Are There Benefits In Drinking Oolong Tea?

Oolong Tea

I recently stumbled across an article that claimed there are significant health benefits of drinking different types of tea.

After reading the article I decided to put my coffee on the back burner and go tea shopping.  While I could never give up my coffee I do like tea, and like most people, I’m all for trying something that may be a healthier for me.

During my tea shopping trip I picked up one box of tea.  I’m interested in proving or disproving some of the health claims made for each of the teas on the list so I decided to start with Oolong tea. I didn’t buy an expensive brand either.  I bought a box of twenty Wegmans store brand tea for the small price of $1.99.  No, this is not a sponsored post.  I just like shopping at Wegmans.

If you’re interested in the history of Oolong tea then take a look at this Wikipedia link. And please don’t skip this link to WebMD which provides an overview, the uses, side effects, interactions (and there are many),  and dosing that is associated with drinking Oolong tea.

Wegmans Oolong Tea

This particular brand of tea has a nice inviting floral scent when it’s steeping.  I really like this tea because it’s light and refreshing.  While it does have caffeine I haven’t been overly affected by it –  but I’m still careful of it.

So, what do you think?  Can a tea help you lose weight, provide anti-inflammatory  properties, fight cancer, detoxify, help you get a good nights sleep, calm your nerves,  give you clearer skin, help prevent tooth decay, control blood sugar levels, and fight cardiovascular disease?  I’d like to think so, and I’m willing to experiment.

Here is a link to a slide show at the Dr. Oz Show that’s worth a look if this topic interests you like it does me.

Follow along as I sample new types of tea and share my opinions of them.

Oolong Tea

Frozen Bananas Make Great Muffins

I always buy one too many bananas in a bunch, and without question, that extra banana will end up in the freezer.  Eventually, that one frozen banana turns into one too many bananas and that’s when I deem it time to make banana muffins.

Use frozen bananas to make these delicious muffins

When it came time to make this batch of muffins I decided to lessen the flour in my go-to banana muffin recipe and substitute some of the flour with oatmeal.

There is something about using oatmeal in muffins that makes them seem so much healthier.  And I imagine they are in a small way.

Muffins like these are great to grab and go when you don’t have time to sit down and have breakfast.

I prefer to make multiple batches of different flavors of muffins and freeze them so when I’m  hankering a blueberry muffin over a banana muffin I have that choice.  In other words, muffin mania!

Banana Oat Muffins

Serves 18
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 18 minutes
Total time 28 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Bread, Breakfast, Dessert, Snack

Ingredients

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 stick margarine (softened)
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 3 Medium ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal

Note

These muffins are great to grab & go when you need a quick breakfast.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put papers in muffin tins.
Step 2
Cream sugar, margarine, and eggs together. Add in mashed bananas.
Step 3
Stir in salt, baking soda, baking powder, and flour. Add oats; mixing thoroughly.
Step 4
Fill prepared muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Step 5
Cool before removing from muffins tins. Store in airtight container.

These muffins turned out great.  They are sweet, moist, and heartier than typical banana bread.

Do you have a favorite muffin flavor?

Homemade Baked Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

DIY Dog Treats

Our Christmas tree is up and it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here at The Joy of Caking.  Now let the baking begin!

The first item on my “To Bake List” was homemade dog biscuits.  These  bite sized treats are for sweet little Annie and all her cute furry brothers and sisters – our granddogs.

The best part of making homemade dog treats is knowing exactly what goes into them – EVERY DAY INGREDIENTS and LOVE.

It is alarming to hear of all of the product recalls on pet treats these days.  When you make your own you take some of the worry out of it.

For these treats you will need:

2 c. rye flour

1 c. chicken broth

1/2 c. peanut butter

1 tbsp. baking powder

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix all of the ingredients together and form into a ball.  Place a large piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and sprinkle with rye flour.  Roll dough out to about 1/4″ thick.  Using a small cookie cutter cut out shapes and place them on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for about 6-8 minutes until light golden brown.  Cool completely.

I bought a cute little jar to store these biscuits in because they are going to be a gift.

Homemade Dog Biscuits

Do you have furry little friends to buy or bake for?

Worth a Second Look – Peanut Butter Fudge Sauce

Peanut Butter Fudge Sauce on a Spoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have been MIA for a bit while I was making goodies for a holiday craft fair I signed up for.

Feeling quite guilty for neglecting my blog,  I decided to re-share a peanut butter fudge sauce recipe that I posted here a couple of years ago.  I didn’t feel as if it got the attention it should have.  So let’s try again!

