Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chocolate Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Our girls were all home this weekend to help support our littlest sister and her Reserve Champion Broiler at a local festival.  It was wonderful having them home a second weekend in a row and it could not have made their little sister more happy.  Mom and dad were pretty excited too. They got to see all their grandparents, family and some friends,eat some home cooked food, decorate little sisters room (Thanks big sis) and most importantly just be home! 
Right before my middle daughter went back to college she baked these cookies to take back for her 'Build' committee meeting to a big old group of Aggie boys.  She says they enjoy her sweets and she wanted to make something with a fall feel to it.  I'm proud of these kids as they are part of Texas A&M's first ever 'Build' where they are in the middle of completing a Habitat for Humanity house with the help of students and staff.  It's a huge project and one that will impact a family and give them a better life. Tonight those hard working boys and girls will benefit from these great cookies she prepared. 
Finding the Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses can be a problem as we had to walk the grocery store a few times to find two they must be popular!  The combination of the devil's food cake mix and the pumpkin filling was really a great combination and topped off by the kisses! 
This recipe is simple enough for any beginning or experienced cook and certainly something that would be good at any fall celebration.  They packed well for the trip back in a container and should keep for about a week.
Credit for this recipe goes to the blog I Heart Naptime at  It's a wonderful site full of great recipes!  Thanks so much!

Click on the recipe here for Chocolate Pumpkin Kiss Cookies for recipes cards or to email to save!
1 box devil's food cake mix (chocolate will work too or your favorite cake mix)
1 -15 oz can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 bag Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses
Pre-heat oven to 350°.  In a large bowl combine cake mix and pumpkin. Stir or use a mixer until dough is smooth. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat. Scoop cookie dough onto the pan and then bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove pan and allow to cool for one minute on pan. Gently press kisses in the center of the cookies and then place cookies on a cooling rack.
***Bethany allowed her cookies to cook about five minutes before she added the kisses.  She always uses a melon or cookie scoop to make them uniform in size.






Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Ranch Kitchen's Beef Stroganoff

Click here for easy print version of The Ranch Kitchen's Beef Stroganoff

One of my favorite things to do is re-invent leftovers.  I wrote years ago on my blog of my husbands sudden like of leftovers after the first grocery bill and week of marriage.  He decided then and there on our limited income that I could cook every other night and reinvent my left overs. 

God love his mother as she cooked fresh every night for her three sons and husband.  My mom being a working mother cooked every night as well, but learned to use what she had and be creative on those nights when leftovers were what was left! 

Tonight was definitely one of those nights when the leftover steak from a few nights ago became my version of beef stroganoff.  I simply sliced against the grain the sirloin steaks, sliced up an onion and quickly tossed them both over a little olive oil mixed with one teaspoon of my favorite Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. 

I then added a can of cream of mushroom soup, one can of beef broth and continued to cook on medium heat until the mixture came to a low boil. 


The heat was then turned down to low and I added one cup of sour cream, mixed that all together and continued to cook on low for about ten minutes.  I served this beef stroganoff over fettuccine noodles. 


You'll notice in the first picture above that my simple salad did not have a tomato in it, but yellow squash instead.  I got this little jewel of an idea years ago from my good friend Sandra Southwell who is a great cook in her own right.  I'd never had fresh squash in a salad and it's a really fresh addition.  Looking back now that was some twenty or so years ago, but I still remember the great meals we had at her house when her daughter was a new born. 

So, take what you have and reinvent dinner.  It's definitely cheaper and usually is far better than how you cooked it the first night. This stroganoff was husband and daughter approved and looked like I had cooked from scratch!


The Ranch Kitchen's Beef Stroganoff

2 precooked sirloin steaks, sliced against the grain
1 onion, sliced in half, then quarters and into one inch slivers
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef broth
1 cup sour cream
Prepared noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes

Slice sirloin steak against the grain.  That means do not cut the meat in the same direction the meat runs, but across it.  Slice one onion in 1 inch slices.  In a skillet add 2 teaspoons olive oil with the steak and onion.  

