Category Archives: Sweet

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

Today, I am excited to share something very special with you, just in time for Thanksgiving; Haddon Hall Gingerbread.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread is a delightful, dark and distinctive cakelike gingerbread with deep notes of rich molasses and warm spices. It is another of the treasures from my Grandmother Ibby’s recipe box and is a favorite of my mom’s. Not just a favorite fall treat but a favorite childhood memory.  Crisp fall days spent playing outside or afternoons walking home from school, cold nose, tingling fingers. Opening the front door of the big old Victorian house, a deep breath and a spreading smile as she is greeted by the scent of her favorite gingerbread baking in the oven.

I can just picture her standing there in her cotton dress, knit sweater, saddle shoes, dropping her books and inhaling deeply, happy to be home and anticipating that warm gingerbread dolloped with fresh whipped cream.

What a picture of home and comfort. Perfect for this time of year when we nestle in and regain our focus on what is most important. Home. Family. Tradition.

While in our family, this will always be my grandmother’s gingerbread, Haddon Hall Gingerbread does have some pretty interesting roots. And apparently a very interesting effect on men.

Yes, this post started out as a simple and sweet remembrance from my mother’s childhood. A favorite recipe to share for the upcoming holiday season. But as is so often the case, there is more to this story.

The research I have done has yielded some intriguing and even amusing results and several different variations on the recipe; none quite the same as my grandmother’s. From what I’ve read, Haddon Hall Gingerbread originally gained the attention of American housewives in 1933 with a Gold Medal flour ad on the back cover of the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

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Photo Credit

And after reading this advertisement, I must say, how could it not?

The ad encourages the lady of the house to buy Gold Medal flour for the “Kitchen Tested, simplest, surest, easiest way to baking success.” And if that wasn’t reason enough to purchase Gold Medal flour, the recipe set included in each bag was certainly an irresistible offer.

“Rich man… poor man… Every man goes for Haddon Hall Gingerbread. An old favorite marvelously transformed by adding cream cheese and lemon sauce. The recipe … with 19 others … is given free inside every size sack of Gold Medal ‘kitchen-tested’ flour.”

Intriguing? Perhaps. But irresistible?

“Amazing Collection brings the never before published secrets of world famous chefs for foods that enchant men including the one for Haddon Hall Gingerbread shown here – The creation of William J. Holmes, Pastry Chef, Chalfonte-Haddon Hall, Atlantic City.”

Hmmmm, man enchanting recipes.

Still not convinced?

“What your husband has to say about this Haddon Hall gingerbread will bring the roses to your cheeks. And you’ll find baking this way a thrilling adventure.”

Rosey blushing cheeks? A thrilling adventure without putting your shoes on and leaving the kitchen? What self respecting gal could resist that promise.

“Get Gold Medal ‘Kitchen Tested’ flour at any grocery store. Each sack contains the recipe for Haddon Hall Gingerbread and 19 other ‘foods that enchant men.’ Try them.”

Now, before you set aside 80 years of progress and attempt to manipulate the man in your life with baked goods, keep in mind the Gold Medal flour sacks no longer contain these bewitching recipes.

Do not dismay! Fortunately for you, I have one of them right here. I’m not sure any of us could handle all 19 anyway but a little bit of a rosey cheeked thrill shouldn’t be too dangerous.

Haddon Hall Gingerbread

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cup Butter
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Cup Molasses
  • 2 1/4 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Cup boiling water

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Blend in the eggs and the molasses.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternately with the boiling water, beginning and ending with the dry.

Pour into a greased and floured 8×8 pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes.

My mom remembers my grandmother always serving this with whipped cream but I think a sprinkling of powder sugar is pretty nice too. She also never served it with the cream cheese layer or the lemon sauce and frankly, I can’t imagine it needing either.

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Just before Halloween, I made a batch and packaged some up for friends in a festive treat box. That was before I had done some research and discovered the true power of this recipe. I’m expecting a thank you note any day now.

