Ranchy Butter Burgers

What better way to end the summer than with a cookout on your back porch with the best ranch-style, butter packed, cheeseburgers??? 

I’m a sucker for a good cheeseburger.  The juiciest of patties and the meltiest cheese…hmmm…you just can’t beat that!  Now, top it off with homemade burger buns, lettuce and tomatoes from your own garden, and homemade French fries from home-grown potatoes!  Talk about a rewarding meal!

This recipe was fun to play around with.  It started by just throwing together things that sounded good, and then refining it into this delicious, juicy, flavorful burger.

This recipe makes 4 quarter pound burgers. You can always make 6 smaller ones, or 2 giant ones (no judgement here ?), or whatever you feel like.

As far as the grilling goes, these are very loose directions because every grill is different and everyone’s preferences for burger-doneness are different—these times are what worked for us.

Happy end of summer, Friends!  Here’s to a beautiful, cool fall!

Ranchy Butter Burgers

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **


  • 1 lb lean ground beef (we like to use 90/10)
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp Black Pepper, ground
  • 1 tsp Sriracha Seasoning (optional)
  • 2 TBSP Ranch Seasoning
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 TBSP butter, melted
  • ¼ cup plain Bread Crumbs
  • 4 slices of your choice of cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Any vegetables you may want on your cheeseburger (lettuce, tomatoes, onion, etc,)
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc,)


Combine all of the ingredients (except for the cheese, hamburger buns, veggies, and condiments) in a medium bowl, and mix really well so that everything is evenly combined.

Separate the meat mixture into 4 equal parts, and flatten each into patty-sized disks.

Heat up your grill to between 350-400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place your patties on the pre-heated grill. And close the lid.

Let them cook for about 6-7 minutes.  Flip them over and cook them for an addition 6 minutes or so, or until nicely browned. If you’re using cheese (um, who doesn’t love cheese on their burgers?!?!?), carefully place your choice of cheese on the burgers for the last minute of grilling so that it gets nice and melty.

When the patties are done being cooked (or you can do this next step just before the patties are done if you have room on your grill), cut the burger buns in half, placing them cut-side-down on the grill for a couple minutes so that they get slightly toast.  You can also butter them lightly, and then toast them to add delicious butter flavors into the bun.

Dress up your burger in your favorite way and enjoy with chips or homemade French fries!

Välling: Sweden’s Porridge

Overall, I love breakfast foods.  Whether it’s simple cornflakes and yogurt or fancy coffee cake with eggs and sausage, I’m down for a hearty breakfast! There is one exception to this though—oatmeal.  I do NOT love oatmeal.   When I was growing up, my parents made oatmeal for us several times a week, and I always struggled to get behind the thick, gooey, slimy porridge, even when they added raisins. But, when they threw this version into the mix, my heart sang!

I’m sure there are others out there like me who don’t particularly care for oatmeal.  So, today, I wanted to introduce you to a different kind of oatmeal—the Swedish kind!

It’s called välling, which, when you look up the exact definition, means ‘gruel’.  When I’ve googled it to see if it’s an actual ‘thing’ in Swedish cuisine, the only information that comes up is about baby food! That’s right, baby food.  Apparently, it’s a brand of baby food and baby formula! Who knew??

I recently asked my parents about välling.  My Morfar (mother’s father) was a farm boy in the early 1900’s in Sweden, so in my mind, I imagined that it originally came about because farmers would throw together whatever they had on the farm and make a gruely-porridge out of it to feed their large families.  But, to my surprise, my parents said that they were introduced to it back in the early 80’s by some Swedish missionaries in Central African Republic.  So, maybe it was just a porridge that those missionaries created for nostalgia’s sake?

All right, lets get back to the recipe, shall we?  As I said above, I don’t love oatmeal, but this version of oatmeal is very different and very good!  It has a lot more milk in it, so it’s runnier than traditional, thick, American oatmeal.  And it has a hint of sweetness from some sugar added at the very end of the cooking process. 

Because it cooks for a while, it slightly thickens, creating a delicious, creamy, consistency.  Eating this with a chunk of banana for every bite is one of my favorite porridge breakfasts!  I hope you’ll be adventurous with me and try this ‘new’ version of oatmeal, friends!

Välling: Sweden’s Porridge

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **


  • 4 cups Milk (I like to use 2%) (~950 mls–you can also just do a full liter—the milk measurement doesn’t have to be exact for this recipe)
  • ⅛ tsp Salt
  • Scant ½ cup Quick Oats (~50 grams)
  • 3 TBSP white Sugar (optional-you can increase or decrease the amount if you choose to)
  • 2-4 Bananas (depending on how many people you serving—you’ll want 1 banana per person)


Pour the milk into a medium, thick-bottomed sauce pan.  Add the salt and sugar.  Slowly, over medium heat, bring the milk to a gentle boil.  Once it’s boiling, add the oats, stirring so that there are no lumps. Reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

You’ll want to stir it often with a whisk to keep the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan (I LOVE to use this whisk! It’s called a visp in Swedish, and it does a phenomenal job!  You can also find plastic ones at Ikea which are great for non-stick pots and pans—Amazon has them as well, though for a fair amount more).