Now that the craft fair is over I’ll be back to posting more often.

In the meantime, check out this great holiday food gift idea.  It’s perfect for the peanut butter lovers in your life.  And if you really want to make someone’s day, don’t forget to whip up a batch of homemade vanilla ice cream to go with it.

This recipe is far more simple to make than you might expect it to be which makes it all the better!

Peanut Butter Fudge Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Step 1
In a saucepan, add chocolate chips, sugar, salt, and peanut butter. Melt slowly on low heat.
Step 2
Pour in cream and milk and continue to stir constantly on low heat until sauce is smooth, creamy, and thickens.
Step 3
Add vanilla extract.

So, as you can sense, with Thanksgiving  behind us I am slowly getting into the holiday spirit.  I feel like baking, decorating a pretty tree, and yes, picking up a few gifts to boot.

How about you, do you make food gifts to give friends and family?  What’s your favorite food gift to give?

 

 

Baked Double Chocolate Donut Holes

Sprinkles and donut holes

My quote for the week?  “When life gives you lemons make Baked Double Chocolate Donut Holes.”

So, donut holes it is!

Donut Holes - Chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

Double Chocolate Donut Holes

Serves 36
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Misc Freezable
Occasion Barbecue, Birthday Party, Casual Party, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentines day
These double chocolate donut holes are sweet and tender. The best part is they are baked, not fried!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Large egg (beaten)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (melted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 3/4 cups all-pupose flour
  • 1/4 cup hot water

Note

This recipe for baked double chocolate donut holes depends on the use of a Babycakes maker.   You may use a Cake Pops or doughnut pan but baking times will be different.  No deep frying is required.

Directions

Step 1
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl; except flour and water. Blend completely.
Step 2
Add flour and water and mix until all ingredients are combined.
Step 3
Prepare Babycakes maker and bake according to instructions.

I finished my donut holes off by dipping them in melted chocolate and then rolling them in sprinkle – yum!  Other alternatives are to roll them in powdered sugar or dip them in a glaze.

Sprinkles and donut holes

Baked, not fried.

 

 

 

 

 

Crockpot Lasagna – Weeknight Easy and Delicious

Crockpot Lasagna

Yesterday was dentist appointment day.  Not the kind of day most people look forward too – including myself.  I had a late day appointment and luckily I had the wits about me to throw something in the Crockpot before I headed out because the dentist was running late and by the time I got home it was suppertime.

I wish that I could tell you how complicated making Crockpot Lasagna is but I can’t.  If you can dice, sprinkle, and layer then you’re good to go.  There are no exact measurements or science in this recipe.  In other words, there is no recipe.

I put this meal together using ingredients that I had on hand.  If you take my word for it that this slow cooker lasagna won’t disappoint you, and decide to make some yourselves, then be creative.  Maybe you don’t like onions.  No big deal, leave them out.  Or maybe you want it to be meatless.  No big deal, substitute eggplant or spinach.  Maybe you don’t like red sauce, use Alfredo.  You see where I’m going with this right?  BE DARING!

I admit I had my own doubts about making this without a recipe but this little voice just kept telling me –  just do it, and I’m so glad I listened to that little voice.  Do you know that little voice you hear is really very helpful if you  trust it.

To make my Crockpot lasagna I started out with two 24 oz. jars of my favorite spaghetti sauce.  I ended up using about one and a quarter jars.

Crockpot Lasagna Recipe

I began by pouring enough spaghetti sauce in the slow-cooker to cover the bottom of the dish.  Then I added some diced red pepper and onion, minced garlic, and sprinkled a little Italian seasoning on top.  I did not spray the Crockpot with non-stick cooking spray because I added uncooked sausage and figured that would take care of the potential sticking problem.  If you don’t use sausage then consider spraying the dish with non-stick cooking spray.

After getting the sauce situated I then took four (uncooked) small mild Italian sausage links and broke them up into pieces and sprinkled two of them on the first layer of sauce.  I  saved the other two for the second layer.

Crockpot Lasagna

Next I layered broken lasagna noodles on top so that they covered all of the sauce.  I probably used about a half a box of noodles all together.  The ribbon noodles worked great.  They are slightly heavier than most lasagna noodles so they didn’t get over-cooked.

Crockpot Lasagna

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then dropped dollops of ricotta cheese on top of the noodles making sure all of the noodles were covered.  I used about 20 ounces of ricotta in total.   I always beat an egg into my ricotta to help it bind when baking.  I sprinkled a generous layer of mozzarella cheese over the ricotta to finish off the first layer and poured a little more sauce on top of the cheese.