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So, now we know that this is no ordinary gingerbread but where does the name “Haddon Hall” come from? It could be named for the Chalfonte-Haddon Hall Hotel in Atlantic City where Chef William J. Holmes worked but I imagine it goes back further than that. The Gold Medal flour ad says that with the addition of a cream cheese layer and lemon sauce, Chef Holmes’ creation was an updated version of an “old favorite”.

According to Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes, “Haddon Hall is a famous old medieval mansion in Derbyshire, England. It’s not too distant from a Derbyshire town named Ashbourne, which is famous for it’s gingerbread. According to Derbyshire tradition, Ashbourne gingerbread was first created by a French prisoner of war, who decided to remain in the town after the Napoleonic wars. His special gingerbread recipe was then handed down through generations of  his descendants.

Gingerbread is a tradition in the area. Gingerbread men were made and sold in country towns at Easter Fairs and Autumn Wakes Weeks. Fashioned in molds, they were decorated with colored hats and scarlet or white sugar buttons. They can still be found for sale today in Ashbourne and the surrounding area.

So, I’m speculating that the Betty Crocker ‘Haddon Hall’ (there is a version of the recipe in the 1965 Betty Crocker cookbook) gingerbread recipe  was likely an Americanized version of the below Ashbourne gingerbread recipe.”

More about Haddon Hall.

Perhaps that “old favorite” does have its roots in the accounting above and in Ashbourne Gingerbread and the Haddon Hall of Derbyshire; I’d like to think so. But I could find nothing to confirm the origin with certainty so, it remains a food mystery. Which kind of makes this recipe all the more intriguing.

Regardless of the origin and the mystery, the romantic Madison Avenue promises of 1933, or if this is an exact duplicate of the recipe from that magical little booklet in the flour sack or was again altered by my grandmother, this recipe is special.

Haddon-Hall-Gingerbread

So break out the mixer, pans and measuring cups (if you dare) and be ready for your kitchen to be filled with the scent of fall and family and home.

Anything else is your business.

Enjoy!

If you are looking for some great recipes for your Thanksgiving Dinner, here are a few of my favorite sides and Thanksgiving Traditions, originally posted last fall.

This Thanksgiving,  I hope you have a beautiful day filled with the people you love and a grateful heart brimming with joy for all that makes you thankful. As for me, I am so thankful for the incredible friends, readers and blogging community that stick with me and make writing Welcome Company such a joy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pumpkin Bread and Other Things I LOVE About Fall

I think there are many reasons I love fall. The reprieve from the intense heat of summer. The colors. The hint of fun and joyful family time to come. Things seem to slow down or have the illusion of slowing down, anyway. So many things that make it a favorite time of year.

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Pumpkins. Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins.

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Crisp Apples. Apple Crisp. Apple Dumplings. Apple Pie. Homemade Applesauce.

Our home, decorated in the rich and vibrant colors of the season. Warm and inviting.

Gardening and potting flowers. I know, only in Arizona. Our reward for surviving the summer.

Carving Pumpkins. Halloween Parties. Trick-or-Treating. Marshmallow Ghost Peeps. Ninja Turtles, Skeletons, Zom-Bees and Zombies.

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Thanksgiving right around the corner.

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And Pumpkin Bread. Not just any pumpkin bread, the best pumpkin bread ever.

E.V.E.R.

Well we think so anyway.

Here is the recipe, originally posted last fall …

Real Good” Pumpkin Bread.

One of my very first posts in fact. And while a few things have changed since then, like the fact that I don’t eat sugar or much wheat anymore, it is still one of my favorite things to make as a treat for the rest of my family or a gift for someone special.

I have found some pretty tasty gluten and sugar free pumpkin recipes but there is really no substitute. Thankfully, I still enjoy the incredible aroma that fills the house with each loaf.

Okay, and a little taste once in a while.

Okay, and I ate a mini-Baby Ruth or two out of the kid’s Halloween Candy. Mostly sugar and gluten free. Mostly.

Happy fall, everyone!

Now go make some Pumpkin Bread!

And watch out for Zom-Bees.

They love Pumpkin Bread you know.

 

Assemble the Minions! We’re Celebrating “Despicable Me” Style!

We recently celebrated my “baby’s” 6th Birthday.