After about 20 minutes, the oatmeal will be soft, and the milk mixture will have thickened. 

Peel the bananas.  Cut them each in half.  Then, slice each half in half again, lengthwise so that you have 4 slices per banana. Place the banana slices in a cereal bowl, and ladle 1-2 spoonfuls of välling over the bananas.  Eat it with a spoon, cutting pieces of the banana off with each bite. 


Perfect Molasses Sandwich Bread

Who doesn’t love homemade bread??? Okay, I’m sure there are some people out there who don’t, but we won’t talk about them…😉

This has been a really fun recipe for me to play around with. I’ve mixed and matched lots of things and finally came up with this. It’s great for sandwiches, toast, french toast, hamburger buns, and even hot dog buns (I’ll often use it for the bread portion of my Bierocks recipe too!).

It has a slight hint of sweetness from the molasses and delicious richness from the yogurt.

Recipe note for any of my lactose intolerant or vegan friends: you can substitute the yogurt for water or even almond milk, and it’s still delicious! You may need to increase the flour a little bit if you do this, so just keep an eye on the moistness of the dough as you’re mixing it.

Happy Baking, Friends!

Perfect Molasses Sandwich Bread

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **


  • 2 cups warm Water (480 mls)
  • 2 TBSP Yeast (20 grams)
  • 1 cup plain Yogurt (270 mls)
  • 3 TBSP Butter, melted (45 grams) *(You can also use your choice of oil instead of butter)
  • 3 TBSP Molasses (60 grams)
  • 3 TBSP Sugar (37 grams)
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • ¼ cup Potato Flakes (15 grams), optional
  • 7-8 cups Bread Flour (~1 kg—depending on the type of flour you are using and the runniness of your yogurt)
  • 1 additional TBSP Butter, melted, to brush the loaves with when they come out of the oven


Start with ½ a cup of warm water and add your yeast to it.  Stir it well and set it aside for about 10 minutes to bubble and froth. 

Meanwhile, in a separate, large bowl (or your KitchenAid mixing bowl), pour the remaining 1 ½ cups of warm water, the yogurt, melted butter, molasses, sugar, salt, and potato flakes. Use a whisk to mix it all together. 

Once the yeast/water mixture has sat for about 10 minutes, add it to the bowl and give it another whisk so that it’s all evenly mixed.

Gradually start to add the flour, mixing as you go, until you have a nice ball of dough.  Knead the dough for about 8 minutes, adding small amounts of flour, as needed, if it’s too sticky. You want the dough to spring back at you when you gently poke your finger into it.

After kneading, grease a large bowl and place the dough in it to rise.  Cover it with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for about 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.

When it has fully risen, punch it down. 

Grease 2 loaf pans with oil or butter. 

Divide the dough into 2, equal parts.

Shape the dough into loaves and place them in the greased loaf pans.

We want to let these rise for about 30 more minutes.  While they are rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. After the second rise, place the loaves in the preheated oven. 

Bake them for about 45 minutes, or until they turn a beautiful, golden, brown color. 

Remove them from the oven and carefully pop the loaves out of the pans and place them on a cooling rack.  Using a pastry brush, gently coat the tops with a light coating of melted butter. This keeps the crust nice and soft.

It’s best to wait until they are fully cooled before you cut into them, but lets be real, ain’t nobody can wait to cut into freshly baked, warm bread (at least not this gal ?!). 

Fried Plantains: The Sweet and Salty Kind

Fried Plantains—one of my favorite comfort foods! Whenever I eat these, my mind is flooded with memories of my childhood.  I feel like plantains were a staple growing up in Congo and Cameroon both.

The way we used to make these in Congo (a.k.a. the best way ?), is to use really ripe plantains (called Makembas, in Lingala).  I’ve lived in other places where the plantains are not as ripe for this fried method, and they turned out to be very dry and starchy and leave much to be desired.  When you use the overripe ones, your end result is the softest, sweetest, most delicious fried goodness. 

Don’t get me wrong! Green plantains definitely serve a purpose in some dishes—this just isn’t one of them.  I’ll be sharing another delicious treat that uses green plantains next month, so stay tuned!

Now, back to the good stuff—when I say overripe plantains, I mean overripe!  You want the skins to be mostly black. It sounds gross, but trust me, it really improves the final product!

