Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day!

My husband and I, along with our oldest daughter, took the long way home from our nephew’s high school graduation in Virginia in May. We headed north to Massachusetts to visit the town where we think one of my ancestors settled a town with a group of 35 families from England in 1638. We were only there for 3 days before heading back to Minnesota, but wow – did we pack a lot into those 3 days! On our last full day, we visited the Concord, Massachusetts area, and this was one of the places we saw. This is the Old North Bridge where the “shot heard ’round the world” happened.

Here is the road that the British soldiers were marching on towards Concord. They had to cross the bridge, but the American Militia were waiting on the other side.

This is the view from the Old North Bridge where the first shots against the British in the beginning of the Revolutionary War took place.

This is the hill where the American Militia were waiting.

I’m grateful to the Minute Men who showed their bravery and gained our independence.

It was really quite moving to be able to see where it all started.

Thank you so much for stopping by – I appreciate each and every one of you!

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Independence Day Bundt Cake

Today we’re doing another bundt cake – the Independence Day Bundt Cake! I’m still on my quest to work my way through an entire year making the Bundt Cake recipe, altering it for every holiday. It really is the most versatile recipe ever! I love that this is so easy and fast, you can do it totally last-minute.

The 4th of July was always a big occasion at our house. We lived on a lake, so there were always a lot of people who came for the celebration – two sets of grandparents, other family members, friends, and neighbors. This photo of me was taken a few years before we moved to the lake, but it shows how much of a water-baby I was (BTW – that was NOT a Barbie Doll – it was a Miss Clairol doll. Ha!). My sister was a water baby, too, and we loved the lake and looked forward to the weekend of the 4th all year.

We would start the day by heading to the small town just north of our lake to watch the annual 4th of July parade. After eating our fill of the candy that the people on the parade floats would throw at us, packing up the lawn chairs, and fighting the traffic to drive back to our house, people would start coming to our house for the day, and the fun – both in and out of the lake – would begin. The 4th of July was that one day of the year when my dad and his best friend would show off their water ski prowess. My dad would do his once a year ski, and his best friend would do his annual starting off the dock on one ski. He’d yell, “Hit it!” and my dad would throw the throttle forward and his friend would jump off the dock into the water (on one ski) behind the boat to show off for us kids and everyone present. One other crazy thing they did was ride the “saucer” (a 5 foot diameter piece of plywood with rounded edges that we would stand up on and ride behind the boat) and put a step-ladder on it, climbing up the ladder, and riding it around the lake like that. They did lose one ladder one year! I think after that they put a life jacket on the ladder so it would float if it fell into the water. Ha! After the water activities, we would reluctantly (because we never wanted to actually get OUT of the lake) head up to the house for the food – fried chicken, salads of every description (see the Salad category on the right of this page – this included a lot of those recipes), Baked Beans, chips, and desserts (there was usually a Bundt Cake and some Homemade Ice Cream in there somewhere). There were always sparklers and firecrackers bought on family trips to South Dakota or Wisconsin (my dad liked to stay well-stocked and I think they were illegal in MN at the time), and at the end of the night we would battle the hoards of mosquitos (and clouds of bug spray) to watch the fireworks show in that same small town just north of our lake. That day was a lot of work, but it was a blast and the whole family loved it!

This really is a great recipe – the possibilities are endless!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Bundt Cake

Mix together:

1 cake mix (I used chocolate fudge here)

1 package instant pudding (I used chocolate here)

4 eggs

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup oil (I used canola oil)

Beat 2 minutes.

Pour into bundt pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

Cool in pan on rack for 25 minutes.

Turn out onto cooling rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Glaze:

2 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 Tablespoons milk, or enough to make glaze the consistency you want

Spoon or pipe glaze onto cake.

Decorate with sprinkles and/or colored sugar on top (quickly, before glaze dries).

Oh boy – it comes out of the oven looking pretty good!

I seriously love how easily it comes out of the pan. I have had a problem with things sticking in the bundt pan before – remember the Rum Cake?!! Cooling in the pan for 25 minutes is the key!

I made a Vanilla Glaze for this cake instead of the usual lemon-flavored Glaze.

Instead of using a disposable piping bag, this time I used a zip top bag. It’s just so easy! Put the Vanilla Glaze into the bag, zip it shut, snip off one corner, squeeze the glaze over the cake, and then just throw the bag away! Don’t forget the sprinkles!

