Dr. Pepper Apricot Nut Bread

This recipe may be the closest thing to fruit cake my family likes for a Christmas treat although the only fruit it contains is dried apricots. I open the frayed, stained pages of a little blue book and begin stirring up memories along with all the ingredients! The recipe for Dr. Pepper Apricot Nut Bread came from a booklet handed out at the Texas State Fair in 1978!  A family trip to the fair resulted in a recipe we have used ever since.

Dr. Pepper Apricot Nut Bread

1 Tablespoon melted butter

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 egg, unbeaten

2 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons soda

1/2 teaspoon slt

2 cups dried apricots, choppd

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 1/2 cups boiling Dr. Pepper

1 Tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together melted butter, sugar and egg in large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, combine flour, soda, and salt.  Add flour mixture to chopped apricots and pecans and toss. Add flour and fruit mixture  to sugar and egg mixture alternately with boiling Dr. Pepper.  Add 1 Tablespoon vanilla and mix. Pour into standard loaf pan and bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until toothpick tested in center comes out clean.  I always double the recipe. This freezes well.

Orange Marmalade Cake

Over 20 years ago I began reading the series of books by author Jan Karon which began with a book titled At Home in Mitford. I have read and enjoyed all books that Jan Karon has written and have most of them on my bookshelf. I am not alone as there are many Mitford fans.  Esther Bolick is a character in this book series whose baking creation becomes famous:  the OMC!.  I don’t know why I waited this long to try it myself, but last week I needed a special dessert to take to our poetry group’s dinner at a friend’s house so I decided to spend an afternoon in the kitchen creating this famous dessert. In the beginning, no recipe was mentioned, but as the series grew in popularity Jan Karon was frequently asked for the cake recipe. It wasn’t until Victoria magazine and Southern chef Scott Peacock teamed up that the recipe was born. There are a number of sources online for recipe, including Pinterest. I used my Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader by Jan Karon.  I made only minor adjustments for my version. And yes, it makes 3 layers!  When I walked in the kitchen with it, friends who were Mitford readers knew what it was immediately. And it was declared delicious by all.

Orange Marmalade Cake(as mentioned in Jan Karon’s books and baked by Esther Bolick)

I have indicated where I changed the recipe for my use.

For the cake
1 cup unsalted butter, softened, more for greasing the pans
3 1/4 cups flour, more for dusting the pans * I used all purpose flour. The original recipe           calls for cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

For the orange syrup
1 cup orange juice * the original recipe calls for freshly squeezed0
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the filling
1 (12-ounce) jar orange marmalade

For the frosting
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream, chilled

The cake. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter three 9-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, then lighly butter and flour the paper, shaking out the excess.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Sift a second time into another bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add the 2 2/3 cups sugar in a steady stream with the mixer running. Beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Be sure to stop at least once to scrape down the batter from the sides of the bowl. After all the eggs have been added, continue to beat on medium speed for 2 more minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the oil and beat for 1 minute. In a small bowl, combine the orange zest, vanilla, and buttermilk. Using a rubber spatula, fold in half of the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half of the buttermilk mixture. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients, scrape down the sides, and add the remaining buttermilk.

Pour the batter among the prepared pans, smooth the surface, rap each pan on the counter to expel any air pockets or bubbles, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans on racks for 20 minutes.

The orange syrup. In a small bowl, stir together the orange juice and 1/4 cup sugar until the sugar is dissolved. While the cakes are still in the cake pans, use a toothpick or skewer to poke holes at 1/2-inch intervals in the cake layers. Spoon the syrup over each layer, allowing the syrup to be completely absorbed before adding the remainder. Let the layers cool completely in the pans.

The filling. Heat the marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat until just melted. Let cool for 5 minutes.

The frosting. In a chilled mixing bowl, using the wire whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream with the 4 tablespoons sugar until stiff peaks form. Add the sour cream, a little at a time, and whisk until the mixture is a spreadable consistency.

To assemble the cake. Invert one of the cake layers on a cake plate and carefully peel off the parchment. Spread one-third of the marmalade over the top, smoothing it into an even layer. Invert the second layer on top of the first, peel off the parchment, and spoon another third of the marmalade on top. Place the third cake layer on top, remove the parchment, and spoon the remaining marmalade onto the center of it, leaving a 1 1/4-inch border around the edges. Frost the sides and the top border with the frosting, leaving the marmalade on top of the cake exposed.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving, overnight if possible.


Cup of Christmas

Today it is cold, windy, and wet. We may have a fire in the fireplace for the first time this season tonight. Siting by the fire and the Christmas tree is a perfect time for a hot drink. Along with our collection of Christmas mugs,we have a number of hot drink recipes that have been favorites during the holidays through the years. Years ago, I always kept a spiced tea mix and hot chocolate mix that I made.  I don’t make those anymore because there are so many available on the shelves of the supermarket, but there are other recipes  I will share.

Hot Cranberry Punch 

This recipe is on a card in my mother’s handwriting. As usual when she passed on a recipe she liked, she noted “Good!” at the top of the card!

