Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Lasagna and Spider Bread

Happy Halloween, everybody! I’m sharing a couple of favorite things today. First, this is the oldest Halloween decoration I have from my childhood. We’ve had it as long as I can remember. Isn’t he cute?!!!!


Second, I’m sharing our traditional Halloween dinner. Our oldest daughter’s birthday is the first week of November, so over the years she would have Halloween themed birthday parties. I made this dinner one year for one of those birthday parties and it’s been a tradition ever since. We even managed to have it every year through the college years, not necessarily on the day of Halloween, but at some point during the month. There is no recipe card for the bread – I saw it somewhere once and just figured it out. I will show you the recipe for the lasagna. It comes from the Better Homes and Gardens HOLIDAY COOK BOOK for Special Occasions, which was a birthday present I received from our neighbors on my 12th birthday! So without further ado, I present – our Lasagna and Spider Bread!


This really is a great recipe!

Here is the recipe as I made it:


1 pound Italian sausage, pork sausage, or ground beef

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon chopped parsley (I used dried)

1 Tablespoon dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1-pound can (2 cups) tomatoes

2 6-ounce cans (1 1/3 cups) tomato paste

1 10-ounce package lasagna noodles

2 12-ounce cartons (3 cups) large-curd cream-style cottage cheese

2 beaten eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 Tablespoons chopped parsley (I use dried for this, too)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced thin (or you can use shredded to make it easier to distribute the cheese)

Brown meat slowly; spoon off excess fat.

Add next 6 ingredients to meat.

Simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook noodles according to directions on box.

Combine cottage cheese with next 5 ingredients.

Place half the noodles in 9″ x 13″ baking dish; spread half the cottage cheese mixture over; add half the mozzarella cheese and half the meat mixture.

Repeat layers.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares.

Spider Bread

Put frozen bread dough loaves onto greased baking sheet.

Spray plastic wrap with non-stick spray and cover loaves.

Let thaw and rise overnight.

Remove wrap and form loaves into spider shapes.

Let rise 1 hour.

Brush with 1 beaten egg.

Sprinkle with poppy seeds.

Bake in 350 degree oven until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, depending on size of spider.

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See how cheesy and delicious the lasagna becomes after baking!


I use frozen bread dough (I did make this with 3 children, originally), but you can sure make your own bread dough to use if you want to.


The dough is puffy and bubbly, so you have to punch it down before forming the spiders. I use the same plastic wrap to cover them while rising.


They come out puffed and golden and hairy (the poppy seeds are supposed to make them hairy looking) and not too scary.

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Add a green salad and you have the perfect Halloween meal.

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This lasagna is good anytime, not just on Halloween. Try these for your little trick-or-treaters. They’ll hold off on the candy if they get to pull apart and devour a big spider!



Hilda’s Donuts

When I was little, we lived right next door to my other grandma and grandpa in town. We lived in the upstairs apartment of a house, above the people who owned the house, Hilda and Mike. They were very fascinating to me, they were very old, and they were Norwegian. Mike smoked a pipe and liked to drink his coffee out of his saucer – as in cup and saucer – that saucer. I had heard of people doing that, but he was the last and only person I ever really saw do it. I remember he sure liked to slurp it! Hilda used to make great treats to have with that coffee. I remember her big, almost fluffy molasses cookies that were topped with sparkling sugar, and these amazing donuts made from scratch. They’ve become another one of our family traditions. My other grandma used to make them for us, and then she passed the recipe on to my mom. You can see how well used my mom’s copy of this recipe for Hilda’s Donuts is. This was one treat my mom sent with my dad when he went deer hunting, so it’s appropriate that we traditionally make them in the fall. My sister still makes these often, too, and since she was recently home for a weekend visit, I asked her for a lot of advice. I haven’t made these in years, but she’d like to start a drive-thru donut shop some day! My daughters helped me make this batch, so now they know how to make them, too.