Yes, my littlest love is now 6 and no, I have no idea where the time has gone.

He is one funny kid, this one – all three stooges in one little body as we like to say. He has an exuberance for life that takes my breath away. Usually because I am constantly running after him in 100 different directions at once. And such a sweet and fun loving spirit. Planning his parties is always a joy!

For the longest time he wanted this birthday party to have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme and I had gone to sleep many nights with ideas and thoughts of turning giant crime stopping, smack talking martial artist turtles and their rodent sensei into a party.

And then we saw Despicable Me 2 this summer and, as it so often is with kids, everything changed. After that, I went to sleep with ideas and thoughts of turning a Ukrainian (I’m guessing) accented super villain, three sassy little girls and the most ridiculously adorable little yellow minions into a party.

In the end, it was really the minions who stole the show, as it is in the movies. Nathan LOVES the minions and belly laughed so hard at their antics that he had the entire theater laughing along with him. It is one of the things I love most about this kid, his exuberance.

You’re invited now to come on in and see how we celebrated this incredible little person … Despicable Me Style!

The Invitation

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In my last party post, A Duck Dynasty Birthday Bash, I told you that I love to design my own invitations. Images from the internet make it easy and fun to customize your own invite in whatever theme you’ve chosen.

If you would like to use my invitation, you will find the printable here … Minion Birthday Party Invitation Printable. You can easily go into the text boxes and customize the invitation for your party. I printed my invitations on plain white card stock.

Welcome to the party …

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The Party “Welcome Sign” on the front door, if you can call all of Gru’s rules welcoming, is a fun way to greet guests and let them know they are at the right place.

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I printed up the images on white cardstock, mounted them on poster board and then attached them together with paperclips that I had bent and twisted into submission.

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I also had a couple of friendly minions welcoming guests through the windows.

Printables …

Minion Door Hanger

Gru’s Rules

Waving Minion

Window Minions

The Favors

I kept the party favors pretty simple. Disposable cake decorating bags make great gift and favor bags (they are also great for hot chocolate treats – I’ll share that fun project with you as we get closer to the holidays).

I just filled the bags with a little candy and then topped each one off with a Minion and tied the tops with ribbon.

The Minion Figures were purchased through Amazon; Option 1Option 2.

Gru made a “Freeze Ray” for each child, just like his. Well, almost like his. The didn’t actually have the capability to freeze anyone, which was probably for the best. But they did squirt water, which is something.

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The “Freeze Ray” Printable can be found here – Despicable Me Party Signs.

The Food

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Despicable Me 2 Spoiler Alert! Eduardo Perez comes off as a friendly restaurant proprietor known for his famous but very secret salsa. BUT could he actually be the despicable villain El Macho; long thought dead? Hmmmmm …

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Whomever he truly is, he inspired the “Taste of Mexico” menu for our party!

  • Blue and Yellow Corn Chips
  • Salsa (of course), Sour Cream and Guacamole
  • Queso Cheese Dip (just Velveeta and Rotel Tomatoes melted in the crock pot).
  • Taquitos and Quesadillas (served on the white platters shown above).
  • And grapes and watermelon wedges – always a kid favorite!

An easy but festive, kid friendly menu!

El Macho and Salsa & Salsa Sign Printables.

Party-Beverage-Station

The drink station included water, lemonade and iced tea for the parents. I love to put orange slices in my iced tea and a few lemon slices always jazz up a pitcher or container of lemonade!

Now for the best part … cake!

The Minion Cupcakes

Floating all over Pinterest is this great idea for turning Twinkies into Minions. It couldn’t have been simpler. Make your favorite cupcakes (I made vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes) and frost them with blue butter cream. I put the frosting in a pastry bag, snip off the end and swirl it on. Cut the Twinkies in half and with ready made frosting tubes, put on the eyes (Wilton now makes candy eyes that you can find at the grocery store) add different funny expressions and hair and then place a Twinkie Minion atop each cupcake. I had a few more cupcakes than Twinkie Minions so I frosted those yellow and sprinkled them with blue sugar for a little variety.