I struggle to find overripe plantains in the stores here, so I usually have to plan ahead and buy them green.  Then I put them in my pantry for 3-4 weeks to let them ripen up.  If you have to do it this way too, just be sure to check on them about once a week so you don’t forget about them (I’ve definitely done that before…)

One final note: please be careful when working with and around the hot oil!  Oil burns are no fun! 

I hope you love how sweet and juicy these melt-in-your-mouth treats are!  I’ve won my husband over ?  Cheers!

Fried Plantains: The Sweet and Salty Kind

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **


  • 4 overripe, mostly black Plantains
  • ½ – ¾ cup Vegetable Oil (depending on the size of your frying pan)
  • Coarsely ground Salt
  • Paper Towels


In a medium frying pan (I like to use cast iron for this project!), pour in enough oil that you have about a ¼ – ½ inch in the bottom of the pan. 

Place the pan over medium heat and let the oil heat up to around 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

**Note: If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the oil’s temp by taking a small piece of cut plantain and putting it in the hot oil.  If it immediately starts to bubble and dance around the plantain, then it’s ready! You don’t want it so hot that it’s burning and smoking either.**

While the oil is heating up, peel the plantains.

Next, we cut them into your desired size and shape.  I prefer to cut them in half, and then slice them into quarters lengthwise. 

Very carefully place the slices of plantain in the hot oil.  Please don’t burn yourself!  You will probably have to fry these in a couple of batches, depending on the size of your pan.  Don’t overcrowd the slices.  They can gently touch, but you don’t want any stacked on top of each other. 

Fry them for about 3 minutes on the first side.  The edges should start to turn a light, golden brown color.  Using tongs or a fork, carefully flip the plantains over, and fry them for another 3 minutes or so on the second side.  The goal is to get them to a beautiful dark, golden brown color. 

**Note: Because of the high sugar content in these, they will go from dark brown to black very quickly, so keep an eye on them so as not to burn them!**

Once they have reached their desired color, place them on a couple layers of paper towel to absorb some of the grease. 

Lightly sprinkle them with coarsely ground salt (I love to use this pink Himalayan rock salt in my spice grinder!). 

Serve warm. 

Scandinavian Kringler

Tomorrow’s Father’s Day!  I know that you’ve come here to find out about this amazing, delicious, butter-packed, puff pastry, but I just wanted to take a minute to talk about my dad.

He’s one of those guys who is a jack of all trades.  He has a knack for fixing things, he loves to save anything and everything because he may have a use for it down the road, he loves to learn, and he’s a great teacher. 

My Pappa and me. He even made my wedding bouquet!
Photo Credit: Dan Oksnevad Photography

I’ve always been his “right-hand-man”, ever since I was a little girl.  I remember him teaching me about plumb lines and masonry, PVC pipes and plumbing, and even a little welding.  He taught me how to change my oil and how to run a chainsaw, he shared his love for animals, the great outdoors, and hunting with me.  But, most importantly, he has modeled a life of integrity and love for people and his Lord Jesus. 

Scandinavian Kringler may seem like a strange way to honor my dad, but this is one of those recipes that reminds me of him every time that I make it.  Growing up, a couple of times a year, he would surprise us with this breakfast.  We didn’t have a stand mixer in Congo, so he would do it all by hand, making it a definite act of love.

It’s a recipe that’s packed with delicious buttery, almond goodness that just melts in your mouth.  It’s one of my favorites!  Maybe it will become one of yours too!

Scandinavian Kringler

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **



  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour (150 grams)
  • ½ cup Butter, slightly chilled (113 grams)
  • 2 TBSP Ice Water (20 grams)

Puff Topping:

  • 1 cup Water (236 grams)
  • ½ cup Butter (113 grams)
  • 1 cup Flour (150 grams)
  • 3 large Eggs
  • ½ tsp Almond Extract



Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit

Mix the flour and butter (you can use a food processor, pastry cutter, a fork/knife, or your hands—whatever works for you!).  After the flour and butter are thoroughly mixed, gradually add the ice water, starting with 1 TBSP at a time.  Work it until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.  Roll each part into a hotdog shape and set them on an ungreased cookie sheet (I love to use these AirBake pans!).  Using your fingers, press the dough down so that they form 2 roughly 12” x 3” strips.  Set the pan aside to start working on the puff topping.

In a small saucepan, put 1 cup Water and ½ a cup of butter. Gently bring the water and butter to a boil, making sure that the butter melts completely.

Once it’s boiling, carefully pour the mixture into a stand mixer (with the flat beater attachment).  Immediately add 1 cup of flour and mix on medium speed until it’s smooth.  Start adding the eggs one at a time, mixing for 2 minutes between each addition. 

Lastly, add ½ a tsp of Almond Extract and mix for about 30 final seconds or so.