Hilda's Donuts

These donuts really are a taste of home.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Hilda’s  Donuts

Mix in order given:

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons shortening (I don’t use shortening anymore, so I used 2 Tablespoons of melted butter)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together and add:

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking soda

4 cups of all-purpose flour (this is one thing I had to ask my sister, how much to add, since there is no amount on the card)

Roll out to 1/4 ” thick on floured board and cut with a donut cutter (I rolled out half at a time and then put the leftovers from each half together in the end so they only have to get rolled once again).

Fry in melted lard, heated to 375 degrees F.

You can use oil, if you prefer, but like my sister said, when you only make these once every 10 years, why not use the good stuff. Lard doesn’t smell so great when you’re frying, but I think sometimes oil can give them a funny taste and I prefer lard for this.


It seems like a lot of liquid until you add the flour. It seems like it will be sticky, but when you start to roll it out on a floured surface, it wont be.


This is my old donut cutter that I’ve had since before we were married. It looks a little worse for wear, but it still works.


Don’t fry too many donuts at a time. It lowers the temperature of the lard when you put too many in.


I always let them drain for a few seconds on a baking sheet covered with paper towel.


This was a beautiful batch! I dip them in a mixture of 1/2 cup sugar and 1-2 teaspoons cinnamon.


These are the best eaten warm, but they might last a couple of days, if you’re lucky. They’re definitely a taste of home for me. I have so many great memories of loved ones associated with these donuts: Hilda and Mike, Grandma D., Dad, Mom, my sister, and now making them with my kids. I hope these donuts continue to be family tradition for them, now that they can make them, too!



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Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

When cleaning out a pumpkin for roasting and freezing or carving, one of the most important things to do (according to my family) is to keep the seeds and roast them. They make a great snack and are one of the most traditional parts of Halloween for us. I’ve been making these Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds for at least 15 years. I saw them in a Martha Stewart Living Magazine, tried them, and there was no looking back. My kids LOVE these and they are another treat we all make every year. This has been one of my son’s favorite Halloween treats since he was this old.


He was Captain Hook the year this photo was taken. These were the days when whether or not his mustache was on, was most important to him. Now he has his own mustache (and beard) without the makeup! He still can’t wait for these seeds every Halloween.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Dry seeds in 250 degree oven for 1 hour.

Mix together:

3 Tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

Dash of cayenne pepper, or to taste.

Saute dried seeds in 1 1/2 Tablespoons peanut oil (I usually sauté until they start to pop).

Add 2 Tablespoons sugar and mix well.

Remove with slotted spoon and put into spice mixture.

Mix thoroughly.



Start with a beautiful pumpkin. I used this one for freezing, not a jack-o-lantern. We’ll make a pie with it later!


Scoop out the seeds and save them for roasting.


You can see the before and after roasting here. I don’t rinse the seeds because I like the more pumpkin-y flavor leaving them the way they are. The seeds are also good roasted with just a little olive oil and salt. Delicious.


Mix up the spices before starting so you’re ready to go!


Sauteing the seeds in the peanut oil and sugar makes them a little caramel-y.


Make sure to mix the seeds well into the spice mixture.


Each seed is coated in spicy, sugary goodness. You can also use this mixture and recipe for making spiced nuts.


This pumpkin didn’t make a very big batch since it was a small pie pumpkin, but carving jack-o-lanterns (the big ones that we do) gives you more seeds to work with.


These Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds are a great alternative to roasting them plain. They make a great snack and your little trick-or-treaters will love them!






Simple Whole Wheat Bread – Baking Bread – the Odyssey: #2

Today’s recipe is the next stop on Baking Bread – the Odyssey. This Simple Whole Wheat Bread comes from and you can find the original recipe here. It’s the next recipe in my search for the whole grain bread we had on our Sweden/Norway trip.


Since we’re trying to find bread like we had on that little trip of a lifetime, I thought I’d share another photo from it. Ahhhh . . . I feel more relaxed just looking at it!