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

4 cups water, divided into 1 cup and 3 cups

2 cans jellied cranberry sauce

1 quart unsweetened pineapple juice

Butter to add before serving


1.Bring spices and 1 cup water to a boil and simmer just until well blended.

2.Combine (separate from above) 2 cans jellied cranberry sauce and 3 cups of water.  Add water a little at a time and beat to blend well.

3. Then combine spice mixture and cranberry mixture with 1 quart unsweetened pineapple juice. Heat to serving temperature.  Add 1 pat butter to each cup you are serving and ladle hot punch on top.

Mother added an asterisk, telling me “never serve without tasting”

This sounds crazy, but it is delicious!


Hot Buttered Pineapple Punch

1 46 ounce can unsweetened pineapple juice

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 1/4 cups dry white wine


In large saucepan, combine pineapple juice, sugar, lime juice, and nutmeg. Bring to boiling, stirring till sugar dissolves. Reduce heat,; stir in wine. Heat through but do not boil. Pour into heatproof glasses or mugs; float a pat of butter on each. Serve cinnamon stick with each serving if desired. Makes about 9 cups


Spiced Percolator Punch

We used to make this so often, we kept an extra large coffeemaker with spigot to make it.

2 32 ounce bottles cranberry juice cocktail

1 46 ounce can unsweetened pineapple juice

1 cup packed brown sugar

4 teaspoons whole cloves

12 inches of stick cinnamon, broken

peel of 1/4 orange, cut in strips

Optional – 1 fifth (3/14 cups) light rum

In 24 cup electric percolator, combine cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and brown sugar. Place cloves,cinnamon stick pieces, and orange peel in coffee maker basket. Assemble coffee maker; plug in and percolate. Just before serving, remove basket and stir in rum if you are using.. Keep hot. Float a quartered lemon slice in each mug if desired. Makes about 17 cups!

Of course we enjoy wassail, and everyone has their favorite recipe for that cup of holiday cheer, but I hope you enjoy trying one or all of the above as well.

Parker Cheese Grits

The most requested side dish for any holiday or potluck offering from my kitchen is Cheese Grits. Every year about this time I can count on making it at least 3 times – once for our church Thanksgiving dinner which is always the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, again for our family Thanksgiving dinner table, and again at Christmas. Years ago, I usually included it for Christmas morning breakfast, but as our family grew older and larger, I began to make a double recipe for heartier meals. I originally used a recipe from a cookbook titled The Texas Experience, given to me in 1984 from my friend Sondra Skaggs. I make a variation of that recipe now because some of the ingredients it called for are no longer available, and I long ago memorized it. But I still open that cookbook and read Sondra’s inscription “To my very best friend with much love . Merry Christmas 1984. Sondra. Then the book practically falls open to the most used page with its directions for “Zippy Grits.”  In my opinion, print cookbooks like this one will never be replaced by online recipes! Thank you, Sondra!


Parker Cheese Grits

1 cup quick grits

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup butter

2 cups shredded Mexican Blend Cheese (may use only cheddar if desired)

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs, well beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Bring 4 cups water to rapid boil, add salt and garlic powder. Add grits, stirring.  Cook for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Turn off heat.  While grits are still hot, add butter and cheese, blending well. Add milk to beaten eggs.  Drop a spoonful of hot grits into egg and milk mixture and stir, tempering eggs before adding to pot of hot grits. Stir to combine, then pour into buttered  8X11 inch casserole. Bake at 350 degrees until mixture is set and top is golden brown, 45-55 minutes


Pumpkin Butternut Soup

With all the cooking happening at our house this time of year (birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving!) a shortcut that is not takeout food can be welcome. There are a number of pumpkin and or squash pasta sauces available in markets and gourmet cooking stores, but the one I used for this recipe came from Trader Joe’s and is my favorite so far. I had part of a jar left in the the frig and decided to turn it into soup. It worked! The results were good enough to repeat. If you want to use the whole jar (4 cups) for a bigger pot of soup, double the other ingredients.

Pumpkin Butternut Soup 

1/2 jar or 2 cups Autumn Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce (found at Trader Joe’s)

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup half and half (more if desired)

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Balsamic vinegar reduction for swirl

Add pasta sauce to heavy sauce pan. Rinse out the jar with chicken broth and add along with salt and cinnamon. Heat on low until mixture begins to bubble. Stir in half and half to heat but do not bring to boil.  Ladle into soup bowls and add a swirl of balsamic vinegar reduction on top. Serve with toasted French bread.


Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mangos and Cranberries

Pork Tenderloin continues to be one of my favorite choices for a variety of menus. I like to grill it and add interesting sides, put it in my slow cooker, or roast.  For this dish, I rubbed the tenderloins with a spice blend combining black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, cayenne, and basil. Make your own blend if you wish but I used Penzey’s 33rd and Galena rub for chicken and pork. I layered on slices of mango from a jar I got at Costco and added some dried cranberries. This works well with several combinations of fruit – peaches, apricots, and pineapple all work well. The result is a colorful and delicious entree.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Mango and Cranberries

2 pork tenderloins

1 Tablespoon Penzey’s 33rd and Galena Spice Rub

2 -3 cups sliced mango

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle tenderloins on all sides with spice and rub it in.  Place meat in Pyrex baking dish and surround with mangos. Spead cranberries over all. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until internal temperature tests 145 degrees.. Remove meat to serving platter, leaving fruit in dish. Then dust fruit with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon, and return with sauce to oven for an additional 10-15  minutes or until it begins to caramelize. Remove from oven and spoon fruit and sauce over pork.

Brown Butter Pecan Rice

This rice has become a favorite side dish for our family.  Especially this time of year, pecans star in many dishes.  Many of the ones we use in our kitchen are locally raised. I am glad I found this recipe that was included with a Recipe.com issue for a chicken dish. I served it with roasted pork tenderloin. If you have little ones at your table who prefer their rice plain, save some for them before adding your rice to the butter and pecans.

Brown Butter Pecan Rice

1 cup Basmati rice, cooked

2 Tablespoons  butter (I use unsalted)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/2 teaspoon salt

While rice is cooking, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes, or until butter is brown and fragrant.  Add chopped pecans and toast for 1 minute. When rice is ready, add to skillet with salt and stir to combine.  Serve as a side for roasted pork or chicken.


Caramelized Onion, Apple and Brie Flatbread with Rosemary



Flatbreads are one of my new comfort foods!  There are endless variations, most are quick and simple to prepare, and I have not made one I did not like yet. The combination of flavors from caramelized onions, brie, and tart apples pared with a layer of herbed goodness from sprigs of our garden rosemary is wonderful. We enjoyed this flatbread for a light evening meal, along with extra apple slices. Try different apples – we like Granny Smith, but also favor Honeycrisp and Smitten. The sweet, crisp crunch adds perfectly to creamy cheese and onions.

Caramelized Onion, Apple and Brie Flatbread with Rosemary

1 ball of premade pizza dough from the freezer shelf of your supermarket (or Naan, if you prefer)

1 apple of your choice, cut into thin slices (I used Honeycrisp)

1/2  cup cubed Brie cheese 

caramelized onions (see recipe below)

chopped fresh rosemary (Save a sprig for garnish)

Balsamic Caramelized Onions:

1 large sweet onion

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet over low/medium heat.Slice the onions and add them to the skillet. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.Turn the heat down to low, and cook the onions until they are soft, beginning to brown, and there is no liquid in the pan, about 15-20 minutes. Set aside until you are ready to add them to flatbread.

If using frozen pizza dough, thaw overnight in refrigerator. Set out on counter to come to room temperature before handling. When ready to assemble flatbread, pat dough out to a long oval on baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Spread caramelized onions over, then scatter slices of apple and cubes of Brie. Sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary and a few Malton salt flakes if you wish.

These flatbreads can also be grilled on the BBQ. Just set them right on the grill , and bake them the same way you would in the oven. Remove when crust browns and cheese is melty. They cook fast and can burn easily, so be ready with spatula and plate to lift them off.

French Lentil Salad with Feta, Cranberries, and Pecans

I have added this to my favorite lentil dishes. I recently bought French green lentils that had a recipe on the back of the package. I altered the list of ingredients to exchange pecans for the requested walnuts. We have access to wonderful local pecans, fresh at this time of year, so I enjoy using them in many dishes. We enjoy this with crackers or crusty bread for a light lunch.

French Lentil Salad with Cranberries, Feta, and Pecans

1 cup green lentils, picked through and rinsed well

2 cups water

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup pecans, chopped or left in halves

For Dressing:

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons honey

2 teaspoons Dijo mustard

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Put lentils and water in a heavy saucepan, bring to boil then reduce heat to simmer until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally. Do not overcook. Drain and return to pot to cool. While lentils are cooling, whisk dressing ingredients together. Slowly drizzle over lentils, add salt and pepper, and toss with diced onion. Top with cranberries, feta, and pecans.  Serve as is in a small bowl, or on a plate of torn greens.






Greek Chicken Stew with Cauliflower and Caramelized Onions

This is full of flavor, and uses an interesting mix of ingredients, including cinnamon.  I adapted  my version of a recipe, which appeared online in New York Times Cooking. It caught my attention because it is Greek, uses cauliflower and Kalamata olives, and was a good way to use leftover rotisserie chicken.  The original recipe uses whole chicken thighs and drumsticks, but our family prefers boned chicken in stews.

Greek Chicken Stew with Cauliflower and Caramelized Onions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

 4 garlic cloves,minced

3-4 cups rough chopped rotisserie chicken

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme (I use Penzey’s French Thyme)

1 small or 1/2 large cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled           

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken pieces. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and let the onion cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it is lightly browned and very soft.

Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, then add the tomatoes and their juice,  cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly. Return the chicken pieces to the pot.  If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Add cauliflower and kalamata olives and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Sprinkle Parsley and Feta cheese on top. Serve over rice.