Blonde Brownies

Here’s a quick-and-easy recipe for blonde brownies, which are similar to chocolate brownies, but the batter is flavored with vanilla instead of chocolate. They are also called blondies or butterscotch brownies. In addition, if you add chocolate chips, which is what I like to do, they are known as chocolate chip cookie bars. I actually learned how to bake blonde brownies when I was in first grade and my teacher taught our class how to cook. That’s one of two memories that I have of Mrs. Gunner–the other was that she wore Keds sneakers in a wide variety of colors to match her clothes. I recall that we consumed our blonde brownies with our individual-sized cartons of milk. So grab yourself a glass of milk and enjoy!

Blonde Brownies


2 sticks butter, softened

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chocolate chips

Optional: 1 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Add eggs and beat until creamy. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips and, if desired, nuts. Grease a 13” x 9” pan. Spread prepared dough into pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve. Makes 2 dozen bars.

Rancher’s Slow-Cooker Soup

Here’s an sausage soup recipe that’s perfect for cold winter weather as well as a busy lifestyle. After you put together the soup ingredients, you can slow-cook it for a few hours and then enjoy a delicious meal. This recipe calls for pinto beans, but you can substitute other types of beans that you have on hand. After you transfer the soup into serving bowls, you can garnish it with cheese, sour cream, sliced avocados and/or cilantro. Whether you live on a ranch or in the city, this slow-cooker soup is easy-to-make comfort food.

Rancher’s Slow-Cooker Soup


1 pound fresh sausage

1 large onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups water

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight

1 bell pepper or 3 stalks of celery

1 can Rotel tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

To garnish: shredded cheese, sour cream, avocados, cilantro, etc.


1. In a large pan, cook sausage over medium heat; remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add onion to pan and sauté until it’s soft, 5 minutes or so.

3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute or so.

4. Transfer cooked meat and sautéed vegetables to crock pot. Add the water, chicken broth, beans, bell pepper or celery, Rotel tomatoes, salt and pepper. Slow-cook on high 8-10 hours.

5. Transfer the soup to serving bowls and garnish as desired.

TIP: Serve along with a green salad and cornbread, butter and honey.

Persimmon Boozy Cake

Here’s a cake that’s full of spirit. It combines persimmons and whiskey. Persimmon trees are very attractive fruit trees that happen to grow where I live in Northern California. After the trees lose their leaves, you can see the orange fruit hanging from the branches. Whenever I’m lucky enough to get a bag of persimmons from someone I know, I let them ripen on my kitchen counter; once they become very soft, I scoop out the flesh and puree it in my food processor. My husband grows distillery corn that’s fermented to make whiskey, so I like to use that in my recipe. You can substitute brandy if you prefer. I bake this in a decorative Bundt cake pan but any tube pan will suffice. It’s a tasty way to disguise an alcoholic beverage as a dessert. Cheers!

Persimmon Boozy Cake


¾ cup raisins

¼ cup whiskey or brandy

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ sticks butter, softened

1 ½ cups persimmon puree

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts or pecans


4 ounces cream cheese

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2/3 cup powdered sugar

¼ cup water

¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a Bundt cake pan with butter.

Pour the whiskey or brandy in a small sauce pan over medium heat, and add the raisins. When the liquid starts boiling, stir the raisins around for a minute and then remove from the heat; cover and set aside.

Place the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and stir. In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, persimmon puree, eggs and vanilla; add to the flour mixture. Fold in the raisins and whiskey or brandy. Add the nuts.

Transfer the batter into the greased Bundt cake pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 60-70 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow it to cool on a wire rack. Once the cake is cool, carefully invert it onto a cake plate.

To make icing, beat together the cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and vanilla with a hand-mixer or stand mixer on high speed. Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Gradually add the water so that the icing is easy to pour. Spoon the icing over the cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides. Garnish with the remaining nuts and serve.

Bloody Mary Cocktail

As a tomato farmer’s wife, I’d like to share this tomato-juice-based recipe for a well-liked adult beverage–the Bloody Mary. In the United States, this is a traditional cocktail consumed during the morning or early afternoon, and is popular for its reputation as a cure for a hangover. It contains vodka, tomato juice and various seasonings, and is garnished to create an appealing presentation. If you don’t want to drink alcohol, just skip the vodka for a tasty “mocktail.” Whatever version you choose to make, rest assured that you’re helping support tomato farmers. Cheers!

Bloody Mary Cocktail/Mocktail


Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice

A splash or two of Worcestershire sauce

A splash of tabasco sauce

A dash of garlic powder

A dash of paprika

A dash of salt

A dash of cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon green olive juice

Juice from one lemon or lime

1-2 ounces Vodka, optional

Green olives

1 lemon or lime, sliced into wedges

Celery stalk

Crispy slice of bacon, optional


Pour Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice into a highball glass. Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce; if using tomato juice, add a couple of splashes. Add tabasco sauce, garlic powder, paprika, salt, cracked black pepper, green olive juice, and lemon or lime juice. Stir. If you want to drink an alcoholic beverage, add the vodka to desired strength and stir. Garnish with green olives and a slice of lemon or lime on a toothpick; a celery stalk and/or a crispy slice of bacon; and serve.

Prime Rib

Prime rib is a favorite food in many families, including mine. We enjoy eating this tender cut of beef, particularly during the holidays and other special occasions.

Prime Rib

Serves 14-16 people


1 standing rib roast of beef, 10-12 pounds

3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Seasoning salt


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Make small slits all over the roast with a knife and insert garlic slivers. Rub roast all over with seasoning salt. Place on a rack in roasting pan, with fat side on top, and roast for 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and roast the meat for 16 minutes per pound (about 2 hours), or until a meat thermometer reaches 135-140 degrees F for a medium-rare (pink) center. Remove beef from oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving. Carving from the outside to the center, everyone gets a slice done just to his or her liking. Tip: Serve with horseradish cream or your favorite chutney.