This recipe is not the whole grain bread I’m looking for, but it’s very good and is now a permanent part of my recipe file. It makes a beautiful loaf and slices very well for sandwiches or toast, and also makes nice buns for sandwiches or hamburgers. One of the things I love most about making my own bread is that there are no preservatives  – you know exactly what’s in the bread. You can actually pronounce every ingredient!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

3 cups warm water (110 degrees F)

2 packages (.25 ounce) active dry yeast

1/3 cup honey

5 cups bread flour

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

1/3 cup honey

1 Tablespoon salt

3 1/2 cups whole wheat four

2 Tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.

Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. (I used my big mixer with the dough hook and kneaded the dough that way for 5 minutes.) Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.

Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch. (I made 2 loaves and made the rest into buns for hamburgers.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes; do not over bake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.


You can see here how bubbly the dough gets.


It really does double in size after rising!


And I really DO punch it down – with my fist. I get out a lot of aggression that way!


The loaves and buns are ready for their rise. Yeast – do your thing!!!


Aren’t they beautiful?!!


Putting the melted butter on the top makes all the difference. It makes the crust softer AND tastier!


This beautiful loaf is really a great one to have handy. It has wonderful texture and taste and freezes well. I’m still searching. On to the next leg of my odyssey!


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Today I’m using up some of the apples that our friend, Sven, gave us. He has a big and very old apple tree that normally just gives fruit every other year, but it gave fruit last year AND this year. My husband took this photo of his beautiful old tree.

Sven's tree

I used some of these apples to make Apple Crisp a few weeks ago and you can read more of the story of his tree on that post. Grandma and Grandpa also had an apple tree when they moved to town, but when they lived on the farm, they would get apples from friends and then we would all help make pies, apple crisp, and applesauce. My kids LOVED this Applesauce when they were growing up, and I still make it every year if I can. They would never want to have to buy store-bought applesauce! It’s so easy to make that there isn’t a recipe card for it.

Here is the recipe as I made it:


Stock pot full of apples, halved, quartered, or sliced

1/2 cup of water, to start, more if it gets too thick

1/2 cup sugar, to start, you can add more or less to taste

1 teaspoon cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

Cook until apples break down and become as smooth or as chunky as you like.

You can eat it as it is at this point, or can it like I do (I got 4 pints out of this batch) and save some for the winter.

I put it in sterilized jars, can in water bath for 25 minutes, and save it for a snowy winters day in February when you need a little summertime in a jar!


Sven gave us a 5 gallon bucket full of gorgeous apples!


My apple peeler won’t work on these apples, they’re too small. It’s cut and peel by hand for this one!


I started out slicing the apples, but ended up quartering them – it took me awhile! 🙂


Put everything in the pot and put the cover on and let it cook.


Even though the applesauce is thick, a funnel helps to keep everything in there.


Four of these beautiful, sweet jars doesn’t seem like enough. I may have to make another batch. Try this easy recipe for apple pie in a jar! It’s best served in the middle of winter when we’re tired of the wind and snow. Delicious.



Knit Pumpkins

We’re exploring a craft project today! I saw this pattern on Pinterest, and I just had to try it. It comes from the blog, The Sitting Tree, and you can find the original pattern here. These are knit on 4 needles, somewhat like the Norwegian snowflake mittens I’m famous for (more on that at a later date). I’m not going to post the pattern here, so if you want to make these adorable Jack Be Little Pumpkins, you’ll have to go to and check out the pattern yourself. Crafts have always been a big part of my life. Both of my grandmas helped me in my crafting. The grandma who babysat me when I was little always had me doing coloring, drawing, cutting, and pasting. Even though they lived in town, they were subscribers to The Farm Journal Magazine, and every month there was a craft project in there that we would do. The other grandma who lived on the farm had me do crafts when I would go out there to visit. I’m sure it was something to keep me busy while they were working on their chores. They both helped teach me how to knit, and my very first project was a scarf that I knit for my grandpa for Christmas. I still have it! Holidays are such a great excuse to craft, and these pumpkins are the perfect decoration for October thru Thanksgiving. They’re simple and fast to make, too!

Here are the pumpkins as I made them:

Knit Pumpkins


On The Sitting Tree blog, she also knit the stem, but I used a piece of a real branch for the stem (just snipped with my clippers), some green wire wrapped around a pen for the vines, and I cut the leaf (patterns for pumpkin leaves can be found online) out of felt. They were all glued on with my favorite glue, E6000.