Gently spoon the mixture, evenly, over the 2 strips.  Try to make sure that you have about a ½ inch crust border.

Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes—it will get lightly browned and puffy.

Once the pastry has finished baking, gently remove them from the pan and place them on a cooling rack.  The puff topping will fall and shrink a little bit—this is normal!

While the pastry it cooling, combine the frosting ingredients and mix them until you’re left with a nice, smooth mixture.

Once the pastry has cooled, gently spread the frosting over the pastry.  Cut each strip diagonally into 8-10 strips.

We love this pastry for Sunday-morning breakfast with a side of sausage and eggs!

The Best Pancake Mix

Camping season is here!!! Well, in this household, any season is camping season!  We LOVE to camp!  We don’t do it as often as we would like, especially since our move last summer, but we’re hoping to make a change starting now (Last weekend, we got to go for a 4-day camping trip at Oconee State Park, SC, and it was lovely!  So many trees, lots of hiking trails, and they even had a swimming section just for dogs!) 

Hubby and I have an ongoing debate about camping vs glamping.  I grew up tent camping.  4 years ago, I spent 6 months on a trail crew backpacking, with as little as possible, while working on trail maintenance throughout northern Nevada!

My backpacking setup in Arc Dome Wilderness, NV

Hubby grew up in a pop-up, tent camper.  A few years ago, before we got married, he bought one of these pop-ups for himself.  I like to tease him that it is totally glamping!  He may or may not get a little offended because to him, glamping is what people do who have gorgeous, hard-sided, 5th-wheel style campers, definitely not a tent camper. ?

Our “glamping” tent-camper and my cute Hubby

Needless to say, whether you’re backpacking, glamping, or somewhere in the middle, it’s always nice to have easy, light-weight food—something you can just throw together without having to bring loads of different containers with various ingredients.

Of course, there are already options out there, like Bisquick, which allow you to do just this.  However, as I’ve mentioned before, I like to know what’s in the food that I eat.  Bisquick has a very strange aftertaste to me.  I’m sure it’s some preservative meant to increase the shelf-life, but I’d much rather make my own, know what’s in it, and not have to worry about unknown chemicals!  

Most pancake recipes out there call for milk of some kind.  This recipe is no different. It calls for powdered milk—don’t, and I mean DON’T use that nasty fat-free powdered milk garbage! Trust me!  I highly recommend using the NIDO brand, by Nestle! This is what I grew up on in Africa.  It’s whole fat powdered milk, and it’s delicious as far as powdered milks go.  

*(You can get in on Amazon, but for some reason it’s a lot more expensive than when I’ve bought it in stores. I have been able to find the large, 56-ounce canisters at most grocery stores (even Walmart) in the Hispanic section, or sometimes the International section for around $15-$18).*

This is a bulk recipe so that you can have it on hand all the time.  At the bottom of the post, I have the instructions on how to make a perfect family-size pancake batch using this bulk recipe. 

This recipe comes from the Wycliffe International Cookbook (page 26 if you have it!).  It’s a great cookbook, put together by Wycliffe Bible Translators, of lots of delicious and practical recipes—just what you need on the Mission field! 

These pancakes were made in the dorms growing up, and it’s what Hubby and I use every time we make pancakes now-especially when we camp.  We like to jazz them up by adding 1 mashed, ripe banana to the batter, or even chocolate chips for your’s truly. ? I wanted to share it with any of you who don’t have this cookbook because of how yummy, easy, and practical it is! I hope that you find it as useful as we do!

The Best Pancake Mix

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Pancake Mix Ingredients:

  • 6 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 TBSP Salt
  • 3 TBSP Baking Powder
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 2 cups Powdered Milk
Coleman Stoves like this are awesome! We highly recommend them if you are inclined to camp!


In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all of the dry ingredients.  Place the mixture in a large, sealable canister, and store it in a cool, dry place.

Preparing the Pancakes:

(1 batch makes 5-6 medium-large pancakes)

Pancake Ingredients:

  • 1 Egg
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 TBSP Oil
  • 1 ½ cups Pancake Mix
  • 1 Ripe Banana, mashed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate Chips (optional)


In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, water, and oil together.  Add the dry pancake mix and whisk it until there are no lumps.

Fry the batter on a hot griddle or frying pan. 

Serve them warm with butter, syrup, sausage, and eggs!

***For my backpacker friends: to make your lives easier, you can also leave out the oil and the egg.  Just add an extra ¼ – ½ cup of water!

Step Into My Garden

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. – Alfred Austin

I can’t tell you how many hours Hubby and I have spent talking and dreaming about trying our hand at homesteading in Alaska. Ever since I was young, Alaska has captivated me—the wilderness, the snow, the mountains, the wildlife, the isolation, and, of course, having my own dog sled team!