Beef Burgundy

Beef burgundy, also called beef bourguignon, has its roots in the historic Burgundy region of France. This region, located southeast of Paris, is known for its wine and architecture, as well as for its white Charolais cattle that produce distinctively tasty beef. While this dish started out as peasant food that depended on slow-cooking tougher cuts of meat, eventually it was elevated to haute cuisine status that was served in expensive Parisian hotels. It was also featured by famous American cookbook author and TV chef Julia Child. While it’s classically served over boiled potatoes or pasta, my version includes serving it over a bed of hot, cooked rice—I live on a rice farm, what more can I say? I guess that would be, bon appetit!

Beef Burgundy


1 ½ cups white rice

3 cups water

1 pound beef steak, sliced into 1-inch-long strips

Drizzle of vegetable oil

2 cups sliced onions

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups sliced carrots

½ cup Burgundy or other dry red wine

1 ¾ cups beef broth

2 teaspoons seasoning salt

Dash of thyme and/or dried parsley

2 cups sliced bell pepper (or celery)

2 tablespoons corn starch

¼ cup water


To cook rice, boil water in a saucepan, add rice; then reduce heat to low, cover and let it simmer until rice soaks up the water, 15-20 minutes. As rice is cooking, heat oil in a large pan and brown the beef. Add onions and garlic, stir and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add the carrots, wine, broth, seasoning salt and herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10 minutes. Mix in the bell pepper, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Dissolve the corn starch in ¼ cup water and add to beef mixture. Continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

‘Tis the season to bake cookies for Christmas. Here’s a recipe for Scottish shortbread cookies. These buttery-delicious cookies have a crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture and are very easy to make with common ingredients. The beauty of it is that you can vary the taste of these shortbread cookies by adding different flavors. I like to use vanilla, but other options include lemon or lavender extract. Also, you can sprinkle white sugar on top, or add a festive touch with red sugar sprinkles or another color. I’ve always been a fan of shortbread cookies–perhaps it’s due in part to my mostly-Scottish heritage. No matter what your background is, I hope that you enjoy baking–and eating–these as much as I do.

Scottish Shortbread


2 ½ sticks butter, softened

½ cup powdered sugar

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons vanilla (or other flavoring such as lemon or lavender extract)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cornstarch (or rice flour)

¼ cup white sugar (or colored sugar sprinkles)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine butter, powdered sugar, sugar, salt and vanilla in a bowl and beat on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in flour and cornstarch, and beat until well-blended.

Press the dough into a 13” x 9” baking pan. Pierce the dough all over with a fork to make a decorative design; this allows the melting butter to release steam, thereby preventing the dough from puffing up. Bake until crust is a light golden color, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven; take a knife and cut through the dough to make cookie bars. Sprinkle the white (or colored) sugar all over the top. Place back in oven and continue baking for 5 more minutes. Remove the baking pan to a rack and allow the cookie bars to cool until slightly warm. Makes 2 dozen cookie bars.

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a classic, easy-to-prepare soup that tastes delicious and warms you up on a cool, autumn day.


1 medium to large butternut squash, cut in half and seeded

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons ginger

6 cups chicken broth, divided

1 teaspoon salt

A few sprigs of chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place cut side of butternut squash down on a baking dish with half-inch of water. Bake about one hour until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Let it cool, then scoop out the pulp and set aside.

Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and ginger, stir and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash along with 4 cups of chicken broth, bring to a boil then simmer, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Puree with a handheld blender. Add the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock and salt. Heat it through for about 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley.

Tip: Serve with warm, crusty bread and butter.











Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin bread is a delicious and festive way to enjoy the fall season. This recipe makes two tasty loaves–enough to share with someone special!


2 2/3 cups sugar

2/3 cup butter

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

2/3 cup water

4 eggs

3 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon baking powder

2/3 cup chopped nuts

2/3 cup raisins


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans, 9 x 5 x 3 inches.

Mix sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl. Add pumpkin, water and eggs. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder. Add nuts and raisins.

Pour into pans and bake 70 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool pans on a wire rack about 10 minutes, then gently loosen the loaves from the pan with a sharp knife or spatula. Remove from pans and let cool before slicing.











Homemade Beef Stew

Beef stew is comfort food at its finest. The ordinary ingredients meld together into a satisfying, savory meal. The types of vegetables and herbs can be altered, resulting in endless variations of this classic recipe. The following recipe serves 4; if you’re expecting more people, the ingredients can be doubled, tripled, etc. so everyone can enjoy a bit of good ole, down-home cooking.


6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1/2 cup flour

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 onion, peeled and diced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 cup carrots, peeled and sliced

1 cup celery, sliced

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 cup red or white wine

4 cups beef broth

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried herbs (oregano, thyme, savory, etc.)

2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced

A few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper, as needed


Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.

Combine flour and pepper in a small bowl. Dredge the meat in the flour/pepper mixture. Sear a little meat at a time in the hot oil, turning the pieces until meat is browned on all sides; remove meat from pot. Add more oil as needed between each batch of meat.

In the same pot, sauté the onions, garlic, carrots and celery on medium-high heat. Remove vegetables from pot.

Deglaze the pot with red wine vinegar and wine, scraping bottom of pot with a spatula. Add beef broth, bay leaves and herbs. Add the meat and the vegetables to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about an hour-and-a-half, stirring often, until the meat is fork-tender. Add the potatoes; cover and simmer about 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper, as needed. Ladle into bowls and serve. Tip: Serve with warm, crusty bread and butter.