I found that using different size needles and different kinds of yarn can change the size and texture of the pumpkin.


After stitching around the top of the stuffed pumpkin and pulling it tight, you can also change the shape of the pumpkin by how tight you pull it. Pulling it tighter makes a flatter pumpkin and leaving it more loose makes the pumpkin more round.


These little pumpkins are just so cute! They are a natural and non-commercial decoration that will last more than just one year. This is a fast and easy craft so perfect for the fall and I’ve already made so many of these to give away to family and friends. A set of two or three of these of different shapes and sizes would also make a great hostess gift for this time of year!


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Halloween Popcorn Balls

I have been making these Halloween Popcorn Balls for years. They are a favorite of my kids – particularly my son – in fact, he still had me make them just last weekend. I got the recipe originally from an old Martha Stewart Living Magazine and I’m not allowed to NOT make them, even though my kids are all old enough to make their own popcorn balls. You can find a similar recipe here.

This photo is of me and some fellow trick-or-treaters (you know who you are!) from the mid 1960’s. The year this was taken, I was one of the 101 Dalmatians. I also remember a witch costume, but most years I found enough stuff around the house to be a gypsy.

Halloween Popcorn Balls

I loved Halloween. Yes, I loved it for the treats, but I loved the smell of burning pumpkins when the candles would get too close to the lid, I loved being able to light candles everywhere, the sound of dry leaves as kids run through their neighbors’ yards, those magical years when there would be a full moon, even when there was rain and the raindrops dripped off of the trees and sparkled in the light of the street lights. It’s the one night of the year when kids can dress up and be goofy AND get treats!

There is no recipe card for this one, just a computer printed page, so I’ll just give the recipe.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Halloween Popcorn Balls

1/4 cup butter, plus more for buttering hands

1 10 ounce bag of miniature marshmallows

1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 quarts popped popcorn

1 cup dried cranberries, English toffee bits, m & m’s, candy corn, etc. (optional)

Melt butter in a large, heavy pot over low heat.

Add marshmallows and brown sugar and stir until melted.

Remove from heat.

Pour popcorn and cranberries, or English toffee bits, etc. if using into pot; toss well.

With buttered hands, shape into 2 1/2″ balls.

Set on parchment paper or waxed paper lined baking sheet to dry slightly


We were trying to get these made during halftime of a Vikings football game, so I don’t have any photos of mixing in the sticky, marshmallowy part.


You can see the brown sugar and marshmallowy goodness here.


I added some Halloween sprinkles instead of the extra candy.


These are so easy and really, really good. Give these a try. Your little goblins will love them!





I made these little puffs as one of the appetizers and/or snacks for book club this month, so I thought I’d share them with  you. This recipe is from Saveur Magazine and it’s an old one. It was cut it out years ago. I don’t even know HOW old it is, but I know it’s been kicking around my file for a long time. It’s crazy that I’ve never made them, because they’re sooooooooo good! They feel so French and sophisticated, perfect with cocktails or a glass of wine.

GougeresGougeres 2

These really are great!

Here is the recipe as I made it:


5 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup grated Gruyère cheese

5 large eggs, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Add butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to 1 cup water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

When butter melts, reduce heat to low.

Add flour to butter-water mixture all at once and cook over low heat, beating with a wooden spoon, for 1 minute, until mixture pulls away from the sides of pan.

Remove from heat.

Add cheese to pan and beat in with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Add 4 of the eggs, 1 at a time, beating each egg into the batter until thoroughly absorbed (at this point, I put the flour mixture into my food processor and processed the eggs one at a time – I was in a hurry!).

Continue beating mixture until it is smooth, shiny, and firm.

Drop batter in small spoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet to form Gougeres.

Beat remaining egg with 1/2 Tablespoon water, then brush tops of uncooked Gougeres with egg wash.

Bake in upper third of oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and doubled in size.

Remove from oven and serve hot, or allow to cool to room temperature.

