts to neighbors, or to devour yourself! They are ah-maz-ing!! ~Kathy

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Blondie:

  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter
  • 1 1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 1/8 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (this helps distribute them more evenly throughout
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  • 4 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped or 1/2 ­ 2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Frosting / Topping:

  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened (regular or light)
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated orange zest
  • 4 oz. white baking chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and lightly grease a 9×13 ­inch pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a microwave­-safe bowl, melt the butter.
  3. Stir in the brown sugar until well­-combined.
  4. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla extract and orange zest.
  5. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon until well combined; then fold in the cranberries and white chocolate.
  6. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
  7. Bake for 18­-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist (not gooey) crumbs. Do NOT over bake!!!
  8. Let the bars cool completely in the pan.
  9. For the frosting, using an electric mixer (handheld or stand mixer), beat the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar and salt together until light and fluffy (about 2­-3 minutes).
  10. Mix in the vanilla.
  11. Add about half of the melted chocolate and mix until creamy.
  12. Spread the frosting onto the cooled bars.
  13. Sprinkle with cranberries and orange zest and drizzle the remaining white chocolate over the top. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set.
  14. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

3C Oatmeal Cookies ~ Chocolate, Coconut, Cranberries

I bake cookies.  Often. OK, too often.  Actually, I take that back – it’s always a good time for cookies!  I definitely have my favorite recipes, but often, when I try something new, I’m left a little disappointed that I didn’t make one of my standard favorites.  So, this time, I decided to create my own recipe combining some of my favorite things (there’s a song in there somewhere, I think). The result was this plate of cookie perfection!  This cookie is the perfect blend of chewy and chocolatey, while including the perfect hint of tart flavor with the dried cranberries. Even for folks who don’t like raw coconut, the toasted coconut in these cookies provides the perfect amount of nuttiness.  Try ‘em today! ~Tracy

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Ingredients:
  • 1 c. stick butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¾ c. brown sugar
  • ½ c. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ c. quick cook oats
  • 1 c. dried Cranberries
  • 4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped into small chunks
  • 1 ½ c. toasted coconut (see note)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat eggs and sugars together until creamy.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Pour into butter mixture and mix well.
  5. Stir in oatmeal and cranberries just until mixed into cookie mixture.
  6. Gently stir in the toasted coconut to avoid breaking it up.
  7. Drop by generous tablespoons full onto sprayed or parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes (cooking times vary by oven).
  9. Cool on rack before serving.

Note: To toast coconut, thinly spread coconut in medium skillet. Cook on medium to low temperature until coconut begins to brown slightly. Stir coconut occasionally until all turns a golden brown color. Watch the coconut closely and adjust temperature to avoid burning. Once most of the coconut is toasted and golden (you may have a few pieces that stay somewhat white), remove from skillet and spread on wax paper or parchment paper and allow to cool before use.

Cranberry Butter (Instant Pot or Stove Top)

Electric pressure cookers are the new-fangled popular kitchen gadget, aren’t they? Do you have one? I do, and I like it a lot — but I haven’t used it as much as I should. Okay, technically, mine is not an Instant Pot, it’s a Power Cooker XL. Instant Pot is the Kleenex of the facial tissue world. People use the brand name and product name interchangeably. What can ya do?

Lately, I’ve been making an attempt to use my electric pressure cooker more. It’s handy, so I might as well take advantage of its speed & versatility. Recently, I’ve seen a lot of fruit “butter” recipes on the internet. Many of them are crockpot recipes. Well, these led me to wonder if I could do the same thing with my pressure cooker. Turns out I can! I decided to put my own seasonal spin on the fruit butter trend by making this Cranberry Butter. It came out perfect on the very first try; I kid you not! It’s tart but sweet with warm spices. I think my eyes rolled back in my head the first time I tasted it on a cinnamon bagel with cream cheese If you like cranberry, you’ll love this. ~Erin

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Ingredients:

  • 1 (12 oz.) bag fresh cranberries, washed
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 lemon or small orange, washed & cut in half
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 T. cornstarch
  • ½ c. sugar (or sweetener of choice)*

Instant Pot Instructions:

  1. Place the cranberries, sugar, water, lemon (cut side up), cinnamon, and cloves in the electric pressure cooker.
  2. Pressure cook for 30 minutes; quick-release pressure.
  3. Remove the lid and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Remove & discard the lemon.
  5. Blend the cranberries with an immersion blender until smooth.
  6. Add cornstarch and continue to blend until well combined.
  7. Simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes, until thickened.  
  8. Cool and serve on toast or bagels with cream cheese, in oatmeal, etc.  Keep Refrigerated.

Stove-top Instructions:

  1. In a medium stockpot, stir together the cranberries, water, sugar, spices and juice from half a lemon (instead of the whole lemon as in the Instant Pot instructions).
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered.
  3. Remove from the heat and blend with an immersion blender.
  4. Add the cornstarch and blend again until smooth.
  5. Return to the heat and simmer over low heat, continuously stirring, 3 – 4 minutes until mixture is thickened.
  6. Cool and serve on toast or bagels with cream cheese, in oatmeal, etc.  Keep Refrigerated.

WW Freestyle Info.: This makes about 1 1/2 cups of cranberry butter. With regular sugar, 1 Tablespoon is 1 point. With a zero point sweetener, this could easily be zero points per serving.*

*I have not tested this recipe with a sugar substitute so I suggest adding it gradually, after blending in cornstarch, and taste-testing for desired sweetness.

Need an immersion blender? Check out our Four Sisters Favorite Things post for a recommendation. Plus enter to win one of our favorite kitchen gadgets!  This can also be blended in a regular blender but you have to cool the mixture almost completely to room temp before blended.  Never blend hot liquids in a regular blender!

Christmas Cranberry Cobbler

My sisters and I have a love for all things cranberry. I even love the cranberry ‘sauce’ that you must carefully remove from its can so that it retains that perfect can shape. With the holiday season about to be in full swing, I’m already planning which family get-together (or rare weekend at home) can be an excuse to make one of my favorites. This Christmas Cranberry Cobbler is the perfect combination of tart cranberries and a sweet cobbler topping. It’s great by itself or topped with a couple of scoops of your favorite vanilla ice cream. I’ve even been known to eat it for breakfast….cranberries are fruit, after all. ~Tracy

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Ingredients:
  • 2 12 oz. bags of fresh cranberries
  • ½ c. + 2 T. granulated sugar
  • ½ c. packed brown sugar
  • zest from 2 med. oranges
  • juice from 2 med. Oranges
  • 2 tsp. Corn starch

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1 ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ c. brown sugar
  • ⅓ c. granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 ½ tsp. Baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • ⅓ c. boiling water

Ingredients for sprinkle on top:

  • ¼ tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 T. granulated sugar

Instructions: 

  1. Rinse cranberries and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add orange zest and juice to cranberries. Stir in sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch and combine the entire mixture. Set cranberries aside.
  3. In a separate medium mixing bowl for topping, combine flour, cinnamon, both sugars, salt, and baking soda.
  4. Chop the butter into small pieces and use a pastry cutter to combine it with the flour mixture until all is crumbly.
  5. Add boiling water and mix with the flour mixture until forms a thick doughish batter.
  6. Spoon the cranberries in a 9×13 casserole dish that you have sprayed with cooking spray. Be sure to transfer all of the juices.
  7. Dollop spoonsful of the batter over the top of the cranberries covering the top.
  8. Combine the ¼ tsp. of cinnamon and the tablespoon of sugar and sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for approximately 40 minutes.
  10. Allow to stand and thicken for approx. 15 minutes before serving.