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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, Moving, and Making New Friends

Making new friends

Banana chocolate chip muffins remind me of making new friends. That’s why after we made our most recent move, I made a double batch of them in an attempt to meet our new neighbors. Unfortunately, it didn’t go like I’d hoped. (You can read more about this in my post “Making New Friends in New Places” at (in) courage. However, the my first encounter with banana chocolate chip muffins and new friends turned our far better.

One of our family’s eight moves took us all the way from the hot desert of West Texas to the cold, beautiful mountains of Alberta, Canada. A couple of days after we moved into our new home, the neighbor directly across the street welcomed us with warm banana chocolate chip muffins. The muffins were delicious and JoAnne’s offer of friendship was a blessing!

JoAnne and Kelly’s daughter was the same age as one of our daughters and their son was the same grade as our son. The two boys especially became inseparable and Joanne and I became good friends. That was 20 years ago, but their family came from Alberta to Louisiana for our son’s wedding two years ago. And it all started with banana chocolate chip muffins!

My post last week at (in) courage prompted at least two requests for the recipe, so I promised to share it here. My only request is that when you make them, you share them with a friend. Maybe you can even use them to make a new friend!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

  • 1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 beaten egg
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/3 cup cooking oil
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. Combine egg, milk, and oil in another container. Add the egg mixture all at once to the flour mixture. Stir just until moistened; batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin cups or line with paper bake cups, fill 2/3 full. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden. Makes 10 to 12 muffins.  (Download and print the PDF version of the recipe!)

Wish we could sit down together over coffee and a warm muffin! But we can talk here. What are some ways you reach out to make new friends?

Some other posts on friendship you may find helpful:

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Pumpkin Bread, Peanut Brittle, and Lies

Thanksgiving seemed to come early this year. I bought fresh cranberries to make my traditional cranberry pumpkin bread, but I didn’t get to it before Thanksgiving. So, I made it yesterday. The Libby’s recipe is below!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

I guess I call it “my” bread because I’ve been making it for years. But in all honesty, I took it off the back of a can of Libby’s pumpkin more than two decades ago. It’s probably safe to call it “mine.” But, I really try not to claim recipes unless I created them. Particularly since the peanut brittle incident.

I make peanut brittle every Christmas. I got the recipe about twenty years ago from a dear friend, Kelly, when our family lived in Wyoming. Then we moved to Canada and Kelly moved to Houston. Over time and among new friends the recipe became “mine.” Everyone loved it and I often gave it as gifts to friends at Christmas.

Years later, when we moved from Canada to Houston, Kelly and I picked up our friendship. Well, when two Canadian friends came to visit me in my new home Kelly joined us for an evening out. Over dinner we began to talk about food. One of my Canadian friends, Glennie, asked Kelly if she had ever had “Kathy’s famous peanut brittle.” Before I could even speak Kelly quietly said, “I believe that would be my peanut brittle.”

I never claimed that the recipe was mine. I just never gave the credit to Kelly. I liked the praises I received when I made the candy. So even though I didn’t blatantly and intentionally lie, I never corrected the assumption. Then came that fateful day when my omission caught up with me.

I know this particular situation is silly and pretty harmless. But it did remind me that we always reap what we sow. All sin has consequences. Sometimes it just may take a little while to catch up with us.

Here’s Libby’s recipe for the Pumpkin-Cranberry Bread. Enjoy it!

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 cup Libby’s Solid Pack Pumpkin
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin; mix well. Combine flour, pie spice, soda, and salt in another large bowl; make well in the center of the dry mixture. Pour pumpkin mixture into well; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in cranberries. Spoon batter into two greased and floured 8 x 3 ¾ x 2 ½ inch aluminum loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

What’s your favorite fall or Christmas recipe?


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My Top Ten – Plus One – Chocolate Favorites

Chocolate FavoritesChocolate is my love language and I speak it fluently. In honor of the Chocolate Holiday (aka “Valentine’s Day), I’d like to share some of my chocolate favorites with you.

I do have a few “chocolate quirks.” For instance, I LOVE chocolate and I LOVE ice cream, but I don’t particularly care for chocolate ice cream. I like nuts covered in chocolate, but not nuts in my chocolate. And yes, there is a difference. Same goes with chocolate and fruit. Fruit dipped in chocolate is great, but don’t put fruit in my chocolate. In fact, there is something just wrong about chocolate covered cherries.