Here she is – in all her glory!!!

So here is another example of how easy it is to change-up this Bundt Cake recipe to fit any occasion! The 4th of July is so much fun, and even if you don’t live on a lake, make the most of it. Let’s make a party out of it! Every party needs a cake, so I think you should all make a nice, easy, delicious, festive Independence Day Bundt Cake!

 

 

 

 

 

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4th of July Soda Cracker Bars

I wanted to try to use a recipe I posted a couple of years ago to make some festive 4th of July Soda Cracker Bars. Grandma’s recipe for Soda Cracker Bars is so incredibly delicious and addictive – I thought, why not try to make them red, white, and blue? Well, this was a mistake. Not a total mistake as much as that I made a mistake. I just assumed I could make the same bars, but use white chocolate chips instead of regular chocolate chips. Nope. I’ll elaborate as we go along.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Soda Cracker Bars

Butter a jelly roll pan and layer on:

soda crackers (about 1 1/2 sleeves of crackers)

Cut or break crackers to fill pan.

Combine in saucepan:

3/4 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

Boil 2 minutes.

Spread hot caramel over soda crackers.

Bake in 325 degree oven for 5 minutes or until bubbly.

Put on top of hot caramel:

2 cup white chocolate chips, melted in microwave according to instructions on package

Carefully spread the white chocolate on top of the caramel.

Top with sprinkles.

Cut while warm.

Put in refrigerator to cool and firm up.

I used a sharp knife to cut through the soda crackers and make them fit the whole pan.

Here is the caramel on top of the crackers, and the white chocolate chips sprinkled on top of that.

So far, so good, right? No. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT do it this way. I guess when there’s a specific way to melt the white chocolate chips on the package, you should take it seriously. You can see that the chips are shiny, which means they’re melting when you use regular chocolate chips. Not so with the white ones. They never did melt enough to spread.

In fact, I could actually scrape them off the caramel. Which I did after trying to put the pan back into the oven in case the pan had cooled off too much for some reason, and wasn’t hot enough to melt the white chocolate chips. That wasn’t it, either.

All that did was ruin the caramel, too. I scraped off the white chocolate chips, but we kept the caramel-coated soda crackers to snack on anyway. They’re still tasty, just not very festive.

Ok – let’s just start over. Here we are at the point where the caramel is on top of the soda crackers. After baking for 5 minutes, it does get bubbly.

Here’s the trick – melt the white chocolate chips in the microwave or double boiler and THEN pour it on top of the bubbly caramel on the soda crackers. I melted them in the microwave while the crackers were in the oven to get the caramel bubbly. Then I let them sit in the warm bowl for a few minutes after the pan came out of the oven. There are people on Pinterest making these bars and not having a problem with the chips melting. I had a problem, so I decided to melt the chips separately. I hope this all makes sense at this point. It really is a very easy recipe!

Spread the melted white chocolate chips over top and then sprinkle with jimmies, sprinkles, or colored sugar. You could also use red, white, and blue M&Ms or other candies – anything that would be yummy and festive.

I did cut some of them while they were still warm, and it was easier to break them apart in squares. I didn’t cut the other half – I just left them as is and broke them apart after cooling. Some of it still broke into squares and some of it broke like almond bark would break.

I think that in the end, after making these twice, they turned out to be VERY festive and colorful. They’re cute – and very addictive. It’s that sweet and salty thing. Just don’t forget that white chocolate chips don’t melt as easily as regular chocolate chips, and you’ll be fine. Make a batch (or two) of these 4th of July Soda Cracker Bars and you’ll have your guests totally addicted!

 

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6 Great Ideas for the 4th of July

I wanted to share 6 Great Ideas for the 4th of July today.  It’s coming up – faster than we want it to! It always seems like summer’s half over once the 4th of July comes. My family has had a busy summer, so far, and I can’t believe that it’s time to be thinking about the 4th already! Enjoy these ideas – I hope you can find something new to try!