Minion-Cupcakes-8For the cake topper, I added text to an image from the internet, printed it out on white cardstock and the mounted it on yellow cardstock. I taped two of the yellow striped drinking straws to the back and stuck it into the cupcakes.

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A few candles and the Minion Fireman (“be-doh, be-doh, be-doh”) to keep everything in line and the cupcake tower was complete.

Yes I had far to much fun coming up with Minion hairstyles. Do you see the comb-over in the back on the left? That is really my best work.

Minion Birthday Greeting Cake Topper Printable.

Shrunken Moon Bites (donut holes dipped in white chocolate – if you are really ambitious you could do these as cake pops), Coco-Nutties (Vector’s favorite cookie – conveniently purchased at the grocery store), an Ice Cream Cone station and a dog “food” bowl (just like in the movie) filled with candy finished out the treat table.

Despicable Me Party Food Printable.

Despicable Me Lunch Plates, Cake PlatesCups, Lunch Napkins, Beverage Napkins and Yellow Striped Paper Straws.

Despicable Me Figures of Gru and the girls, Kyle the Dog and four minions used to decorate the cake table were purchased on Amazon.

The Fun

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There’s that precious birthday boy!

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We all wore Minion T-Shirts, which was very fun but of course, I didn’t take a minute to have someone photograph our family together in our shirts. I’ll have to make everyone put them back on and fix that! Sara did have a minion shirt but must have changed into something more fashionable after swimming. Oh to be a tween and still have someone else doing your laundry.

I have learned over several years and A LOT of birthday parties that planning a ton of games and activities really isn’t necessary. What the kids really want to do, especially when they are little is run around and play together. At our house, there is a lot of room to run and many imaginative adventures to be had. And with the boys having birthdays in June and September, they also want to swim (Sara’s is in December so even in Arizona, swimming is out).

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So, while I had a lot of different games in mind, (freeze tag, boogie robot freeze dancing or musical chairs, etc.) I ended up only putting one together – The Space Killer Carnival game from the first movie. Space-Killer-Despicable-Me-

I printed up images of the space aliens from the game in the movie in varying sizes and then glued them to a foam presentation board. The kids used Nerf guns to shoot at the stacked cups.

“KNOCKED OVER!” Of course I had to include an image of Gru after he blew the whole thing up.

If you have not seen the movie, you really must. And then get the second one when it comes out on Blue Ray soon. They are so clever and very funny!

Of course we sang happy birthday, blew out candles, had cake and ice cream …

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and opened presents – my friend Eileen had a captive audience as she read birthday cards.

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And then after a lot of fun and a little too much sugar, some down time racked out with your buds watching your favorite movie is a must. You can get away with this when you’re six.

Speaking of buds …

Nathan-&-Hayden

Hayden is one of Nathan’s favorite buds of all time. Hayden and his wonderful family were our neighbors for many years. When Nathan was a baby and Hayden was about eight, he would pop over all the time to play with Nathan. As they both grew, Hayden never got too big to hang out with Nathan. I have a picture of them together at each of Nathan’s Birthdays. It is great to have a friend who has loved you your whole life! We just wish he was still right over the fence.

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We love you Hayden (and Michael, April and Hope)!

So that’s it. One more birthday party down for the record books.

Whaaaaaaaat? The Party’s Over?

Yes, the party’s over. But around here, it won’t be long until there’s another one!

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Thanks for coming!

Thank you note printable.

All of the party printables shared in this post are made with images found on the internet and are for personal use only and not for sale or distribution in anyway. Please play fair and have a fantastic party!

Grandma Ibby’s Chocolate Oaties

If you have read my blog for a while, you may have heard of Grandma Ibby. I have been cooking and baking my way through her treasure box of recipes over the past year and have shared many of these special recipes with you along the way.

I’m thinking we are a bit overdue for a Grandma Ibby post so today I am going to share her fantastic Chocolate Oaties with you.

Translation: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

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What makes these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies special is that they are both thin and crispy and chewy and tender all at the same time.

They feel very old fashioned and I love that. I also remember eating them a lot as a kid and of course, I love that too!