There is something so appealing to me about working with my hands, sweat running down my face and sore muscles from laboring outside for hours upon hours, creating practical yet beautiful things, and working the soil to grow food for our table. Just thinking about it fills me with excitement!

Early Girl Tomatoes

Our life here in South Carolina feels about as close to homesteading as we’ve been, thus far. Maybe it’ll be a nice little stepping-stone in that direction? Our home itself is not very homesteady, but the land sure is. Acre upon acre of land that needs to be worked, cleaned up, replanted, you name it.

I can’t help but wonder if our garden journey has been similar to those of early settlers. We picked out a spot where we wanted to plant, we had to clear the trees, remove dozens of stumps and large root systems, till the ground until it was beautiful and fluffy, build a fence to protect our precious plants, and learn the struggles of gardening on a hill.

Baby Zucchini

I am definitely an amateur gardener—I don’t really know what I’m doing most of the time; just learning as I go.

Today, I want to invite you all into my garden to enjoy the beautiful greenery, budding and blooming flowers, tomatoes peaking their cute little heads through the branches, cute pumpkins popping up here and their, watermelon vines stretching out across the ground.

Newly sprouted Rhubarb Plant. I cannot WAIT until next year when I can collect my first harvest!

Many of you have been cooped up in your homes for the past few months, and I hope that these images warm your heart and give you hope of the new and beautiful things that the Creator of this world has to offer.

Beautiful Beet Row
Bell Pepper flower bud
Garlic Rows
This baby Cauliflower plant is on the struggle bus…
Broccoli! I’ve never successfully grown it before. In Reno, it was too hot, so the plants got huge, but they never produced. It’ll be interesting to see what they do here.
Sweet Corn! Already well over knee-high! Hooray!
Lettuce for days!
Cherry Tomatoes!
Cucumber blossoms
Vining Watermelon
The cutest baby Pumpkin

This is the stuff dreams are made of!

Cranberry-Mandarin Orange Coffee Cake and Mother’s Day

What comes to your mind when Mother’s Day comes around?  I think of Coffee Cake…and my Mamma (of course)!  Growing up, my dad made it a point to make breakfast on Mother’s Day.  He helped out in the kitchen on a regular basis, but Mother’s Day was a special day when Mamma could sit back, relax, and put her feet up.  Though he wouldn’t always make coffee cake, the deliciously aromatic, warm, melt-in-your-mouth breakfast cake reminds me of Mamma.

Since this is a Mother’s Day post, let me mention a few things about my mom. I have been the recipient of the best motherly care I could ever imagine. Mamma held my hair when I was sick, she encouraged me to do my best in school, music, sports, and anything else that I set my mind to, she cheered me on when I ran my marathon, she supported me when I embarked on my 2-year Peace Corps stint, she was there hootin’ and hollerin’ when I got engaged and then married, she’s been a listening ear and shoulder to cry on, she’s been my prayer warrior through every walk of life, and she’s loved on me through thick and thin. And, she’s the one who got me into cooking and baking!

Me and my beautiful Mamma
Photo Credit: Dan Oksnevad Photography

So, Friends, lets get back to coffee cake!  I didn’t grow up eating cranberries–we didn’t have them in my part of Africa.  They have been an acquired taste for me because of how tart they are, but I’ve really come to love homemade cranberry sauce. So, I decided that I wanted to come up with a cranberry sauce coffee cake recipe! Whoever says that cranberries are meant for the fall and winter are just plain silly! If you’re anything like me, you’ll enjoy this any time of the year (side note: fresh cranberries freeze really well! I buy several bags of fresh berries in the fall and stick them in the freezer to use for a rainy day)!

I have been experimenting with this particular recipe for a while now.  My parents were the first guinea pigs for round one.  I think this is round 4 or 5, and I’m excited to finally share it with you all.  It’s a delicious combination of vanilla coffee cake, tangy cranberry, and mandarin orange pizzazz (I grew up calling mandarin oranges “naartjies”—pronounced “notcheeze”! It’s the South African name for them. Mamma, having grown up there, taught us that when we were kids).

P.S. While I don’t have the privilege of being a mom (except to my adorable, stubborn, hilarious fur babies, Rayne and Mishka), I do have an amazing mother and mother-in-law, not to mention, a sister and 4 sisters-in-law who are all wonderful mamas to the cutest and sweetest nieces and nephews—19 and counting!!! So this is a shout-out to each of you!

My furry Loves, Rayne and Mishka

Happy Mother’s Day to all you Mamas out there!