4th of July Take Home Favors

Fairy Cookies

Blueberry Pie

Patriotic Snack Mix

Happy 4th of July

Angel Food Cake

 

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Day 4 – 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas – Julekage

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It’s Day 4 of the 12 Days of Scandinavian Christmas and we’re making Julekage! For some reason, I think of this is as a Norwegian bread. This was a sweet Christmas bread that Grandma really liked. She probably made it back in the day, but this is a recipe I have made for a long time. This recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Creative Cooking Library series of cookbooks that my mom had years ago. It’s in the book Birthdays and Family Celebrations and the bread is called Sugarplum Bread. Grandma always called it Julekage, so that’s what we call it, too. It’s not an official Scandinavian recipe, but I’m sure the recipes are similar. I’ve seen it called Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, so it’s truly Scandinavian!

julekage

There’s no better bread for my family’s leftover Christmas ham sandwiches!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Julekage

Soften in 1/2 cup warm water:

2 packages of active dry yeast

Combine:

1 cup milk, scalded

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup shortening (I used butter)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Cool to lukewarm.

Add:

2 cups flour (you’ll need 4 3/4 to 5 1/4 cups total)

1 teaspoon lemon peel

Beat until smooth.

Add:

2 eggs, beaten

Beat well.

Stir in:

The softened yeast

Add:

1 1/2 cups mixed diced candied fruits and peels

Stir in:

Enough of remaining flour, or enough to make a soft dough

Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes).

Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease the surface.

Cover and let rise in warm place until double (about 2 hours).

Punch down.

Divide dough in half and round each into a ball.

Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Place round loaves on greased baking sheet and pat tops to flatten slightly.

Cover and let rise until almost double (about 1 1/2 hours).

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (cover tops with foil after 15-20 min to prevent over browning).

Cool on rack.

While slightly warm, glaze with frosting of 2 cups powdered sugar mixed with 3-4 Tablespoons milk.

Decorate with bits of red and green candied cherries or sprinkles.

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Here we go – melting the butter in the hot milk with the sugar and salt. There are what seems like a lot of steps to this bread, but it’s worth it in the end!

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Here are the add-ins: softened yeast, beaten eggs, and chopped candied fruit (I used just cherries instead of fruit and peels).

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Here is what it looks like after adding the first 2 cups of flour.

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This is with the added chopped fruit.

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Here we are at the point where we’ve added everything and we’re starting to knead. Since I use my big mixer, the kneading part is when you put on the dough hook.

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Here is the dough ready to rise and then punched down after rising.

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This shows the dough before and after baking. Again – the house will smell so good when this is baking!

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I tend to decorate this with sprinkles instead of the candied cherries, but either way is just fine. You can freeze it with the frosting on, or leave it off until you are ready to serve it. You can make it as festive as you want to. It’s so pretty and so delicious! You’ll love this bread that’s great with leftover Christmas ham or turkey. It’s even great toasted. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Happy 4th of July!!

Happy 4th of July everyone!

I hope you’re all able to enjoy the day with family and friends, food, and fireworks!!! It’s so important to celebrate every possible holiday (or even weekends)!

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I don’t have any special 4th of July decorations that I used for setting our holiday table – I just pulled out everything I could find that was red, white, and blue! I did have the flags from last year.

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Sweet cherries are the perfect natural treat.

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My hydrangea got hit by hail and cool weather early in the season and are NOT up to last year’s standards.

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This one kind of looks like fireworks!

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Because I don’t have many 4th of July decorations, I printed out antique postcards to use – cheap AND cute!

Stay safe everyone, and enjoy the holiday!

Thanks for reading Plenty Sweet Life!!

 

 

 

 

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Patriotic Snack Mix

My husband likes to have snacks at work and I said I’d throw something together. Why not make it seasonal and use red, white, and blue in it to make it patriotic at the same time? He’s taking this batch to work, but this is also a great Patriotic Snack Mix for your 4th of July weekend. It’s chock full of sweet treats and nuts to give you enough energy to get your family through all the swimming and lake events, all of those lawn games of corn hole or Kubb, and you could even take some along for a snack when watching fireworks.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Patriotic Snack Mix

1/2 box of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats

1 package of dried cherries

1 cup coconut (just for fun!)

1 bag of M & Ms

3 cups whole almonds

3 cups walnut halves

3 cups pecan halves

Mix gently.

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The sweets – Frosted Mini Wheats, M & Ms, Dried Cherries, and Coconut. The roasted nuts – almonds, walnuts, and pecans. I roasted some raw nuts, but if you wanted to you could use salted nuts. Add what you like and make up your own mix!

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So festive – you could use any color of M & Ms and make it appropriate for any holiday or occasion.

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This little snack mix is absolutely delicious, and there are no added oil, spices, or baking needed.