Grandma Ibby’s Chocolate Oaties

Oatmeal-Chocolate-Chip-Cook

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 Cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 Cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups Oatmeal – I’ve used instant and it works fine
  • 1/2 Cup nutmeats, optional – I don’t add the nuts – picky no-nut people around here.
  • 12 oz. chocolate chips – I use semi-sweet but milk chocolate or butterscotch would be great.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars together with a mixer until light and well combined; about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each well. Add the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Gently mix in by hand the oatmeal, nutmeats and chocolate chips until just combined.

Use a cookie scoop or teaspoons to drop dough on a cookie sheet that is greased or lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

Bake for about 10 minutes.

These are thin and delicate cookies so let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet to allow them to set up a bit. Then finish cooling on a wire rack.

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The thin, chewy nature and crisp texture of these cookies also make them perfect for ice cream sandwiches.

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A scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream and a few chocolate sprinkles and you have a very special, very old fashioned treat!

Yes, you can have an ice cream sandwich in October. Especially in Arizona!

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I hope you’ll give them a try and as always, Enjoy!

 

S’Mores Cupcakes

With the start of the school year, we are back in full swing with Cub Scouts. I love to blog about Cub Scouts because it is such a big part of our lives and has been an incredible experience for our whole family. The Scouting program is awesome and I love sharing all of the fun and important stuff we do with all of you.

This past weekend, our Pack got together for a lesson on the Scouting principle of Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace means just that. It focuses primarily on camping and outdoor activities but the underlying principle applies to all areas of our lives. Take care of your environment; whether it is the outdoors, your school, your home, your room, the park, the movie theater; you get the idea. Wherever you go, whatever you do, be mindful of the environment and how you have an impact upon it.

And ALWAYS leave a place better than you found it. Which means sometimes we have to pick up after others too.

Rather than just talk about it with our Scouts, we wanted them to experience the lesson first hand. The best lessons are often learned by seeing and doing. So this past Saturday, our boys and their families spent a few hours cleaning up along the banks of the Salt River.

The lower Salt River is a major recreation site in our area and unfortunately, not everyone respects the privilege of enjoying such a beautiful place. A LOT of trash gets left behind. It was important for our Scouts to see first hand how even a little waste has a big impact when the effects of so many visitors is combined.

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They worked hard and cleaned up a lot of trash.

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We are very proud of our “Bear” and his understanding and respect for nature and the need to care for and protect the environment. He is passionate about it. Now, if we could just get that same passion to carry over to his room.

After all of that hard work and a lot of hand sanitizer, it was time for a treat. It was way too hot to roast marshmallows (and open fire isn’t allowed right now) so I decided to improvise and turn Scouting’s signature dish into a cup cake.

S’Mores Cupcakes

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I love to bake from scratch and have some wonderful chocolate cake recipes from my grandmother. But there are times when practicality wins out and you just have to break out the cake mix. I adapted a recipe from the cookbook “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn and came up with a yummy chocolate cupcake, perfect to feed a lot of hungry Cub Scouts. Three batches yielded 60 cupcakes. If you don’t “overfill” as I tend to do, you might just get 24 cup cakes in a batch.

Cup Cake Ingredients

  • 1 package Milk Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 Cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Cup Cake S’More Toppings

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  • Graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 Bag of jumbo marshmallows, each marshmallow cut in half
  • Graham cracker pieces or mini graham crackers for garnish
  • Chocolate pieces for garnish

Cup Cake Directions

In pure cake mix fashion, put all of the ingredients together in your stand mixer and blend it all on medium to medium-high for a minute. Scrape down the sides and blend for another minute or until well combined and smooth. Line your muffin/cup cake tin with paper wrappers and fill each 3/4 of the way full.

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Then sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs (about a teaspoon each). I made the first batch with the graham cracker crumbs placed in the bottom of the wrapper and the batter poured on top. It didn’t adhere to the cake like I wanted so I opted to sprinkle the crumbs on top.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.

I love how they look with the graham cracker crumbs on top.

Next … the fun part.

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Set your oven rack, two spaces down from the broiler and then turn the oven to the broil setting.

