Habanero Caramel Sauce

My husband and both kids have birthdays all within about a month of each other.  From the time school starts until now, we have a whirlwind of celebrations and weekend parties.  Last weekend, it was my husband’s turn. Do you know one of those people who loves spicy food?  I don’t mean a little hot, I’m talking about burn your face off, where’s the water, why did I eat that, can I have some more, flaming hot.  I’m married to that guy.  I spend quite a bit of time trying to get him to say “Whew…spicy!”  I did it this weekend with an innocent looking caramel sauce on top of cheesecake.


If you’re a mere mortal, like the rest of us, and want to taste everything you eat after this, either decrease the number of peppers or leave them out entirely for a buttery caramel sauce.  For the record, this sauce was my 4th attempt.

Habanero Caramel Sauce

6 – 8 fresh habanero peppers

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cut habaneros in half and scrape out the seeds.  Put peppers and seeds in a small saucepan with enough water to cover.  Cover with a lid (I can’t emphasize this enough – unless you’d like to have everyone in the room choking on the steam) and cook on low for 30 – 45 minutes.  Add water if needed to keep peppers covered.  Remove from heat.  Drain, saving 1/3 cup of liquid.  Separate the seeds and discard.  Chop the peppers.

Combine the butter, brown sugar, syrup and pepper water in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the butter and sugar are melted, and the mixture begins to foam.  Remove from heat and add the vanilla and chopped peppers.  Serve hot or cooled.  Makes 2 cups of sauce.


This makes a pretty large batch, but fortunately we just bought 40 pounds of apples from the high school football team, so my husband is looking forward to using the rest as apple dip later.  I’ll be standing by with the fire extinguisher.

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Banana Bread

One of my son’s favorite things I make is banana bread.  In fact, I’m pretty sure he asks me to buy bananas just so he can leave them on the counter until they turn black.  He does actually eat them once in a while, just to throw me off.

banana bread 1
banana bread 1

I’ve developed my own recipe over the years, and have found it works as bread or muffins.  It usually doesn’t last long around here, but if you hide a loaf, it’s better the second day.

Banana Bread

3/4 cup white sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (3 – 4 medium)

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Combine the lemon juice and milk.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans.

Mix sugars and butter in a large bowl.  Stir in eggs until well-blended.  Add bananas, milk/lemon mixture and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in flour and baking soda until just moistened.  Pour into loaf pans.  Bake about 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool.

banana bread 2
banana bread 2

Occasionally, I add a cup of chocolate chips.  Sometimes I throw in a little cinnamon.  If I’m in a healthier mood, I replace half of the butter with applesauce, yogurt or fat-free sour cream and replace the eggs with egg substitute.  I always use skim milk.  If you do use something besides butter, the bread is better the first day.

To make muffins, pour into greased muffin pan and bake at 400 for about 16 to 20 minutes.

banana bread 3
banana bread 3

The only drawback to this recipe is that you have to plan ahead.  Black bananas make better bread than yellow ones.  Believe me, we’ve tested that theory more than once.

Cornmeal Cookies

I know, I know.  I’ve kind of been on a cookie tangent lately, but I just found a recipe that was kind of unique, new to us and yummy.  I can’t keep something like that to myself.

We made Butter Beer last week, which is pretty tasty by the way, and one of the ingredients is butter flavoring.  My daughter and I were at the grocery store, trying to read the recipe on my tiny smart phone, and misread the amount we needed.  Since I have $12 worth of butter flavoring in the cabinet, I started searching for ways to use it.

I came across this one on AllRecipes, submitted by Elaine Odgen.  These cookies don’t require a ton of ingredients, they do use butter flavoring and personally, I’ve never had a cookie with cornmeal in it.  I altered the ingredients slightly, swapping butter for the shortening, adding brown sugar, increasing the amount of butter flavoring, and increased the yield, but I’m sure these would be fantastic as originally written.


Cornmeal Cookies

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 egg

2 teaspoons butter flavoring

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together butter and sugars.  Add egg, butter flavoring and vanilla and stir well.  Mix together flour, baking powder and cornmeal and add to batter.  Stir until combined.  Drop by spoonsful onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake about 7 – 9 minutes, or until bottoms just start to brown slightly.

These remind me of cornbread, but a little sweeter and with a cookie texture.  And for the record, I do eat food that isn’t cookies sometimes.  Honest.