Cranberry-Mandarin Orange Coffee Cake

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Cranberry Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz bag of fresh Cranberries
  • 1 cup Sugar (230 grams)
  • ½ cup Mandarin Orange Juice (about 4 large, squeezed)

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Sugar (230 grams)
  • ½ cup Butter, softened (113 grams)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 ½ cups Milk (360 mls/350 grams)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 3 cups All-Purpose Flour (450 grams)
  • 2 TBSP Baking Powder (25 grams)
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt (10 grams)

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Cream Cheese, softened
  • 4 TBSP Butter, softened
  • ⅛ cup Mandarin Orange Juice (about 1 large)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Zest of 1 mandarin orange
  • 2 cups Powdered Sugar


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small sauce pan, add the cranberries, 1 cup of sugar, and ½ cup of squeezed mandarin orange juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer on low for about 7 minutes. You want most of the cranberries to pop. Remove the pan from the heat, and let it start to cool down a little bit while you make the cake.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter until they’re smooth (I like to use a hand mixer for this part).  Add the 2 eggs, and beat it again for about a minute.  Add the milk and the vanilla extract.  I would recommend gently stirring this with a large spoon and not using the beaters—trust me when I say that milk will otherwise go flying, lol.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Sift it together well and then add it to the wet ingredients.  Using the spoon, gently stir it until it is a firm mixture.  At this point, I use the hand mixer again and whip it for about a minute until it’s nice and fluffy. 

Prepare your baking pan with grease and a light dusting of flour.  I used a bundt pan (see tips below for what I have found to be the best prep for a bundt pan). A greased 9×13 pan works great for this recipe as well.

**See my hints at the end of this blog post about successfully getting the cake out of the Bundt pan.

Pour the cake batter into the pan. Gently add the cranberry sauce.  You can also put half of the batter in the pan, pour the cranberry sauce over it, and cover the cranberries with the remaining batter.  Using a spoon, carefully fold and swirl the cranberry sauce down into the batter-try not to hit the sides or bottom of the pan when you’re swirling.

Place the cake in the preheated oven.

If you are baking in a bundt pan, it takes about 45-55 minutes.  If you are baking it in a 9×13 pan, it takes about 25-35 minutes.  Insert a knife into the center of the cake to check for doneness. 

Remove the cake from the oven when it’s fully cooked.  If you’re using a bundt pan, let it cool for about 15 minutes, and then place it in a steam bath for 5 minutes (**see tips below for more details).

Using a plastic knife or spatula, gently release any parts of the cake that are sticking to the top edges of the pan (you’ll especially find this where cranberry sauce has touched the sides and begins to caramelize). 

Flip the pan over onto a cooling rack, say a little prayer, and slowly lift the pan free.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll be doing a happy dance when it comes out clean (on the flip side, I’ve also shed a few tears when it’s stuck so badly that the whole thing fell apart)!

While the cake continues to cool, make the frosting by softening the butter and cream cheese.  Mix them with a fork.  Add the mandarin orange juice, vanilla, and zest.  Lastly, add the powdered sugar.  I like to mix it with a fork initially so that powdered sugar doesn’t go flying everywhere, but once it starts to incorporate, then I use the hand mixer to get a nice glossy, creamy, frosting.

Once the cake has cooled a bit, drizzle the frosting over it.  Garnish it with a few slices or shavings of orange peal. Cut it in slices, and enjoy with tea or coffee. 

**Bundt Pan Preparation:

I have a love-hate relationship with Bundt pans.  They are so pretty and can make such nice designs on cakes, but they are SO HARD to get out of the pan sometimes.  I have learned over time that the best way to get cakes to come out of a Bundt pan is to use a cooking brush and “paint” melted vegetable shortening (I use Crisco) into every nook and cranny of the pan.  Then, lightly sprinkle flour over the shortening to ensure that the cake doesn’t stick. 

After removing the cake from the oven, I let it sit on a wire rack for 15 minutes, at which time I put a couple inches of steaming hot water into the sink, wrap a towel ring in the center, and boil a kettle of water.  Once the water is boiling, carefully pour it onto the towel ring.  Place the Bundt pan on the towel ring and cover the sink with a tea towel.  Let the cake steam for 5 minutes.  I have also done this with a cooling rack instead of the towel, and it worked very well too.

I then turn the Bundt pan upside down onto a wire rack, hold my breath, and pray that it comes out clean.  This method has worked for me, and I hope it works for you too! There’s nothing more frustrating than slaving over a nice cake, only to have it break apart because it won’t come out of the pan.

And, Voila! HAPPY DANCE!!!!

Bierocks: Beef and Cabbage Buns

Taste buds truly are amazing! The memories that come flooding back when we eat certain foods is mindboggling! This is one of those recipes that really takes me back to my childhood.  Mamma used to make it regularly at the dorm when I was in junior high and high school.  It was definitely a favorite! 

Bierocks is a German (possibly Russian) bread that is filled with beef and cabbage. 