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Put your cupcakes on a sheet tray and place a marshmallow half on top of each one. Place the marshmallow topped cupcakes under the broiler for 1 minute and 45 seconds. That is the exact amount of time my oven took to perfectly toast the marshmallows. The time needed in your oven may be different so keep an eye on them.

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Finish the cup cakes off in true S’Mores fashion with wedges of graham cracker and chocolate. The crackers can go on right away but let the marshmallow cool a bit before you add the chocolate or you’ll have a melty mess.

The boys and families of our Pack spent and afternoon doing our part to clean up a bit and leave things better than we found them. But our day wasn’t all hard work. Yes, there were yummy cup cakes but did I mention there was a also helicopter?

No? Ohhhh, there was a helicopter!

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Our Wolf Den Leader is a Sheriff’s Deputy and he arranged quite the surprise for our boys. For all of us, actually. When he told me he was setting up something cool, I was just thinking a few sirens and lights. Nope. There was a helicopter.

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Of course the boys LOVED it. And they deserved it. Hard work always has its reward!

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I know one little boy in particular who was in heaven!

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Really, does it get much cooler than that?

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We also had a visit from these deputies who patrol the river on ATVs. Very cool too! In fact, I’m pretty sure they have their own action figures. Well, if they don’t they should.

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The perfect spot to watch a helicopter take off!

A special thanks to Rob and our friends from the Sheriff’s Department for the work you do to keep our community safe and for so graciously giving a little of your time to make a kid’s day.

You guys rock!

Key Lime Pie – a Perfect Summer Treat!

Tangy & Tart. Creamy & Rich.

Key Lime Pie. I love you.

With that slightly crunchy buttery crust and smooth velvety filling. I can’t imagine a summer without you. But alas, I am no longer an eater of  gluten or sugar.

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And the limes on our lime tree are starting to ripen.

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And they are gorgeous and are just begging me to use them for Key Lime Pie.

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Can you just hear them? Pick me! Pick me! I was made for Key Lime Pie! You won’t be sorry!

Fresh-Limes

Yes, fragrant little lime, you are indeed destined for a pie. And no, I won’t be sorry because this won’t be just any pie. No, this Key Lime Pie is very special. It is gluten, sugar and guilt free.

Insert Hallelujah Chorus here.

GUILT-free.

As in no worry over calories, carbs, blood sugar spikes, tummy bulges or the need to spend 45 minutes on a treadmill just for a little indulgence.

No guilt. Zero.

But wait, it gets better.

There is no compromise here either. No rub. No sacrifice. Because this Key Lime Pie is delicious!

D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.

As good as any I have ever had and that is saying something because I used to always make Barefoot Contessa’s Key Lime Pie, which is fantastic but sadly, not guilt-free or on plan for a gluten-free/sugar-free lifestyle.

No need for despair, there is hope!

Aand there will be Key Lime Pie thanks to Lauren at Healthy Indulgences.

I love Lauren and she doesn’t even know it. Her blog has been a lifesaver as I learn to use new ingredients and concepts in the effort to become good at this whole gluten-free/sugar-free baking thing. She has really mastered the craft and has created some very special recipes. I am looking forward to the day when I can venture out confidently on my own but for now I’ll stick to her stuff and will share her Key Lime Pie recipe with you.

She calls it Scrumptious Sugar-Free Key Lime Pie … and she’s not exaggerating.

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It is indeed scrumptious (and no, it is not green). I have made it twice now and it has been a huge hit with everyone who has tried it, including my husband who is still a bit of a gluten-free/sugar-free skeptic. I’m starting to win him over though and this pie certainly didn’t hurt.

It does require a few ingredients that you may not have heard of or have on hand but I promise, it is worth heading to the health food store or Whole Foods to pick up what you’ll need to give this a try. I know you’re curious. Don’t be afraid, give it a shot!

If you’ve been a “Trim Healthy Mama” for a while,  you’ll most likely already have everything you need.