Top Ten Chocolate Favorites (Plus One)

Without further ado, here are my chocolate go-tos. (In no particular order)

  1. Dairy Milk chocolate bar – quite possible the creamiest chocolate bar ever!
  2. Hershey’s Best Brownies (recipe below!) – I’ve been making these brownies for probably 25 years!
  3. M&Ms – a truly classic fav!
  4. Cadbury Mini-Eggs – only available around Easter. Ya’ll, I can’t stop eating these. So I try NOT to buy them. If you have more discipline than I do, try them out. You can order on Amazon and get them tomorrow with Prime!
  5. Cadbury Mini-Eggs Christmas version! – Oh yes!
  6. Lindt Milk Chocolate Lindor Balls – These may be my #1.
  7. Mocha Truffles – The perfect combination of chocolate, cream cheese, and chocolate. I traditionally make these at Christmas. Here’s the recipe! 
  8. Warm Chocolate Melting Cake – ate it every night on our last Carnival Cruise. They actually gave me the recipe, but when I tried to recreate it, it just wasn’t the same. Maybe it’s because I messed up converting the recipe from 200 servings to 12! I found this recipe online. Not sure if it’s legit, but it’s probably worth trying. And it only makes 6 servings!
  9. Hershey’s Peppermint Bark Bells – If you like mixing peppermint with your chocolate, check these out next Christmas!
  10. Fudge Richey – from “Susie’s South Forty” in Midland, Texas (Ladies, it’s chocolate-covered fudge!) And you can order online. And although their Pecan Toffee doesn’t have chocolate, it is fabulous!
  11. Rolo Pretzel Delights – I was finished with my top ten when I remembered this brand new favorite, so you get a bonus. A friend brought these to a ladies’ lunch in December and I could not get enough. I had to go home and make some. Super easy, but super addictive, so watch out. Here’s the recipe! 

I’d love to hear about your chocolate favorites and any quirky chocolate rules!

Hershey’s Best Brownies

I got this recipe off the back of a canister of Hershey’s cocoa many years ago. However, the chocolate chips are my addition!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup cocoa
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large bowl. Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well. Add cocoa, beat. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat well. Mix half the chocolate chips into the batter and spread into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake 30 minutes only!


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Family Recipe: Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplingsI just completed a fun project. I used Shutterfly to create a memory cookbook for our grown children. The book includes photos of my husband’s parents and his mom’s recipes we all loved most. I ordered 5 books. One for me, one for each of our grown kids, and one for Wayne’s nephew.

The idea for the project took root early this past summer. Wayne’s dad passed away in March and we were going through his things. We found two small boxes containing all of Wayne’s mom’s handwritten recipes. Wayne’s mom – we called her Mammaw – was a wonderful grandmother and a great country cook. She also taught first grade for 34 years. I learned a lot from her about parenting and cooking.

Sadly, Wayne is now the last of his nuclear family. Cancer claimed his brother in 1994. Mammaw died in a car accident in 2004. And we lost “Pappaw,” Wayne’s dad, this spring. The memory cookbook seemed like a nice keepsake for the grandchildren.

family photo

Howard Family 1993

So, since I’ve been focused on recipes the last few days, you all get to benefit. My favorite “Mammaw recipe” is her Chicken and Dumplings. Since the dumplings are made from scratch, it’s a bit time-consuming. But it’s totally worth it!

The recipe is below, but you can also print this PDF!

Chicken and Dumplings


  • 1 whole chicken
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • Salt and pepper

Cook chicken in large pot of water until done. Remove chicken from pot and reserve broth. When chicken is cool enough to handle remove skin and bones. Cut or tear chicken into bite-sized pieces. Set meat aside.

Add enough water to broth to make two quarts of liquid. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare dumplings. Mix flour and salt. Blend in butter. Add boiling water. Roll dough out thin and cut into short strips. Drop dumplings into boiling broth and simmer until done. Add chicken, soup, and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 8 to 10.

If you make it, I’d love to hear how it turns out and how your family likes it! What is your favorite fall recipe??