Makes about 3 dozen.


You can use a spoon to drop the puffs onto the baking sheet, but I use a disposable piping (icing) bag. I don’t even use a tip – just cut off the end of the bag, pipe them out, and throw the bag away when you’re done! Easy clean-up!


These cheesy puffs are golden and delicious!


Just stack them up to serve them. You really can never have enough of these!


They’re so easy to do and they freeze well. Make a double batch and get a head start on your holiday baking. Just pull them out for your gatherings, thaw, and let the celebrating begin!



Pumpkin Cake

We grew pumpkins in the big garden on Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. Technically, I suppose, it wasn’t in the garden, it was in a field. This is a photo of me and my sister and our cousin with some of the pumpkins (which seem to be beautifully shaped ones).

Pumpkin Cake

We are sitting on a hay rack and you can even see one of Grandpa’s cows in the background! So cute! We had so many pumpkins one year, that we took them to our house and sold a bunch of them. We also had enough that same year to cook them to freeze and use all winter. From time to time, ever since that fall, I will buy pumpkins, bake them, and freeze the pumpkin flesh for using at a later time. I use the pumpkin in recipes instead of butter or oil (especially good in brownie recipes) and then, of course, for the usual pumpkin recipes for pies, cakes, muffins, and bread. There are a lot of pumpkin pie recipes in Grandma’s file, but not a lot of pumpkin cakes. This recipe for Pumpkin Cake is so good, you’ll want to make it all year round – not just this time of year.

Pumpkin Cake


Pumpkin Cake 2

Pumpkin Cake Frosting

Pumpkin Cake Frosting 2

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Pumpkin Cake

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon allspice

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup cooking oil (I used canola oil)

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup pumpkin

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside.

Cream together oil and sugar.

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each.

Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin, to creamed mixture.

Grease and flour three 9″ cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.

For a bundt pan about 50 minutes.

For cupcakes about 20 minutes.

I made cupcakes with this batch and got 24.

I’m going to try to make a layer cake at a later time, but for today I used the cream cheese icing recipe on the bottom of the card.

Cream Cheese Icing

Mix together until smooth:

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese

1 box (3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup butter

Spread or pipe on top of cake or cupcakes.


I mixed the dry ingredients first and then the wet. Getting everything step ready separately and ready to go makes it easier to add the ingredients alternately in the end.


The cupcakes did rise a bit when baked . . .


. . . making the perfect platform for the icing!


I had to add the pumpkin decoration on top.


Any pan you bake it in, this recipe is delicious, and again, one of my new favorites! Try this one today and it will be your new favorite, too!


Rollo Pretzel Treats for Halloween

I’m always on the lookout for holiday themed treats. These Rollo Pretzel Treats are all over the internet and Pinterest right now and I just had to try to make them. They’re addictive. You can be creative with these and make them fun for any holiday (I just happen to decide to make them now for Halloween), so you can have them all the time. Every holiday. Every weekend. Every weekday. All the time. Because you’re going to want to. They’re ridiculous. These are so easy to do and you can get an assembly line thing going and do a lot of them really fast. They would also make great holiday gifts. There really isn’t a recipe, I just looked online and found a few that showed how long to have them in the oven. I did also see them made in the microwave.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Rollo Pretzel Treats for Halloween

1 bag of Rollo candies or Hershey’s Kisses

1 bag of pretzel snaps or twists

1 bag of decoration: candy corn, m & m’s, pecans or other nuts, etc.

Lay out the pretzels on a cookie sheet (I used one with sides – they do slide around a bit).

Unwrap and place the Rollo candies on top of the pretzels.

Bake at 350 degrees for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from oven and immediately press decoration into top of Rollo candies.

Let cool.


Line them up!


You have to be careful pushing the decoration in and not getting chocolate all over your fingers.


They are so cute!


When I ran out of Rollo candies, I used Hershey’s Kisses and made little sandwiches topped with sprinkles.


After they cool, the shine goes away, but that doesn’t diminish the addictiveness of these little hummers. Make some this weekend – and then hide them!!!!



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