Brown Sugar Streusel Pumpkin Muffins

It is still 100 outside, but I cannot wait any longer to begin making pumpkin everything. So today I went looking for a new different recipe for some pumpkin bread and found this one. It sounded so good with the brown sugar streusel that I began to read her blog and knew that this one would be a winner. Since I’m making it for some ladies who I sit with on Tuesday mornings at church, what better way to study Genesis that with a pumpkin muffin? You would love the aroma that is coming out of our kitchen right now. You might just forget that it is hot outside for a few minutes when you smell the pumpkin, cinnamon and cloves drawing you in the door. Taken from the blog called, Friends.Food.Famiy


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teas salt

Stir flour with both sugars and salt. Add cooled melted butter to mixture and stir until crumbly. Set aside

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup oil
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 teas cinnamon
1/2 teas nutmeg
1/4 teas cloves
1/4 teas ginger
1 teas salt
2 teas baking soda
3 1/2 cups flour
2 cups (15 oz can) of pumpkin puree
2/3 cup water (I used 1/3 cup water and 1/3 cup coffee left over from this morning)

Preheat oven to 350. Place oil and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Using electric mixer, mix the oil with the sugars until well combined. Add the pumpkin puree and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time to the pumpkin mixture.

In a separate mixing bowl, mix the flour with the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, salt and baking soda.

Alternately add the flour and water (coffee) mixture to the pumpkin mixture, beating well after each addition. Pour into prepared (greased or liners) muffin tins, loaf pans or aluminum foil disposable pans. Divide the streusel topping among the cakes, sprinkling over the tops before baking.
Bake until cakes test done. Time will depend upon the size of container you are baking in.

*Taken from the blog Friends.Food.Family, November 2012

Chocolate Almond Pie

Several years ago, I posted this pie after making it and realizing that it would become a favorite of our family. My oldest son, Jason, isn’t much of a dessert person. He likes two things, Texas sheet cake and this almond pie. It is a great pie to make and keep in the freezer for when friends or family drop by. It is very simple but very rich. I made it last night for dinner with friends this evening. They have never tasted its before so will be fun to see their reaction.

1 chocolate cookie pie shell
15 regular sized marshmallows
6 regular sized Hershey Bars with almonds
1 teas almond extract
2 & 1/2 cups whipping cream (divided)

In heavy saucepan, melt the candy bars with the 1/2 cup whipping cream and marshmallows until all are melted and combined. Add the almond extract and stir until mixed in. Set aside to cool for about an hour.

After mixture is cool, whip one cup of the whipping cream until stiff peaks form and hold well and then add the cooled chocolate mixture and stir in altogether. Pour into the chocolate crust. Let sit at least 4 hours or you can cover the pie with Press & Seal and freeze until ready to serve.

Before serving, allow pie to sit in fridge for at least 4-6 hours. (If pie has been frozen, this will allow it to thaw enough to serve)

Whip the remaining 1 cup of whipping cream with 1/3 cup powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Top the chocolate pie with whipping cream and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding with a Twist (actually several twists)

This weekend we were invited to a dinner party, where I had volunteered to bring the dessert. It has come to my attention that we aren’t that well liked, they just invite us so I will bring the dessert, as folks know that I love to bake and use any opportunity for a reason to do so. Also, Jodi had invited some of their friends over on Saturday night and of course, and I had volunteered to make her dessert for her gathering as well. When given her choice of what she wanted me to make she choose banana pudding. Being that that is not one of my favorite desserts with the vanilla wafers, I quickly remembered Paula Deens banana pudding which steps up traditional banana pudding about 10 notches. That was my deciding factor, remembering standing in our kitchen, licking the bowl of Paula Deens banana pudding several years back. She uses Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies instead of vanilla wafers and adds several ingredients making this a most richly flavored dessert. By the time I got to the store, I decided to just make a double batch, one for the Duprees and one to take to our dinner party. Walking through the grocery store I started thinking about the chessman cookies and decided that I would use a crust that is so easy and yet so delicious instead of the Chessman cookies! It is the crust which is used for Texas Panhandler Yum Yum’s. Now, it was all coming together. That would be the crust, and Paula Deens filling for the pudding. All that to say…….here is the version that was made and devoured Saturday night.
When Jodi called this morning she told me that her company ask what the crust was because it was just delicious. Trust me on this, you will love the combination of the flavors and the ease of which it is made.