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Perfect for Fall: Cheeseburger Soup

Cheeseburger SoupThe air is crisp in Houston today with the early morning temperature in the upper 50’s. Finally, it feels like fall.

Fall brings many wonderful things, including soup. So, I decided this was a perfect day to break from my usual kind of blogging and share one of my favorite soup recipes with you – Cheeseburger Soup!

I found the original recipe in a “Taste of Home” magazine about 25 years ago. (Yes, that’s when I still got printed magazines delivered through the mail.) But I have adjusted it here and there to make it my own.

The whole family loves it. My kids even loved it when they were young, so chances are it will please your family too, no matter their ages. The recipe is below, but here’s a PDF you can print!

If you make it, I’d love to hear back from you on how it turns out!

Cheeseburger Soup

  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ¾ cup chopped onions
  • ¾ cup shredded carrots
  • ¾ cup diced celery
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 3 Tbl butter
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup sour cream

Brown the beef in a 5-quart pot. As the beef is browning, add the onions, carrots, celery, and basil to the pan and sauté all together. When beef is no longer pink and the veggies soft, add chicken broth and potatoes to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in a small skillet. Add flour, cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is bubbly. Add flour mixture to soup and stir until thoroughly mixed. Bring soup to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Add cheese, milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Slowly add a small amount of the hot soup liquid to the sour cream and stir until smooth. Then stir sour cream mixture back into the soup. Makes 8 servings.



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Mint Brownies for Christmas

Mint BrowniesI love chocolate. I love brownies. I love mint. That makes this decadent dessert a triple threat! I found this recipe more than 20 years ago. I would tell you where if I could remember!

This 3-layer brownie is yummy, pretty, and festive with its minty green layer in the middle. Perfect for a Christmas gathering! In fact, I made it just last week to take to a Christmas lunch party. When I shared a photo on Facebook someone asked for the recipe, so I decided to share it with you too!

The recipe is below. You can also download this PDF to print!

Brownie Layer (You could use a boxed mix for this layer):

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 can (16 oz) Hershey’s syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Blend sugar and butter together until creamy. Add eggs and beat. Add flour and salt, mix. Add Hershey’s syrup and vanilla. Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 27 minutes.

Mint Icing Layer:

  • 2 Cups Confectioner’s sugar
  • ½ tsp peppermint extract
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 Tbl milk
  • 3-4 drops green food coloring

Mix the 5 ingredients listed above until smooth. Spread over COOLED brownie layer.

Glaze Layer:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbl butter

Mix chocolate and butter and melt in microwave just the minimum time needed to melt. The chocolate will burn easily. Spread over the top of the icing.


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Love means Crème Brûlée

We celebrated my husband’s birthday last week. Poor Wayne, it’s tough when your birthday is so close to Christmas. It can easily get lost in the activities of the season.

This year I wanted to do something special, just for him. To show him that his birthday does matter.

Wayne doesn’t love cake. So over the years I’ve made his favorite pie – Coconut Cream – several times. One year I made Tiramisu. That was a disaster. But that’s also another story.

This year I wanted to tackle his absolute favorite dessert. When we go out to eat, if it’s on the menu, he orders it. But this dessert intimidates me. I’ve always considered crème brûlée to be super “fancy,” something too difficult for me to tackle. But this year I worked up the courage to give it a try.

First, I Googled “easy crème brûlée recipes and found a couple I could use as a starting point. Then I went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and bought four crème brûlée ramekins. Then, I headed to the grocery store to pick up heavy cream.

creme bruleecreme brulee 22










creme bruleeFinally, last Wednesday, I embarked into new territory and made my first ever crème brûlée. I didn’t taste it before I served it so I was a bit nervous when I set it on the table in front of Wayne. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when he pronounced it “delicious!” And you know what? It was!

The most exciting part of the whole process is that Wayne was pleased. He knew I had gone out of my way to try something new solely because I knew he would like it.

Wayne isn’t on Facebook so I shared photos and comments throughout the process. A number of my FB friends asked for the recipe so I’m sharing it here. I created this one by combining elements from two. I hope you enjoy. I would love to hear how it goes and even see photos!

Creme Brulee recipe

click to print


Think about the people you love. What are some ways you could show them they’re special to you?