Saute on low until steak and onion are cooked through and onions are translucent.  Add 1 can of cream of mushroom soup and 1 can of beef broth.  Cook on low until mixture begins to boil.  

Add sour cream and continue to cook on low heat until mixture is heated through and on a low boil.  

Serve over noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.  

Traditionally this is served over egg noodles, but tonight the pantry only had fettuccine!  

Cook's Note: You can also used ground beef that has been browned as the beef in this dish instead of steak. 


Hope you'll give my version of beef stroganoff a try.  When grilling or smoking measts, always cook extra and your meals for the rest of the week are a snap.  

I've used brisket and leftover roast to create this beef stroganoff as well and it always turns out great!

Alise @ The Ranch Kitchen

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Grilled Tomatoes with Cheese

One of the last hauls from our garden in the summer of 2013

Grilled Tomatoes with Cheese

Before I tried these grilled tomatoes, I would have thought it was pretty much a crime to smother my fresh, garden tomatoes in cheese and grill them.  But, when you try this simple recipe, you'll understand why. The acidity level remains on these fresh or if you buy organic tomatoes; and the grill brings out that sweetness that you usually only get in the summer.

Make sure you use the non-stick foil or spray your foil with oil before placing your tomatoes on it.  Use any variety of cheese and grill until the cheese is just melted.  I like to season the tops of the tomatoes with garlic salt and pepper before I add my two layers of cheese.

Grilled Tomatoes with Cheese

5 - 6 medium or large tomatoes
Parmesan cheese, grated
Colby Jack or cheddar Cheese, grated
Garlic salt, pepper or to taste

Prepare foil lined pan for spreading oil evenly, dredging the tomatoes on both sides to moisten in the oil.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and then top last with Colby Jack or cheddar cheese. Grill on a medium heat/fire until the cheese is melted.  Serve immediately with any main or side dishes. 

This is one of my husbands favorite ways to eat tomatoes. 



Friday, October 11, 2013

Brandi's 1,000,000 Calorie Strawberry Cupcakes...Darn these are good!

We have a theme going on at my school on Fridays and a little guilting along the way!  Our principal loves chips with nacho cheese and beef as a treat for lunch on this last day of the school week.  The rest of us after today, also totally caloried out on Brandi's rendition of Paula Deen's Strawberry Cupcakes!  Oh least a million calories for one, but on a Friday in a middle school calories don't count at all.  We've all earned it and my sugar level hasn't been this high since Christmas! 

As an Academic Coordinator, I love getting to work with teachers and especially new teachers.  Brandi is in her second year and first at my school as a fifth grade teacher and doing a marvelous job!  She and our other teachers get me excited about education all the time.  I feel, in some ways like I get to see my daughters who live off every day by watching these young ladies take on their first years of teaching.  It's fun and humbling at the same time.  I hope they know how much faith and gratitude we have in them for trying new things and being as passionate about education as they are!

These cupcakes were definitely a hit and since Brandi was 'guilted' by our principal into making them....she will next time be guilted as well by the rest of the staff, because they were just not good...but darn good! 

Thanks Brandi...keep making and bringing those cupcakes!  We also thank your husband for not keeping them at home!  ;o)

You can find the original recipe at

Brandi's Strawberry Cupcakes via Paula Deen

1 (18.25-ounce) box white cake mix
1 (3-ounce) box strawberry-flavored instant gelatin
1 (15-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water


Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10-ounce) package frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed and pureed
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract
7 cups confectioners’ sugar
Freshly sliced strawberries, for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans.
In a large bowl, combine cake mix and gelatin. Add pureed strawberries, eggs, oil, and water; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour into prepared pans, and bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.
For the frosting:
In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in 1/4 cup of the strawberry puree and the strawberry extract. (The rest of the puree is leftover but can be used in smoothies or on ice cream for a delicious treat.) Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth.
Spread frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, if desired.
***A Ranch Kitchen note on cake pans.  For years I have had a hard time finding 8 inch cake pans.  My original set I got when at my wedding shower have long been rusted out.  I do use 9 inch pans, but prefer the 8 inch because the cakes are more compact and do not look as spread out.  Call me picky...but I am a cake pan collector.  So recently I found the perfect cake pans at Williams and Sonoma in their store, but you can easily find them on their site at
Call it my 'hint' of the day.  You'll like this one - promise!  As my mom would warn you and I've learned from trial and error...ALWAYS place your pans in 250 degree oven after you wash them to totally dry them out from the heat.  If not and you allow water to stand in them they will rust before long and no one wants to cook a cake on rusty pans.
Get cooking!
Alise and Brandi @ The Ranch Kitchen!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Ranch Kitchen's Cherry Limeade Sherbet Punch

In the south wedding showers are done many different ways. The end result is 'showering' the bride with gifts for her home with her chosen groom.  The hostess sends out invitations, women offer to assist by either donating money toward the catering or are assigned appetizers and/or desserts to bring.  Ladies clean their houses until they shine and hostesses arrive an hour before to help with last minute preparations.
In my small town. many showers have the gifts already laid out throughout the house on tables with the cards beside each gift signifying whom they came from.  Some showers will not only have gifts laid out, but gifts guest have brought wrapped to open during the shower.  Registries are set up in our local gifts shops and it is always as easy as picking up the phone and calling in your order without a credit card!  You're billed later by mail or know to go in before and pay what's due.  Some registries in recent years are made at chain department stores like Dillards or Macy's and guest can register online to have them picked up by the bride and either brought the day before to be set up at her shower or kept at home.  In my little hometown the local gift shops bring out the gifts either the day or morning before and the main hostess where the shower is held will set all the gifts out on top of her best linen tablecloths. 
Although a lot of work is involved, I love giving showers of any kind. For one, my house gets that good, 'somebodies coming' cleaning that it normally would not get, and two my favorite foods are party foods as evident by my Pinterest Board called Party Time! Women can always make a meal out of appetizers and after eating a few petite fours (little white cakes with delicious powdered sugar icing) one of the sweetest desserts of the south... you are pretty much done for the day calorie wise!
My most recent shower was not held at my house, but at the beautiful friend of Lisa Pitman Rogers. She and her sister Donna had decorated a lovely table with a to die for crystal footed punch bowl of their mother's and assigned each hostess wonderful foods to bring.  The shower was for my long time friends Pam Clemens son Mitch and daughter-in-law to be Courtney. 

Didn't they make the prettiest table.
Pictured is my sweet diabetic mom having some nondiabetic punch and sweets.
Love that woman! 

My contribution was my sherbet punch that I have been making for the last twenty or more years for showers, receptions and birthday parties.  I call it my Anthology Punch from the days when I hosted our district presentation of student written work for grades kindergarten through the twelfth grades.  Each student produces in class a poem or narrative that was then judged and selected to be placed in a bound book showcasing the best in our district of over 2,500 students.  Several hundred attended this function and we could have never pulled it off without the help of my teacher friends and sherbet punch that became a staple and favorite of the staff and those in attendance. 
Any combination of punches will work for this punch and I have been known to add diced frozen fruit to it when I wanted to add a little flavor.  Keep the sherbet frozen and it is best to have your 7 Up, Sprite or Ginger Ale chilled in order to not melt the punch too quickly.
I should call this 'husband punch', because my husband actually bought the sherbet for me at the grocery store in Cherry Limeade flavor when they were out of my standard pineapple that we normally use.  It turned out to be the best sherbet punch I have ever made and thankfully had I served it with the pineapple, one lady said she would have been allergic to it.  It had a beautiful pink color with pops of red from the cherry's. 
For this shower, with just at fifty in attendance, we served three gallons of sherbet with four - 1 liter bottle of 7 Up.  I usually use a one to one ratio and sometimes 1 gallon of sherbet to 1 - 1/2 bottles of 7 Up.  Ginger Ale and Sprite, or your grocery store's version of these sodas (off brands) are just as good and cheaper as well.