Thank you Paula for sharing more of the Southern dishes that make our lives a little more heavenly with each bite.

Preheat oven to 350.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup butter

Melt butter in microwave safe bowl. When completely melted, add the flour and the nuts. Stir to combine and place in either a 9×13 or a 11×7″ pan. If using the 11×7, the crust of course will be a little thicker. I was making it for 6, so I used that size. I made Jodi’s in 9×13 because she was serving 9. Either works fine.
Spread crust ingredients in pan using your fingers until dough is spread evenly in pan and bake in preheated oven for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. IF using the 9×13 it won’t take as long to bake. Cool crust completely. Set aside.

2-3 bananas
1 (3 oz) package of french vanilla instant pudding *see below
1 (3 oz) package of white chocolate instant pudding
1 (8 oz) softened cream cheese)
1 can of Sweetened Condensed Milk (Eagle Brand)
1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip, thawed

Topping * See Below
1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Whip softened cream cheese with the Eagle Brand milk until well combined. Add the Cool Whip and beat just until well mixed. Set aside in fridge while making pudding.

Beat both packages with 3 cups of cold milk until thick. (recipe on box will say use 2 cups for each box, but do not do this, just use the 3 cups for the 2 boxes combined) When thickened, add to the cream cheese mixture and mix thoroughly. Slice 2-3 banana over cooled crust. Spoon pudding mixture over the sliced bananas. Place in fridge, covered with plastic wrap.

Whipped topping

It is very important to use a very clean, grease free bowl to whip cream. any grease will cause the whipping cream not to thicken. Using 1 1/2 cups very cold heavy whipping cream, add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and whip until whipping cream is thick and holds its shape, about 3-4 minutes. Spoon over chilled pudding mixture and keep covered in fridge until ready to serve.
Cut into squares and serve with more sliced bananas on top if desired.

*I use French vanilla instead of the banana instant pudding, just because I don’t like so much banana flavor. But you can use banana instant pudding if you like a more banana flavor.
*if you don’t like or want to use whipped cream for topping buy an extra Cool Whip and use instead.

Seasons of Change

As I sit here looking out the window and waiting for my sweet husband to come back from talking to the listing agent, my mind is swirling around thinking about so many things. Once again, we are boxing up dishes and linens. Christmas Decorations and out of season clothes are being sorted as we tape up box after box. After we left for a month this summer to Texas and California, we came back with a dream of selling the house and heading to Italy for 3 months. Quickly we began to sort out different plans and decided that before Italy, we would love to go stay a while in Florida by our daughter and her family. Since they live clear across the good ole USA, we don’t get to see them as much as we would like, so we called Christi and started planning our adventure. We learned last night from a friend that the Villages are only an hour from our kids there in Florida so we might stay there and learn square dancing or alligator watching while Kenley is in school during the day.
When we arrived in Arizona, we didn’t think that we would ever get the opportunity to head back to Italy, especially for 3 months, but as these last two years have taught us, you never know the possibilities that will present themselves.
Sitting on the beach at Newport in July, we listened to the waves and enjoyed the cool sea breeze as we discussed what was going on in our hearts. Neither one of us are ready to just sit and wait to get old. We miss the adventures which use to tide us from one season to another. As we sat here one evening quickly answering the questions to Family Feud, Randy looked over at me and said, “ok, this is ridiculous, we need to go to Italy and get away from the TV”. So we got out all of our Italy maps and books and began to plan our escape.

It is exciting, but yet a little nerve wracking to think that I will be without all my baking pans and cute dish towels that go with every season. Gone will be all my Christmas decorations, including the 5 trees that light up my house. What will I tell my Southern friends who decorate each and every room with a different themed tree, when all I will have is a Christmas bracelet and necklace because all my “treasures” will be in storage.
Then Valentines, when I love to serve decorated sugar cookies on heart shaped plates. Oh no, Easter! What will my short term lease house look like without Easter bunnies and Easter themed plates? Do not get me started on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. All I know is I will have to buy a suitcase large enough to pack some Christmas, Valentine, St Patricks Day, and Easter decorations dish towels to use where ever we stay. As we planned our adventure, we realized that we need a box of clothes for winter, since we will be going to Dallas in January for a few days. We need clothes to go to Mexico with friends in January. Clothes for Florida for two months, then clothes for Italy. Im not sure, but I don’t think I remember seeing a Walmart in Italy. So am thinking of trying to find a continuing education class on how to pack a suitcase for all the different seasons.