I couldn’t find the recipe that we had in the dorm, so I winged it and just started adding this, that, and the other thing, and this is the result.  (I did find out from Mamma, after creating this recipe, that the Bierocks we used to have comes from the More-with-Less international cookbook). 

My husband and I really enjoy this recipe, and there are lots of different variations depending on your tastes.  I only recently started adding a couple Jalapeño peppers, and boy does that add a nice, gentle spice to it—not overpowering at all!

As far as the bread goes, you can really just use your favorite bread recipe, it doesn’t have to be this one.  This is our favorite, so it’s what we use, and they are delectable.

When it comes to the filling, as far as I’ve gleaned from the innerwebs, bierocks is not really supposed to have carrots or garlic or some of the other seasonings that I’ve added.  But, as I’m someone who doesn’t really love vegetables, I’ve found this to be a great way to “sneak” more veggies into my diet (not sure how sneaky it is seeing as I’m the cook, lol).  I also love how the carrots add a lovely sweetness to the filling. 

This is the perfect meal idea for a picnic lunch or hiking snack, AND they freeze really well!!

Bierocks: Beef and Cabbage Buns

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **

Bread Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm Water (480 mls)
  • 2 TBSP Yeast (20 grams)
  • 1 cup Buttermilk (240 mls)
  • 3 TBSP Butter, melted (45 grams)
  • 3 TBSP Molasses (60 grams)
  • 3 TBSP Sugar (37 grams)
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • ¼ cup Potato Flakes (15 grams), optional
  • 7-8 cups Bread Flour (~1 kg)
  • 1 Egg + 2 tsp Water—for Egg Wash

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 TBSP Cooking Oil
  • 2 TBSP Butter
  • 1 Yellow Onion, diced (200 grams)
  • 5 medium-large Garlic Cloves, crushed
  • 1 lb Ground Beef
  • 5 small-medium Carrots, grated (200 grams)
  • 6 cups Cabbage, finely chopped (600 grams)
  • 2-4 Jalapeños, chopped with the seeds, optional
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 ½ tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp dried Thyme (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce

Bread Directions:

Start with ½ a cup of warm water and add your yeast to it.  Stir it well and set it aside for about 10 minutes to bubble and froth. 

Meanwhile, in a separate, large bowl (or your KitchenAid mixing bowl), pour the remaining 1 ½ cups of water, the buttermilk, melted butter, molasses, sugar, salt, and potato flakes. Use a whisk to mix it all together. 

Once the yeast/water mixture has sat or about 10 minutes, add it to the bowl and give it another whisk so that it’s all evenly mixed.

Gradually start to add the flour, mixing as you go, until you have a nice ball of dough.  Knead the dough for about 8 minutes, adding small amounts of flour, as needed, if it’s too sticky. You want the dough to spring back at you when you gently poke your finger into it.

After kneading, grease a large bowl and place the dough in it to rise.  Cover it with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for about 1 hour to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size.

When it has fully risen, punch it down. 

Filling Directions:

In a large sauté pan (we got this set for our wedding, and the 4.5 quart sauté pan is perfect for this job!), heat the oil and butter .  Once the butter has melted, add the onions and garlic, and fry them until they are tender (about 3-5 minutes).  Add the ground beef, and sauté it until it is nicely browned. 

Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.  Place a lid on the pan and let it simmer on low for about 30 minutes, or until the cabbage has cooked all the way through and is nice and tender.

Set the filling aside to cool a bit while the bread dough finishes rising.

Assembly Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the bread has doubled in size, punch it down and weigh out 2 oz balls of dough (it should be enough for about 3 dozen buns)–see time saver tips below to speed up this process!

Using a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball so that it is about 3-4 inches in diameter.  Place 1 oz of filling in the center (this ends up being about 2 TBSP).  Bring the edges of the dough up and pinch them together so that you end up with a nice round ball with no holes in it. 

Place the filled buns on a greased baking sheet.  Because of how long the assembly can take, you don’t have to let them rise again.  But, if you get your Littles to help you and have a nice little assembly line going, speeding up the process, then I would recommend letting them rise for 10-15 more minutes after you have placed them on the baking sheet.  Beat the egg with 2 tsp of water until it’s smooth.  Gently brush each bun with the egg wash. 

Bake them for 20-25 minutes, or until they are nice and golden brown. 

Remove them from the oven and place the buns on cooling racks

They are best when they are warm, but also make a delightful picnic or hiking lunch as well!  Our favorite condiments to eat them with are ketchup and ranch dressing.  Growing up, we also used to put soy sauce on them, which is also very good.