Lemon Oatmeal Cookies

I’m working on a project I’m anxious to share, but I’m not quite finished with it yet.  However, I did take the time to do a little cookie experimenting so I’ll tell you about that instead.  There’s something about summer that makes me crave lemon.  And there’s something about waking up every day that makes me want cookies, so I decided to combine the two.  The results were delicious…

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Homemade Barbeque Sauce

I know Memorial Day is typically opening day for barbeque season, but with the iffy weather forecast we were looking at we went for homemade pizza instead.  My favorite is barbeque chicken, but we were out of barbeque sauce.  I always love making something that my kids think can only be found in a bottle at the grocery store.

After looking at several recipes, I cowboy’d it and just started throwing stuff into the blender.  Lucky for me, it’s good.  Really good.  Some of this in a bottle with a cute label would make a great Father’s Day gift.


Homemade Barbeque Sauce

1 cup catsup

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon brown deli mustard

1/2 cup molasses

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup corn syrup

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground smokehouse pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon GrillMates Smokehouse Maple seasoning

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon liquid smoke flavoring

1/3 cup water

Throw everything together in the blender. Blend for a couple of minutes, until everything is well-combined and the onions and garlic are chopped into tiny pieces. Pour into a saucepan. Bring to a boil on the stove. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. Cool.


This seems very sweet if you taste it right away, but is much better after it’s spent the night in the fridge.  This is another recipe with flexible ingredients.  If you don’t want it as sweet, leave out some of the corn syrup or honey.  Spicer?  More cayenne.  I recently bought some powdered chipotle I’d like to try in it.  The smokehouse maple seasoning is optional.  If you can’t find it, but want the maple flavor, try substituting some maple syrup for the corn syrup.

If I had known it was this easy, I would have made my own barbeque sauce a long time ago.  I may never buy it again!

Cow Pie Cookies

I am well aware of what a horrible mental image that conjures up, but these were named by a fifteen-year-old boy and that’s the kind of thing he finds hilarious.  Frankly, I couldn’t argue with him – that’s exactly what they look like.  Fortunately, they’re tasty enough to make up for it.

I didn’t figure out the nutrition stats for these, but they should be fairly low in fat.  If you replace the oil with fat-free yogurt or sour cream and leave out the chocolate chips, they could be fat-free.

Cow Pie Cookies

1 box (13.7 oz) Fat-Free No Pudge Fudge Brownie Mix (we happened to use Cappuccino flavor)

1 box (1.4 oz) sugar-free, fat-free chocolate fudge pudding mix

1/2 cup fat-free egg substitute

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients except chocolate chips.  Stir in chips.  Drop by heaping tablespoons onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.  The cookies should be shiny on top and the edges should be slightly dull.  Cool.

This made about 13 large cookies for us and they were still fudgy inside.  They didn’t stay around for long, but they were so much yummier than they look.

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola

My daughter asked me to buy some granola last week.  She wanted to stir it into her yogurt.  I wrote it on the grocery list, then somewhere a little voice said “You could make granola!”  I’ve never made it before, so I don’t know what that was about, but it seemed like something that would be pretty hard to screw up.

I searched through several recipes but none of them were exactly what I wanted so this is my version.  I’ve found it very hard to leave alone since I took it out of the oven last night, so I’m calling it a success.

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola 1
Peanut Butter Cashew Granola 1

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine in a large bowl:

6 cups rolled oats

2 cups cashew pieces

1 1/2 cups sunflower seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Stir in:

1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 cup honey

1 tablespoon vanilla

After all ingredients are well combined, spread out on two large, ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes.  Stir.  Return to oven for 10 minutes.  Stir again.  Cook 5 minutes longer, or until golden.  Pour onto paper towels to cool.  I added 1 1/2 cups broken, dried banana chips, sprinkled over the cooling granola.

Peanut Butter Cashew Granola 2
Peanut Butter Cashew Granola 2

If you don’t like cashews or sunflower seeds, you can use any kind of nuts.  Replace the peanut butter with almond butter.  It’s fairly sweet, so you could leave out the brown sugar if you prefer.  To cut down on fat, replace some of the oil with applesauce.  Add some dried fruit after it’s done baking.  Try different seasoning instead of, or in addition to, the cinnamon.  Add ground flax seed or wheat germ.  Throw in a few chocolate chips.  If some people in my house wouldn’t have rejected it, I would throw in some coconut.  In fact, I might do a coconut, dried pineapple and macadamia nut batch.  You almost can’t go wrong.

We’ll see how long this stuff lasts in my house.  I think I might as well add the ingredients to next week’s grocery list right now.