As seasons of our lives change, we are finding out that our thoughts and desires change as well. Selling the house will be bittersweet. We have loved this house and have many great memories of having family and friends over for dinner. Randy and I also enjoyed a season of sitting out in the sunroom most mornings with coffee (well I had my Diet Dr Pepper, he had coffee) all the while having a morning devotion and would just sit and talk to each other. It was a different season of not being in a hurry to get someplace, but to simply sit and talk. I learned things about him that I did not know. He learned things about me that maybe he didn’t want to know. But we have met some precious folks here that mean so much to us already. As we pack and plan, we are praying that whatever God has planned for us in this new season, we will be ready to serve Him, no matter where He takes us, or returns us here.

Yes, Seasons change and locations change. One think that does not change is our desire to live and serve according to His purpose and plan for our lives. We learned a few years back never say exactly what we are going to do. God has a way of sometimes showing us that His plans are different from ours. We have learned that the hard way. So as we continue to box up another set of dishes, this thought will end this post today…..
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6

Holiday Quick Bites

One of my favorite magazines is Southern Lady. The pictures of homes and decorating styles won my heart at first glance. The recipes are so Southern and just perfect for home dinners or entertaining. The recipe I am posting today is not only delicious, but a great little appetizer for the holidays in that the red and green will look so festive on your serving buffet or table. Taken from Souther Lady Jan 2017…..

Artichoke &B Sun Dried Tomato Phyllo Bites

2 (14 oz cans) artichoke hearts, drained and finely chopped
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
1/4 cup finely chopped oil-packed sundries tomatoes, drained
1/2 teas Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teas garlic powder
1/4 teas hot sauce
3 (1.9 oz) packages frozen mini-phyllo cups, thawed
Chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (If the pans or coated, I don’t use the parchment paper or even lightly greased you will not need the paper)
In medium bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the phyllo cups and garnishes.
Place phyllo shells on prepared pan. Spoon the filling mixture into shells.
Bake until filling is hot, about 12-15 minutes.
Garnish with finely chopped chives.
To freeze, place filled unbaked shells (which you did not thaw to fill)in an airtight container. When ready to serve, remove amount needed and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 until filling is hot, about 20 minutes.

This is a great and easy holiday appetizer because it can be made ahead and frozen until ready to heat to serve.

Italian Sausage With Peppers & Onions

Last night we were invited to a Italian Night with our small group from church. There were 14 of us and since the hostess was making Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken, Randy “ask” (highly suggested) that maybe I should take sausage with peppers & onions. So I began to search for recipes online for just the perfect one. I ended up combining about 3 different ones and if I had known how good it would turn out, I would have taken pictures and payed more attention to the ingredients (like the oz on the cans). They were really a hit at dinner and everyone was telling me how good they were. They really were very good and so much fun to make. It made me feel like I’m ready to head to Italy to dine with the rest of the great Italian chefs….ok, maybe I’m not there yet, but most assuredly, it was a dish that we will make again and be so excited to serve to others.

If you enjoy Chocolatecastles, would you mind sharing the blog with your family and friends or telling them about it! Thanks so much! Penelope Pumpkin

Serves 14-16

2 cans of Hunts Traditional Spaghetti Sauce(I don’t know the ounces, but it is the tall can that cost about $1 at Walmart
12 oz of water
2 packets of McCormick Thick & Zesty Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning
2 large green bell peppers (cut into 1-2″ pieces)
1 large red bell pepper(cut into same size pieces as the green)
1 large sweet yellow onion (cut into 1-2″ size pieces)
3 tales olive oil
3 packages or 15 mild Italian Sausages in casing (I used 15 and cut each sausage in half after browning them giving me 30 pieces of sausage)
1 tables oregano
1 tables dried parsley
3 cubes of frozen garlic cubes, divided (or garlic to taste if using fresh or powder)