GFSF-Baking-Essentials

Next week, I will talk a bit more about “Trim Healthy Mama” (THM) and the changes that have occurred in my pantry but for now I’ll let you know that Xylitol has become my favorite sugar substitute. Lauren uses erythritol in her recipe and either one is fine. A note about xylitol, while it is healthy and fine for humans, it is very bad for dogs so make sure too keep it away from your furry babies.

The recipe calls for NuNaturals NuStevia pure stevia extract which is not easy to find. I had to order it online. It is a highly concentrated sweetener. You can find a similar version at Trader Joes but it is not quite as good (a little bitter). If you don’t have it, you can use 8 packets of an easily found stevia product such as Truvia. The combination of sweeteners results in a better flavor.

I did make one other change to the original recipe and added a whole lot more lime zest. Lauren’s recipe calls for 1/4 tsp. and I add 1 heaping tsp. because I LOVE the tart flavor the zest.

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The crust is so delicious and so much more nutritious with a blend of almond and pecan meal. Almond meal or flour is easy to find. As for the pecan meal, I just grind up pecans in my mini-food processor until they are a fine texture. Don’t go too far or you’ll end up with pecan butter.

One final note. The pie tastes best at room temperature but slices easiest right out of the fridge. When you go to serve it, slice it right away and then let it sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes – if you can wait that long.

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Now go grab yourself some limes and get baking!

Even if you are not normally a gluten-free/sugar-free kind of gal (or guy), I urge you to give this a try. The only thing you have to lose is dessert guilt!

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I photographed this gorgeous piece of pie this morning.

And then I ate it for breakfast. Guilt-free!

Enjoy!

This Trim Healthy Mama approved recipe is happily linked with other Trim Healthy Tuesday recipes at Stacy Makes Cents and Gwen’ Nest.

Nothing Says “I Love You” Quite Like Banana Pudding

A few weeks ago, the phone rang. All plans were set aside. The busy-ness on my ever-present “to-do” list suddenly became unimportant and I found myself hastily throwing a bag together and waiting in the airport for a seat on a flight to Oklahoma.

My husband’s Uncle Milt passed away. My Uncle Milt passed away.

We quickly decided I would be the one to go and be with the family for the funeral services and my husband would stay home with the boys (Sara is in Washington with my mom for a month). It might seem strange that I was the one to go when the loss was on my husband’s side of the family but that is the funny thing about family, love blurs the lines. And I loved my Uncle Milt so very much.

I first told you a little about Uncle Milt and Aunt Peggy last fall when I shared Aunt Peggy’s delicious corn casserole recipe with you. I told you a bit about their love story and what they came to mean to me so many years ago when I was a new military bride desperately missing my own family. And I briefly mentioned the banana pudding.

This is the first chance I have had to sit down and gather my thoughts after the five beautiful days I spent in Oklahoma (that busy list didn’t go away while I was away). And I am struggling a bit. It is hard to find the words to sum up this sweet man. To sum up what he meant to me; to so many. To sum up a life lived so well that left behind is a far-reaching legacy that winds its way through an entire family, binding together a wife of 56 years, four children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, sisters and brother-in-law, nieces and nephews. And me, married to a nephew but embraced as a daughter.

As I write, I remember that today is Aunt Peggy’s birthday and I am thankful that these words have waited until today. I can think of no better gift than to remind her of the blessing she and Uncle Milt have been in my life.

And it all started with banana pudding.

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I don’t remember the exact moment I had Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding for the first time but it instantly became my absolute favorite thing in the universe. No exaggeration. Better than French fries.

And Uncle Milt quietly took notice.

We lived about 45 minutes away from Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg when my husband was stationed at Altus Air Force base. We spent a lot of weekends playing cribbage around their cozy dining room table; always Aunt Peg and I teamed up against Uncle Milt and my husband. Those boys like to think that they won most of the time but I don’t remember it quite that way. What I do remember is feeling loved and welcome. I remember missing my own family a whole lot less because Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg became like parents to us and their four children and their families like siblings.

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So many times I walked through their front door to hear Uncle Milt quietly say “it must be ‘That Girl’! Go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Always there was a banana pudding waiting for me. If it wasn’t Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding, it was a Styrofoam container from Ryan’s Buffet heaped full of banana pudding that he had gone and gotten for me. He was a big man with a big presence and an even bigger heart and I adored him.