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Make up a batch of this snack mix to take along for the weekend. It will keep you energized for your 4th of July festivities. Stay safe this weekend and enjoy your family and friends!

 

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Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July, everyone!

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(source)

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading

Plenty Sweet Life!

 

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Angel Food Cake

The recipe for today is from my other grandma. This is a photo of her when she was young, and had to be sometime in the 1920’2 or 1930’s, I think. It says “statue” on the front and “Mpls” on the back, so maybe she was visiting relatives living in the Minneapolis area.

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I love her satiny dress and pretty shoes! She was a diabetic, so she made Angel Food Cake a lot in her later years. It’s low-fat, low sugar, and still so delicious. This cake reminds me so much of summer. It seemed like grandma would make this every time we were at their house for dinner in the summer. Grandma was my babysitter when I was really little. We lived in an upstairs apartment in a house right next door to Grandma and Gramp. She would pick me up every day and carry me next door to their house and I’d spend the day with them. It was so convenient for my parents and I got to stay in the neighborhood and play with my friends and play in the park that was right across the street from our houses. (I was obsessed with the monkey bars, and, I might add, I was quite the whiz on those monkey bars. There are home movies to prove it!) Summertime holds a lot of memories of those grandparents and their house: them sitting in their lawn chairs in the front yard watching cars go by, Grandma’s lemonade made from scratch, picking vegetables from their garden (Gramp eating green onions and radishes with salt), running through the sprinkler in their backyard (it was one that would spin and it always knocked into my ankles!!), collecting bugs, eating watermelon, going down into their dark, damp, cool basement to get away from the heat, and one especially frightening evening when we had to go in their basement, sit on top of their chest freezer and listen to the radio warning us of a tornado heading our way (it never touched down). I could go on and on.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Angel Food Cake

There is no recipe card and there really isn’t a recipe – just follow the directions on the box mix. You could make your angel food cake from scratch, but a mix is so easy, that’s what I used.

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All you do to the mix is add water. Mix it up, put it in the angel food cake pan, and I always take a table knife and run it through the batter to try to get rid of any bubbles in there.

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It comes out of the oven toasty brown and fragrant! There’s nothing like the vanilla-y aroma of an angel food cake baking. Wow.

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You need to cool the cake upside down. Find a bottle or something to cool it on BEFORE you take it out of the oven. It has to fit in the hole in the middle of the pan so the pan can sit on it. I guess it stays nice and light and airy when cooled that way.

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Start by running a knife along the outside of the pan and pull the inside part out. Then run the knife along the inner tube and on the bottom between the cake and the pan. Then flip the cake upside down onto your serving plate.

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You can eat it plain, but you can also put whatever toppings you want on it. Berries and whipped cream are always good, but you can also use chocolate sauce, pudding, jam, etc.

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I just love this cake! The brown, crispier bits are the best part!

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If you’ve forgotten about this old-fashioned cake, give it a try. There’s no easier or tastier way to celebrate summer!

 

 

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4th of July Take Home Favors

I saw so many cute crafts online for the 4th of July, that I just had to get crafty and try one of my own. I love making crafts and I love making little treats for guests to take home from a party, so I’m sharing how I made these 4th of July Take Home Favors. This one is a combination take home favor, table decoration, and place card. It’s a great last-minute and fun craft to make – get your kids involved! I got everything I needed for these at the grocery store (some things I had at home) when picking up groceries for the weekend.

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I found some free antique post card images on the internet to print, cut them out, and glued them onto red plastic cups. After I had them glued, I would have made them a bit smaller, but that’s just me! I took a small hole punch and made holes on either side of the cup, opposite each other, pulled a silver sparkly pipe cleaner (chenille stem, if you will) through each hole and twisted the ends around to make a handle. Then I used a sheet of red, white, and blue tissue paper, folded it a couple of times, and ran it through my shredder to make the filler for the bottom of the cups.

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Depending on your guests, you can alter the treats and goodies you put in these. For our celebration, I used mints, gum, chocolates, a couple of sparklers, and a flag. You could use more kid friendly things if you’re making these for a kids table: stickers, water shooters, fun sunglasses.

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I have the table set for a casual holiday lunch, but you can get as creative as you want with your table settings.

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Gather up your kids or your weekend company and do a holiday craft to make your holiday celebration even more festive and memorable! Have fun!!!

 

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