Cherry Limeade Sherbet Punch
1 gallon Cherry Limeade Sherbet
1  to 1 1/2 liters bottle of 7 Up soda
Place sherbet in a large punch bowl.  Gently pour soda(s) over the sherbet over the ladle first being careful not to splash it out.
With a separate large spoon, gently break up the sherbet into small pieces like what you would want served in punch cups. 
Serve and enjoy! 
***As easy as this punch is, I can't tell you how many times people have asked for the recipe.  Be creative and use sherbet or even ice creams you enjoy the most.  It's always a hit and this recipe for the Cherry Limeade Sherbet Punch was my biggest hit yet with very little left over.  *** You can find Cherry Limeade Sherbet on the ice cream isle by Golden Brook at Brookshire's Grocery Company or you can also find it at Braum's Restaurants and Grocery at their ice cream counter!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Pork Roast with Onions

Truly one of my very favorite Sunday suppers to make is a beef or pork roast.  It's a simple, throw it in the oven dinner, with little to minimal prep time.  I can run to the barn, work in my yard, or just take a nap and it's done in under a few hours in my oven...(in other words I'm not standing over an oven frying pork chops).  

This pork roast I share with you today takes a little extra time by adding some sliced onions, but the end results is a flavorful roast that you can eat on for days and transform in to many other recipes throughout your week ahead.

Suggestions to reuse this pork roast are suggestions like my King Ranch Pork Enchilada's (on the recipe tab above this page), and used as the meat inside a box of Tony Chachere's Jambalaya Mix for a quick meal when momma is tired and dinner is faster at home than at a restaurant!

I used my traditional foil pack as you'll see in the picture above, because #1, I'm lazy and don't like to clean a roast pan, and #2, I'm lazy and don't want to feel life is just too short to clean a roast pan!  So, with that said...try this recipe and use the foil!  

I also baked some sweet potatoes or yams on a foil lined cookie sheet, tip ends cut off sprayed with oil along side my pork roast in the oven.  Yams are cooked when you can gently squeeze them and they give.  Hope that makes sense and please don't burn yourself squeezing too hard or without oven mitts! :o)

Pork Roast with Onions

One large pork roast (pork shoulder, butt, or loin)
4 large onions (two if you just have too), sliced in 1 inch slivers
4 cups water
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste or  omit first three spices and use Tony Chachere's  Creole Seasoning
Pam 'Oil' Spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  I use a convection oven that I love for even cooking.  Line a large baking dish with foil that has been sprayed with Pam Spray.  Place roast that has been seasoned liberally with garlic powder, salt and pepper or Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning.  Place roast with the fat side up.  Cover with onions and gently pour water on all sides of the roast.  Cover tightly with foil that has been sprayed with Pam bringing both sides together folding upward.  Place in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 to 3 hours depending on size of your roast.  For a 2 - 3 pound roast, I'd cook for 1 1/2 hours.  My roast last night was a 4 pounder and took 3 1/2 hours to cook.  For the last 30 minutes I uncovered the roast and cut slits on top if it to quicken my cooking time. My reason for this last step was that I got over zealous and bought a roast that was entirely too big! :o)

Be careful when you open the foil as the steam will easily burn you!  Once you take out the roast, allow it to sit for ten minutes before cutting it as this allows the juices to set up and keep it moist!

Slice or pull pork from the bone and serve along side your baked sweet potatoes (directions above), my Unbundled Green Beans here on this site under recipes, and some rolls.
Be careful when you open the foil as the steam will easily burn you!  Spoon the drippings or juice from the roast over your pork for added flavor and don't forget the onions as that is the best part!  My husband likes to add Tabasco Sauce on top of his pork roast!

You can also cook your yams/sweet potatoes beside your pork in the same roasting pan and it is fantastic.  My roast was just so big last night that I did not have room to add the yams!


Alise @ The Ranch Kitchen