Crockpot Lasagna

 

 

 

 

 

 

I repeated this process by making a second layer of all of the same yummy ingredients.  I didn’t get real heavy with the second layer of sauce (as shown in the picture above), but when I finished the second layer and final layer,  I used a generous amount of sauce (as shown in the picture below) and then sprinkled a light layer of mozzarella cheese.

Making Crockpot Lasagna

I baked this lasagna on low for about 6 hours.  After baking, I turned the Crockpot off and scrapped the sides with a spatula.  I then replaced the lid and let it sit for about ten minutes before serving.   I prefer my lasagna less saucy  but hubby prefers it smothered in sauce.  We compromise by serving extra sauce on the side.

Crockpot Lasagna

Because my dental appointment ran very late, because it was  dark when I got home, and because I was famished,  I took a  quick photo and we dug in.  I know it doesn’t look very pretty but the deliciousness of it made up for its appearance.

And here is what I felt like after eating a second helping!

Country Life

I was out taking pictures of life in the country this weekend and here is one shot I couldn’t pass up.

Happy slow-cooking!

How To Survive A Camping Trip – Camp Like A Girl

Last weekend a friend of mine admitted to me that she and her family went tent camping this summer and she absolutely hated it.   I told her that I had a completely different opinion about our own camping adventure this summer.  I loved it!

Of course, there was a small difference between their trip and ours.  Luckily, we had a very small camper to stay in, not a tent, but even tent campers can make the best of camping by planning ahead.

My friends husband suspected that it was the tent that was responsible for spoiling her camping trip so he found a used pop-up camper to purchase at an unbelievable price and bought it in hopes that it would help her change her opinion of camping.  I could see she was still reluctant.

So, as the guys drove the pickup truck to retrieve the  pop-up camper, us girls followed behind them in a separate vehicle just in case they needed our help – you never know…

On our way there I told her not to look at camping as camping, but to look at it as glamping.  I could see there was a slight hesitation in her processing what I had just said so I elaborated.

The bottom line I said, is to make your temporary home (away from home) feel like home.

Camping or Glamping

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As she continued to drive, I continued to share my philosophies about camping with her.  By the end of our road trip to pick up the camper, and by the time their new camper was home and set up in their yard, I could see her perspective on their next camping adventure had already started to change.

If you’re looking for ways to improve your camping adventures here are some of my suggestions.  My advise applies if you have a small camper and electric available, but if you’re planning on tent camping make sure you add a nice air mattress to this list.

Camp Like A Girl

For sleeping, take warm and comfy blankets and pillows camping; something cozy that anyone would want to snuggle up in.  In other words, ditch the sleeping bags and make a bed.  Make sure to include a couple soft and warm throws too.  These come in handy when your sitting by the campfire or spending time in your camper on a damp and rainy day.

Sleeping area in camper

Throw down a couple soft and pretty area rugs that your bare feet will thank you for when you get up in the morning.  And don’t forget to bring large plush bath towels. Why sacrifice?

Stock your camper with nicely fragranced soaps for hand washing and  showering.

Photo of glamper bathroom

Prior to camping go thrift store shopping to find some nice and inexpensive glasses, coffee mugs, and flatware.  Sipping a hot beverage out of mug while camping is a luxury – sipping wine out of a real glass is equally as nice.  In other words, bypass the Styrofoam cups and plastic flatware.

Set the mood with real or faux flowers, scented candles, or a fragrance plug-in.

How to camp like a girl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp like a girl

If you know that you’re going to have electric available at your camping site like we did, and you love coffee as much as I do, then take an electric coffee pot and coffee with you. Forget making cowboy coffee cooked over the open campfire.

If possible, take an extra mini fridge.  This will allow for plenty of cold storage space.  Over the course of several camping trips it will save you from spending a small fortune on ice too.

Speaking of ice, I filled empty cottage cheese containers with water ahead of time and froze them for our trip. We used the ice to keep our beverages cold in a cooler which saved space in the mini fridges for our food.  This reduces the risk of food spoilage.  If your camper happens to have a mini-fridge/freezer combo then pack a frozen treat – something to look forward to on warm days.

A Crockpot can be a lifesaver and I can almost guarantee you will use it one time or another.  We  used ours twice in three days.  Once to cook spaghetti and meatballs  on a cold and rainy night, and the other time I made Crockpot Apple Crisp for dessert.

Pre-pack some home cooked meals to take along.  This makes meal preparation so simple and exceptionally tasty.

