Justin’s mother was one of 12 Cowan children.  At every family function her brother Ray’s wife Donna would bring her apple strudels.  The Cowan sisters would hide them from the rest of us so they could eat them!  Finally Donna decided it was time to teach us how to make them and invited anyone interested to Aunt Clara’s for strudel lessons.  After that Aunt Clara and I would annually get together and make several recipes of them to freeze for the holidays.  Then Aunt Clara moved to North Carolina and would send me boxes of apples every Fall from an orchard there, and I would continue to make them by myself.  Our sweet Aunt Clara passed away in 2008, and I haven’t made them since.  This Thanksgiving Justin’s sister Joni and her daughter Kelle and I decided to rekindle the tradition.  Friday after we had our leftovers we got to work.  The recipe makes 6 strudels, so I did 2 as an example, Joni did 2, Kelle did 1, and my son Logan decided he would do 1.  Hopefully this family tradition can be carried on now!  BTW, they are magnificent, and it is such a special treat to pull one out of the freezer.  They aren’t very large and one will be devoured immediately.  Because of that and the time involved I always at least double the recipe when I am making them so that I can give a few as gifts.  When we finished making them Joni said “This was fun – I wish we had made more!”  It’s a wonderful way to spend time in the kitchen with family or friends, and the rewards are even greater!


¾ c. cold butter
1 c. warm milk
2 egg yolks
3 c. flour
(Extra wide heavy duty foil)
(Melted butter)

Cut butter into the flour with a pastry dough blender.  Beat the yolks with a fork and add them to the milk.  Pour the mixture into the flour and stir until blended – it will be a very sticky dough.  Cover the bowl and chill the dough at least 2 hours or as long as overnight.  Divide the dough into 6 pieces in the bowl.  If doubling the recipe keep part of the dough in the frig while working with the rest.  Roll out one piece of the dough on a heavily floured cloth into a rectangle about 12” long and 8-9” wide.  You will probably have to continue flouring your rolling pin and cloth so the dough doesn’t stick to it.  Move the rectangle onto a piece of foil about 18” wide.  Brush the side facing up with melted butter, leaving about 1” without butter around all edges.  The unbuttered section will help the strudel seal more easily.


1 stick cold butter
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar

Cut the butter into flour/sugar mixture with a pastry dough blender till crumbly.


6-8 apples, peeled and sliced thinly
Box of vanilla wafers made into crumbs with a food processor
Raisins if desired
Chopped pecans
About 1-1/2 sticks butter, softened

Line up all the ingredients in the above order in a row as if in an assembly line.  In a vertical line down the middle of the dough piece about 2” from the top and bottom and about 4” wide layer the filling ingredients, finishing with about 4 thin slices of butter.  It’s hard to estimate how much of each ingredient, but you want the end product about 3” tall so experiment as you go.  I would guess about 3 TB of sugar for a pile of apples that are about 2” tall, maybe more if you are using tart apples.  Be generous with the cinnamon.  I usually go fairly heavy on the cookie crumbs and maybe 3-4 TB of the struesel.

Fold one side of the dough over the filling pulling it so it is somewhat tight around the filling.  Bring the other side of dough over the first side, sealing it.  Roll the top and bottom edges down to close and finish sealing the strudel.  Gently flip it over so the seams are on the bottom of the foil.  Brush the top of the strudel with more melted butter and sprinkle more streusel on top.  Bring the side foil edges together like a tent and roll them down to seal the packet.  As you did with the strudel, roll the top and bottom edges of the foil toward the strudel to close and seal the packet.  Freeze until ready to use. (I have kept mine probably as long as 3 months before.) You may choose to bake one before you freeze the others!

To bake, unroll the foil and set it on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees about 30-45 minutes, depending on whether it was frozen when you put it in the oven.  Bake until it is only lightly browned.  The apples will continue to stream so don’t let it get too brown.  Let cool a bit before serving.  Whew!  Lots of work but well worth it all...


 I remember my mom making heavenly mini pecan pies that were perfect to just pop in your mouth for a quick treat.  This year for Thanksgiving I decided to try and find the perfect recipe for them because I couldn’t find her recipe.  I made 3 different recipes, and these were by far our favorites and actually the easiest because of the crust.  I also made one recipe with chocolate chips added, and it was enjoyable to have options and of course an excuse to have more than one at a time!   Next time I will use this basic recipe and just add chocolate chips instead of doing a separate recipe for the chocolate ones.  Have to admit though the basic pecan ones were definitely the favorites.