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Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Pumpkin Cranberry BreadIt’s that time of year again. Time for football, cooler weather, changing leaves, and all things pumpkin! At my house, that means Pumpkin Cranberry Bread. This spicy, tangy, sweet bread is a long-time favorite.

Although I’ve often referred to it as “my Pumpkin Cranberry bread,” I must confess, I did not create it. I found it on the back of a can of Libby’s pumpkin at least 20 years ago. I’ve taken it to ladies’ Bible study, church socials, and neighborhood coffees. I’ve gifted it to friends and served it to visiting family. It freezes well, so I often double the recipe.

Last Friday I made my first batch of the season and shared some photos on Facebook. Several friends asked for the recipe, so today, I’m sharing it with you!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 cup Libby’s Solid Pack Pumpkin
  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 TBL pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped cranberries

Combine eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin in one bowl and mix well. Combine flour, pie spice, soda, and salt in a larger bowl; make a well in the center. Pour pumpkin mixture into the well; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in cranberries. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8 x 3 ¾ x 2 ½ inch aluminum loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


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Pumpkin Soup and Soul Talk

My husband does not like my Pumpkin Soup. I really think it’s because it doesn’t have any meat in it. And it’s orange.

However, women love it! Go figure.

So, I have decided this Pumpkin Soup is my friendship soup. I make it to share with girl friends. Those times when it’s just the girls. When we sit and chat. Sometimes it’s just fun and laughter. Sometimes it’s deeper soul talk. But it’s always good. The talk. And the Soup.

pumpkin soup, friendsI’m sharing the recipe with you today. I’m also giving you a little nudge. Get the ingredients. Make the soup. Invite a friend or two to lunch. Eat. Laugh. Chat about your day. Talk about the things of God. Enjoy.


2 TBL butter
½ cup chopped onion
2 cup chicken stock
1 large potato, peeled and diced
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1/8 tsp thyme
14 oz canned pumpkin
2 cup milk
Cayenne pepper to taste

Saute onion in butter in large saucepan until clear and soft, but not brown. Add chicken stock, potato, salt, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil. Simmer gently to cook potato. Cool a bit, then run mixture through a blender or food process to smooth. Return to saucepan. Stir in pumpkin and milk. Heat through. Season with cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste. Thin with additional milk if necessary. Makes about 6 cups.

I would love to hear how it turns out. The soup and the soul talk!

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Two of my Christmas favorites

Mocha Truffles – rolled but not yet dipped

It’s five days before Christmas. I’m standing in the kitchen making Mocha Truffles and listening to the Casting Crowns Christmas CD. I wonder why Mocha Truffles is a “Christmas only” recipe. Then I remember: They are so yummy and decadent I have to limit myself to making them just once a year. Mocha Truffles combine three of my favorite food items – chocolate, coffee, and cream cheese. (If you want to find out how wonderful they are the recipe is below!)

As I melt the chocolate, add the coffee, and mix in the cream cheese, Casting Crowns is singing “While You Were Sleeping.” The first verse brings tears to my eyes and by the time they get to the third, I’ve temporarily abandoned my task to raise my hands and praise God as they sing:

United States of America – Looks like another silent night – as we’re sung to sleep by philosophies – That save the trees and kill the children – And while we’re lying in the dark – There’s a shout heard ‘cross the eastern sky – For the Bridegroom has returned – And has carried His bride away in the night

Here’s a video of one of my favorite Christmas songs, “While You Were Sleeping” by Casting Crowns. Watch, listen to the words and praise God that the King left His throne in heaven. Make room for your King this Christmas.

YouTube Preview Image

Here’s the recipe I promised! Would love to know if you try it and what you think!

Mocha Truffles*

  • 24 oz (3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 pound dark chocolate confectionary coating
  • White confectionary coating, optional

In a microwave-safe bowl or double boiler, melt chocolate chips. Add cream cheese, coffee and water; mix well. Chill until firm enough to shape. Shape into 1-inch balls and place on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. Chill for 1-2 hours or until firm. Melt chocolate coating in microwave safe bowl or double boiler. Dip balls and place on waxed paper to harden. If desired, melt white coating and drizzle over truffles. Makes about 5 ½ dozen.

*Recipe originally found in “Taste of Home” Magazine, but adopted by me!

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