We were stationed in Oklahoma for only two years and too soon, it was time for us to move to Arizona where my husband would fly part-time for the National Guard and full-time for American Airlines. I was devastated to leave and cried most of the way through Texas. Life quickly took over and we didn’t see or talk with Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg nearly enough but the bond we had forged with them in that two years remains such a part of us.

Over the years, Uncle Milt’s health declined with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s/Dementia. He eventually had to be placed in the Veteran’s Center where his growing needs could be met. Aunt Peg was right by his side everyday. Such love. Such an example.

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I have heard it said that while Alzheimer’s may rob your loved one of his memory, what matters is that you remember. You remember.

I remember.

I remember and was blessed to join this amazing family  to celebrate the life of a man who meant the world to me. Cousin Jim’s sweet wife Yvonne even made a banana pudding for me shortly after I arrived and I jumped off of the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon. Only for banana pudding. And I did stick five spoons in the bowl and share it. The only thing better than a big bowl of banana pudding all to yourself is a big bowl of banana pudding shared with five people you love.

We told stories, we laughed, we cried, we prayed and we rejoiced in the knowledge that Uncle Milt is restored and again whole in the arms of the Savior he spent his life glorifying.

I promise you Uncle Milt, I will remember.

And I will forever remember so many things about saying goodbye.

I will remember Uncle Chuck’s story about the anger he felt when his own father passed. A man poor in the pocket but rich in all the ways that matter. How he was unable to comprehend that the sum of a man’s life could end up a few papers and documents in a shoebox. It was you who showed him that the true sum of his father’s life was not in that shoebox but was in him and his four beautiful sisters. It was you who helped him to realize just how remarkable his own father was. He remembers.

I will remember Jim’s eulogy and the stories of a husband and father’s love and strength. Your wife and your children and their children remember.

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I will remember the internment ceremony at the beautiful military cemetery that is your final resting place. I will remember the full military honors for a man and a career that included two tours in Korea and one in Vietnam. I will remember the cry of the bugler sounding TAPS as the wind gusted mightily and it was finished. All of your family remembers. And a grateful and free nation remembers.

I will see you again Uncle Milt. I know you will have the cribbage board waiting and I will smile to again hear “oh, here comes ‘That Girl’ – go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Until that day, I will remember.

Aunt Peggy’s Banana Pudding

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It isn’t a fancy recipe. It isn’t a complicated recipe. But it is how someone very special shared with me just how much I meant to him. How he reminded me how much I was loved. I am happy to share it with you and hope that you will make if for someone you love.

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Ingredients

  • 1 – 3.4 ounce package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 36-48 Vanilla Wafers

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Directions

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water. Add the instant vanilla pudding and whisk again until smooth and well blended. Chill the pudding mixture for 5 minutes.

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The pudding mixture will be starting to set. Fold in the whipped cream.

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Begin layering the ingredients …

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Start with pudding,

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add a layer of vanilla wafers

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and then a layer of sliced bananas.

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Top with more pudding, wafers and bananas and finish with pudding.

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It is always pretty to have some of the wafers peaking through a glass bowl.

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Top with crushed vanilla wafer crumbs. You can garnish with a few fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers just before serving.

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Or dress up individual serving bowls. You can also eat it right out of a Styrofoam container. Whatever works for you!

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When I got home from Oklahoma, I whipped up a batch for the girlfriends who had stepped up to take care of my boys for the two days I was gone and my husband had to work. One batch fit nicely into two 8×8 disposable pans.

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Just layer in the same manner as above.

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Top with vanilla wafer crumbs and pretty up the packaging and you will have a gift that is well received.

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It is simple but it is my absolute favorite banana pudding. For many reasons. I hope you love it too!

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Happy Birthday Aunt Peggy. I love you so much!

One final note, I am working on a gluten-free/sugar-free version. Right now, as we speak. I’m having a little trouble with the vanilla wafers but I am determined to eat this whenever I wish. Well the bananas will still be a splurge but not the end of the world. Stay tuned …