2 Pillsbury pie crusts
¾ c. white sugar
1 c. Karo
¾ t. vanilla
1/3 c. melted butter
3 eggs, beaten
1 c. chopped pecans*
½ c. mini semi sweet chocolate chips, optional*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 3 mini muffin tins.  Roll out the pie crust and cut with a circle cookie cutter, biscuit cutter, or small glass that is about 3” in diameter.  Press the pie crust circles into the muffin tin.

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the sugars, syrup, vanilla, butter, and eggs.  Add a small amount of pecans* to each pie cup.  Fill the cup with the filling almost to the top.  The pecans will float to the top.  Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  Using a fork if needed remove gently and allow to continue cooling on a wire rack.  The recipe makes about 36 mini pies.

*If making chocolate pecan pies reduce the amount of pecans to about ½ c. and add the pecans and chocolate chips at the same time.  Basically cover the bottom of the pie cup with pecans and then chocolate chips. 


This recipe came from Cooks Country magazine, and once I saw it, I knew it would be a “moaner”, and it did not disappoint.  I originally wanted to make it for Thanksgiving, but I couldn’t wait that long and made it for dinner last night.  (I made half the recipe since it was just the three of us.)   It is very rich with the heavy cream and cheeses, and I already have several rich things planned for our feast, but I will definitely make this again soon.  My boys loved it as well.

2-1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved through stem
1 TB olive or canola oil
Salt and pepper
3 TB unsalted butter
¼ c. panko bread crumbs
1 shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 TB flour
1-1/4 c. heavy cream
¾ c. chicken broth
1 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded (1/2 c.)
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 c.)
Pinch ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 baking dish. 

Toss sprouts, oil, ½ t. salt, ½ t. pepper together in prepared baking dish.  Bake until sprouts are well browned and tender, about 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt 1TB butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add panko and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 min.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in ¼ t. salt and ¼ t. pepper; set aside.  Wipe saucepan clean with a paper towel.

Melt remaining 2 TB butter into the now-empty saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallot and garlic and cook until just softened, about 1 minute.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Whisk in ¼ c. Gruyere, all the Parmesan, nutmeg, cayenne, ¼ t. pepper and 1/8 t. salt until smooth.

Pour cream mixture over sprouts in baking dish and stir to combine.  Sprinkle evenly with panko mixture and remaining ¼ c. Gruyere.  Bake until bubbling around the edges and golden brown on top, about 5-7 minutes.  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.


These brownies are so good you will swear they are made from scratch.  Leave it to my baking buddy Kim to find a divine brownie recipe!  She has been telling me about this recipe for years, and yet for some reason I never made them.  My kiddos are coming over to watch football today, and brownies are one of Lauren’s favorite desserts – and she said nothing fancy – only football food!  So I decided it was time to try this easy recipe!  I’m hoping they don’t count the brownies and realize two are already missing :-)

1 pkg. Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownie mix
1 egg
¼ c. water
1/3 c. canola oil
2 Symphony candy bars

Preheat oven.  Spray an 8X8” pan with Pam.  Follow instructions on brownie mix.  Pour half of it into the prepared pan.  Lay the two candy bars side by side, and then spread the rest of the brownie mixture over.  Bake according to the directions on the box.  Cool and slice into squares.

Obviously you can double the ingredients and bake it in a 9X13 pan.


Or as Logan refers to it, homemade Hamburger Helper!  I hadn’t made or had Goulash in at least 20 years, but when our neighbor Patsy had back surgery (and I had already made chicken noodle soup for her) I wanted something easy for her husband Bob to heat up for them that would be filling and comforting.  Kim told me as a child her mom’s go-to dish when someone was sick was always goulash, so I went a-hunting on the internet to remind myself how to make it.  I started with one by Bobby Deen and kinda did my own thing.  In fact the second time I made it I didn’t want to go to the grocery store so I ad libbed even more.  Basically, check your pantry and make substitutions when you don’t have all the ingredients!  This recipe will just give you a starting point.  BTW Bob couldn’t get enough of it – comfort food for the caregiver :-)

2 lbs. ground beef
2 lg. yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 c. water
2 – 15 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 – 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 TB Italian seasoning
3 bay leaves
3 TB soy sauce
1 t. garlic powder
1 TB seasoned salt
Black pepper and salt to taste
2 c. uncooked elbow macaroni

In a Dutch oven sauté the ground beef over medium-high heat until no pink remains, breaking up the meat while sautéing.  Spoon off any grease.  Add the onions and garlic to the pot and sauté until they are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the macaroni, and stir well.  Place a lid on the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Add the macaroni, stir well, and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.  Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, and let sit about 30 minutes more before serving.