Pack a cooking ring with extra propane and cast iron skillet’s as well . The cooking ring makes life much simpler by keeping the mess outside of your camper.   A cast iron skillet works great on cooking rings, stove tops and in ovens,  They cook more evenly and hold the heat much longer than many alternatives.  Remember to pack the eggs and bacon for breakfast.

Carry a small table and comfy camping chairs.  The table will give you a place to set drinks and snacks while your outside and will also save you from having to set things on the ground or hold onto them.

Preparing to Glamp

Cover tables with plastic tablecloths.  This makes clean up easy.  At the park where we camped a large picnic table was part of our campsite.  Unfortunately, it was well used so the tablecloth covered the wear and tear the table had seen over the years.

Use an awning or take a pop-up canopy with you.  We actually made an awning for our camper using an inexpensive tarp.  This will save you on a wet and rainy day which is almost always guaranteed to happen at one time or another when you camp.  With an awning or canopy you aren’t confined inside your camper or your tent the whole trip.  We even cooked under ours.

Don’t forget to pack a variety entertainment.  Board games, cards, a good book, and/or a television and DVD player with movies will help keep you occupied if the weather isn’t cooperating, or you just want to kick back and relax after a long day of hiking or exploring.

And lastly, if you don’t have the luxury of a bathroom in your camper then I  recommend a cheap  Porta Potty. Why?  To save you from having to trek through the park  to the public restrooms in the middle of the night.

Our first camping trip gave us the chance to see what worked and what didn’t for us.  Unlike my friend, I don’t think we were disappointed with anything about our first trip.  The important thing to remember is that if you don’t like rustic camping then don’t torture yourself.  Plan ahead and think about the things you can do that will  make your camping experience pleasurable.  It’s okay to camp like a girl!

Blue Ribbon Concord Grape Pie Filling

Recipe for Concord Grape Pie Recipe

To me, there is something nostalgic about pies, and I have to admit that I am completely smitten with them.

Pies were an extremely popular dessert back in the day.  Homemakers made them for their hard-working husbands,  baked and served them after presenting a delicious home-cooked Sunday dinner, and even made them to flaunt their baking skills when guests were invited for supper.

Pies are charismatic and there is simply no getting around it.

Concord Grape Pie Filling Recipe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In all the years that I’ve been baking, I realized that I have never made a Concord Grape Pie, and shame on me!  So recently, I decided that it was time that I made one and scratched it off my “haven’t baked yet” bucket list.

I did some research before I jumped feet first into this baking adventure.  I looked at a lot of recipes in cookbooks, and on-line, and I compared the different ways that grape pies are made, as well as the variety of ingredients used to make them.  An example would be using instant tapioca versus all-purpose flour.

After a rather extensive search I settled on a recipe straight out of my Better Homes and Gardens Pies And Cakes cookbook.  What I liked about this recipe was the simplicity in the way it was written.  No fuss, no frills – simple instructions.  The downside to selecting this recipe?  There were no pictures to ooh and ah over.

I have to admit that I have absolutely fallen in love with the flavor of this pie filling and as far as I’m concerned it is worth a blue ribbon.  I  did omit the salt in this filling and I’ve marked it as optional in the recipe.

Also,  the next time I make this recipe I’ve decided I will quickly pulse the skins in my food processor before adding them to the pulp.  While most of the skins softened and broke down during baking I did find few skins when I sampled  the pie.  It’s a texture thing with me and I’d prefer not to find the skins at all

Blue Ribbon Concord Grape Pie Filling

Serves 1
Prep time 20 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Occasion Barbecue, Casual Party, Formal Party, Thanksgiving
From book Better Homes and Gardens Pies And Cakes
This recipe makes one 9" pie which will serve between 6-8 people.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Concord grapes
  • 1 cup Granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup All-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Butter (softened)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt (Optional)

Directions

Step 1
Remove skins from grapes; set aside.
Step 2
Place pulp in a medium sized saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Step 3
Remove from heat and cool briefly. Sieve pulp into a mixing bowl and discard seeds.
Step 4
Add grape skins and remaining ingredients to pulp. Mix thoroughly.
Step 5
Pour into 9" unbaked pie crust and top with second crust or crumb topping.

Have you ever had grape pie before?

Recipe for Concord grape pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

create & share

 

 

 

 

Potluck

Concord Grape Ice Cream Topping

Grape Ice Cream Topping

Fall will officially be here this Wednesday, and to celebrate, I thought I’d share one of my new recipes with you.