in a heavy Dutch oven, pour cans of Spaghetti sauce with the water. Pour the 2 packets of seasoning and 2 cubes of the garlic. Cover and bake in preheated 325 oven for about 2 hours.
While sauce is in oven, using a large skillet, put 2 tables of the olive oil and heat to where it sizzles when you place each sausage in to brown. Turn and brown all the sausages until they are all lightly browned. Remove from Skillet and cut each one in half (if desired). Place sausages in the sauce. If needed, add the other tables of olive oil to the skillet. Place cut up onion and peppers into hot oil. Sprinkle the oregano, parsley and remaining garlic cube over the pepper-onion mixture. Stir and heat until onion and peppers are beginning to get tender. When ready, add to the sausage-sauce mixture. Add any pepper or red pepper flakes if you like added “kick” to your sauce. (I did not, because even the mild Italian sausage we bought had enough kick to it to be little spicey.
Cover with heavy lid and bake in 350 degree oven for about 1 to 2 hours. Sauce should be thick and deep red. Serve over pasta or just with garlic bread.
Gustare! (Italian for taste, savor, relish)

Lemons & Lattes

I just had to post about the lemon meringue pie that I just had to have last night at 7:30 p.m. We were watching AGT and I looked over at Randy as the first commercial hit and said, “oh my gosh, we don’t have any dessert in the house except a frozen package of little cheesecakes and that is not what I am craving.” His response to me was, “well, what do you feel like making?” After a few minutes of different images of desserts swirling thought my mind, the only thing that sounded good to me was a lemon meringue pie. So at 7:40 p.m. I pulled myself up and headed for the kitchen. First thought, did I even have a package of cook and serve Lemon pudding? Second thought, did I really want to start this at 7:40? But when I crave a certain dessert, what am I suppose to do? Was dancing a jig that I had one box of the cook and serve pudding. This is FYI…about a year ago when we were in California visiting friends, we had a lemon meringue pie served as dessert. When I ask our hostess about her recipe she told me that for years, every time she makes a LM pie, people comment about her pie and ask her for the recipe. She always just said it was a family secret. In truth, she uses the Jello Brand recipe on the side of the box of Cook & Serve Lemon Pudding. The next grocery store visit I stocked up on said product. That was about a year ago and still to this day, that is the recipe I use except that on the side of the box the recipe for the meringue calls for 3 egg whites. So instead of using just two egg yolks that the box recipe calls for, I just add that 3rd egg yolk into the saucepan. After all, that just adds a little extra richness.
By 9:00 p.m., we were turning on Netflix to Call the Midwife (which we both hight recommend) and having a wonderful slice of lemon meringue pie.

It us unusual for me to not bake something pumpkin or apple when the tempts drop below 110, but all that would do last night was this wonderful pie, which made me crave a pumpkin spice latte. So today, we will stop at Starbucks for our first Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season…..and come home for another slice of pie!

Apple Pie Oatmeal Cups

A few weeks ago I saw these wonderful looking apple pie cups on Facebook and knew right then that I had to have one. As I didn’t have fresh apples in the house and it was still so hot outside that the thought of going outside at 3 p.m. was not enticing. But I did have a can of apple pie filling and a Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie packet. So I marched to the kitchen and began to build this great little cup of deliciousness. Having to admit that I did not make the oatmeal cookies from scratch (like I saw on FB), nor using fresh apples, (like I saw on FB), this became a challenge to get a finished product that would certainly be something that I would not apologize for serving, since I was using shortcuts. I have made them twice since Friday. They are that good. A couple that we share baked goods quite frequently, was the first recipeants of these little gems. The wife never got to even taste them as her hubby ate them. So am taking her one today. They will be our dessert tonight at our kids house. Along with ice cream and caramel topping them off.

Im posting the quick & easy version as they are so good, I probably will just always make these instead of peeling apples (which I save that exercise for fresh apple cake, after all, I don’t want to get worn out before it actually turns to fall when apple cakes become the dessert of choice).

1 packet of Betty Crocker Oatmeal Cookie Mix
24 cupcake liners

Apple Pie Filling
1 can of your favorite apple pie filling.
Cut each apple slices in small pieces before placing the entire can of filling into a small saucepan. Add the follow to the apple pie filling:
3 tables unsalted butter
2 teas ground cinnamon
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
Heat over low heat until sugar and butter are well melted and combined with apples.

Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pan with liners.
Mix oatmeal cookies according to directions (the directions on back are very simple, mix the cookie mix with 1 stick of unsalted softened butter, 1 eggs and 1 tables water. Stir until well combined.) on back of package. Using a medium cookie scoop (it would be about a tablespoon), fill each cupcake liner which has been placed in cupcake pan, with the raw cookie dough. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until “cookies” feel done to the touch. Remove from oven and punch down the center of each “cookie” with the bottom of a very small glass or jigger. Place about 1 teas of the chopped apple filling into the center of the “cookie”. Serve warm if desired with vanilla ice cream and caramel.

Drive Thru Memories | Chocolate Castles

Last Saturday night, our 11 year old grandson, Sevy came over while his parents went out to eat. Because Peter and Penelope had been digging out Fall decorations all day and I had been climbing up and down the ladder decorating the fall trees that inspire me to bake (like I really need the trees…
— Read on

Pumpkins & Cherries

Do not worry, this is not a recipe that combines the two. Simply a post which speaks of some memories through the years as we begin to think of Fall which leads to Thanksgiving, which leads to memories of some of my greatest things to be thankful.(remember that women’s brains are like spaghetti and one thought leads to another) Most of those memories are probably the same as some of yours, health, protection, provision and seeing God’s Hand of faithfulness in our lives, no matter our circumstances. But then there are other things, Things that might not seem like blessings at the time, but have filled my heart with joy through the years. When I bought that pretty little pitcher, it never dawned on me the joy of memories I would have from serving so many from it.

As I washed my little pitcher this morning to make ice tea for the day, some memories came flooding back to me. Randy and I had just been married a short time when he decided to take me to my first Cracker Barrel. Yes, I was 46 and had never eaten at a Cracker Barrel, I know, and I call myself a Southern Girl. Thank goodness, I kept that a secret for a long time. But, here we were walking in and giving our name to the hostess when we were informed that it would be about 30 minutes before she could seat us. That didn’t bother me one iota. There, now you can tell I really am Southern. As my eyes quickly darted around the salesroom, it was all I could do to contain myself and tell Randy that instead of eating here, could I just spend the money I was going to spend on pancakes for some of the goodies that was quickly calling my name. My eyes landed on the most precious little pitcher with cherries painted all over it with a red lid. Randy quickly realized that we would not be leaving without this quaint little pitcher. That was 22 years ago and it is still the pitcher we use every day for tea. It is one of those little treasures that I wrap ever so carefully with each move we make. As I think back about the people that have poured tea out of that pitcher, it brings back so many precious memories of so many different folks we have had in our homes. As Randy and I close our devotion and prayer time each day, we close with the same scripture prayer,
“O Lord, that you would bless us indeed, that you would enlarge our territory, that Your Hand would be upon us, that we would not cause pain.” I Chronicles 4:10. And bless us, He has. Our different moves to different parts of the country have certainly enlarged our territory and given us so many friends, of whom, continue to bless our lives.

This week has been the designated week which we pull out the Fall Decor and hope that as the pumpkins adorn our tables, the temps will get the hint and begin to “fall”. It got the hint. It is only 103 today instead of 106. Ah…the magic of pumpkins. But once again, as I place the pumpkins and foliage around the house, different memories come that make me realize how truly blessed we are. As I think back to last year and the year before, trying to remember just how and where I placed the different pumpkins, it is impossible to not think about how God showed Himself faithful to us this past year. Have I taken the time to just thank Him for the strength to do what I am doing this week? Have I thanked Him for the memory of knowing where the pumpkins are suppose to go. Do I take for granted the fact that I can get out of bed and walk to the kitchen and make pumpkin muffins? Do I give thanks for friends who drop by to share a new recipe with me for pumpkin cake?

We all have so much to be thankful. As we place each pumpkin out this year, why not pause and give thanks for blessings that comes to mind. Then, after you finish decorating, sit with a glass of tea and write a note or text to someone who has been a blessing to your life. Remember, “life is just a bowl of cherries” and lets add this year, “each day, give Him thanks for His Faithfulness and blessings to our lives, no matter how small.”