This ice cream topping is delicious served warm over a dish of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

As the temperatures drop, which they are, I will start sharing recipes that feature some of my favorite fall flavors.  It’s all about pumpkin, apples, and grapes this time of year.

I am very fortunate that Concord grapes are plentiful and easy to purchase here in the Finger Lakes Region.  If you live an area where they are hard to come by then I apologize in advance.

This sauce is characteristically sweet and sour.  I think that’s why I can’t stop licking the spoon!

Concord Grape Ice Cream Topping

Serves 6
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
Total time 20 minutes
Meal type Dessert
Occasion Barbecue, Casual Party, Halloween
A great Autumn ice cream topping made with Concord Grapes. Love the sweet and sour flavor combo!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Concord Grapes
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon Corn Starch
  • 1 tablespoon Water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 pinch Salt

Note

Refrigerating this topping will cause it to thicken (jelly like).  Warm it in the microwave for about 30-60 seconds before using.

Directions

Step 1
Place whole grapes in medium saucepan and add 1/2 cup water to cover the bottom of the pan.
Step 2
Bring grapes to boil and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through a cheese cloth saving the juice (about 1 cup). Discard the skins and seeds.
Step 3
Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water together in a small dish - set aside.
Step 4
Pour juice back into saucepan. Over low heat add sugar and cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil until juice thickens.
Step 5
Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla and pinch of salt.
Step 6
Serve warm over ice cream. Can be refrigerated and warmed in microwave before using.

A Spoonful of Concord Grape Ice Cream Topping

Are you looking forward to fall desserts?  What’s your favorite fall flavor?

Ice Cream Topping Made With Concord Grapes

 

 

Our Camping Trip At Sampson State Park

Seneca Lake at Sampson State Park

A pink glamper

Last weekend hubby and I finally went camping.  This was the very first time we have camped as a couple. We have talked about doing this for a long time  but we just never got around to it.  Sometimes it’s hard to disconnect from the busy world we live in and just let go.  I think it’s easy to convince ourselves that we either don’t have enough time or money.

Booking our trip was easy because the state parks use Reserve America, an on-line booking agent for campgrounds, marinas, and parks throughout the US.

We chose Sampson State Park for our first camping adventure and it was a great choice.  State parks are relatively inexpensive and we literally had  Seneca Lake in our very own backyard.

Seneca Lake at Sampson State Park

Sampson is located in Romulus, NY, which is in the heart of the Finger Lakes –  not too far from home for us.  While there are lot’s of things to do at the park, and in the area, we kept our activity level to a minimum this trip.  We were looking for  rest and relaxation and that’s exactly what we got.

A lot of our trip centered around consuming delicious home cooked meals. The day before our trip my husband  prepared many of our meals in advance.  He loves to cook just as I love to bake.  His menu consisted of many of our favorites – pulled pork, chicken quesadillas, homemade salad’s, spaghetti and meatballs, and of course daily cast iron skillet breakfasts.  We ate better camping than we do at home – seriously!  The key to exceptional camping food is advanced preparation and a great cook.

Homemade Pulled Pork

In between all of our  R&R and eating we found time visit to the Sampson Military Museum which is located right at the park.  This is a must do if you are a local history buff, or enjoy anything to do with maritime, aircrafts, or military history.

Sampson Military Museum

During WWII, and prior to becoming a state park,  the property housed the Sampson Navel Base from 1942-1946.  From 1950-1956, the site was converted into the Sampson Air Force Training Base.

An interesting fact; Sampson Naval Base once housed the largest naval hospital on the east coast.

The history of Sampson fascinates me.  I can’t even imagine the hustle and bustle that once existed in this rural area.

Samspon Military Museum

Aside from visiting the museum, along with many other folks, we took some time to visit the Tin Can Tourist Rally that was going on Saturday in Loop 2 of the campground.  Who can pass up gawking at vintage campers?  Not me!

As for the park itself, the sites were well kept and the restrooms literally sparkled.  Not only did they look clean, they smelled clean.  And thank goodness for the large dishwashing sinks in both the women’s and men’s restrooms because shortly after setting up camp our water pump decided to go on the fritz.

We liked the distance that we had between our neighbors.  In other words, we weren’t camping on top of each other.  The built-in fire ring was nice and we got to enjoy a great campfire on a bright starry night.  And one last reminder, this campground is pet friendly so expect to hear a few barking dog on occasion.  Hence, the reason we didn’t take our dog along.

This was a GREAT first camping trip.  I am already thinking about our next adventure.  My husband just asked me, “where next?” That my friends is a good question.  So many state parks; so many choices.

Signed,

The Happy Campers!