Time Saver Tips:

  • I know that this is a precise (or dare I say, tedious) process with the weighing of the dough and the filling.  If you don’t have the time or patience for it, you can just divide the dough into 3 equal parts. Roll out each part into a rectangle, and cut it into 12 squares.  Put 2 TBSP of the filling in each square, and proceed with pinching the edges together as described above–no weighing necessary! My husband and I have been keeping close tabs on our caloric intake, which is why I tend to go through the effort to weighing out the ingredients as precisely as possible.
  • Should you decide to weigh everything, I would recommend that you start weighing out the filling and setting it in small piles on a large cutting board while the dough is rising so that it’s one less thing to weigh during assembly.

Favorite Banana Bread

My husband and I have a running debate in our house about nuts and chocolate.  I am of the opinion that nuts do not belong in baked goods. Period.  Bring on the chocolate chips though!  He, on the other hand, can’t stand chocolate chips—he actually just can’t stand chocolate in general! Weirdo!

Naturally, this makes the banana bread extravaganza a little more complicated in our household.  I usually just split the batch and bake it in 2 smaller dishes.  That way, I can put his walnuts in half the batter, and I can put my chocolate chips in the other.  It’s a win-win that way! 

I bake a lot of my banana bread in round baking dishes.  I’ve been told this is a little strange, but there is a reason for it!  I promise! 

When I lived in Ethiopia, I didn’t have any kind of kitchen amenities.  No refrigerator, no oven, no toaster—almost none of the things that one would consider “essential” here in the States (it’s amazing how, when push comes to shove, “essentials” are really not as essential as we think they are). 

If you hadn’t noticed already, I LOVE to bake! So, what did I do to get my baking fix over those 2+ years?  I made myself a make-shift oven that I could put over a fire or kerosene stove (sort of dutch oven style, but a little different).  I made the “oven” by purchasing a large, round, cooking pot with a lid.  I placed 3 roughly 2-inch rocks in the bottom.  Then, I bought a second, round cooking pot that was small enough to slip into the large pot, resting on the stones at the bottom. 

Unfortunately, this is the only picture that I have of my baking setup. That is the large pot that served as the “oven”. Inside are the stones and the smaller pot with the baking banana bread.

I made sure to have a 1-2 inch gap between the sides and bottoms of the 2 pots to allow for sufficient airflow.  I would put my baking batter (weather it was bread or cake) into the smaller pan, set it down on the 3 stones, place the lid on the larger pot, and put it over the fire.  It was definitely not the most efficient oven in the world, but it worked, and that’s what’s important!

During my time there, I got to teach some of my lady friends how to make banana bread like this.  Banana bread isn’t exactly a part of their normal cultural cuisine, so it was fun to be able to share it with them. 

And that, my friends, is why I bake round banana bread! It was my only option in Ethiopia, I think it looks nice, and it’s unique.  You can bake in whatever dish you want to though! Just keep in mind that the deeper the batter, the longer it will take to bake. This batch fits nicely in an 8″x4″ bread pan and takes pretty close to the full 60 minutes to bake all the way through.

Favorite Banana Bread

**This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. **


  • ½ cup Butter, softened (113 grams)
  • ½ cup White Sugar (100 grams)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 medium-large, over-ripe Bananas, mashed (about 1 – 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour (300 grams)
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • ½ – 1 cup Chocolate chips or Walnuts,chopped. (These are optional! I used a ½ cup of chocolate chips for my half of the banana bread and a 13 cup of walnuts for the Hubby’s half)
  • ⅛  – ¼ cup Brown Sugar (optional)


Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the softened butter and sugar in a bowl, and mix it with a fork or electric mixer.  Add the 2 eggs and mix it again. 

In a separate bowl, place your bananas, and mash them with a fork. The blacker and riper the better! This makes for really nice, moist banana bread! (*See my tip below about freezing bananas!)

Add the mushed bananas to the wet mixture, and stir it well.

In another bowl, mix your flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add it to the wet ingredients and stir until it’s well combined. 

This is the moment to add either your chocolate chips, walnuts, or whatever extra special treat you have in mind.  You’ll want to gently fold it in with a spoon.

Pour the batter into a greased baking dish (or 2 in my case)

The final yummy touch before baking is to sprinkle brown sugar on top.  You can put however much on that you want. I usually sprinkle between ⅛  – ¼ cup—just enough to add a nice, slightly caramelized layer on top. 

Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on the size and depth of you baking pan.  I like to start checking mine around 30-40 minutes.  When the sides start to pull away from the edges of the pan and a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center, pull the bread out of the oven and let it sit for a couple of minutes on a cooling rack.

Remove the bread from the baking pan and let it continue cooling. My favorite is to cut into it when it’s still a little warm, slather some butter on it, and eat it with a glass of whole milk. If there is still some left over (not surprisingly, this is rare, lol) make sure to cool it completely before putting it in a Ziplock bag for storage.

*Tip: Sometimes, if I don’t have time to make banana bread when my bananas get too ripe, I stick them in the freezer.  This works great too!  When you’re ready to make your bread, pull them out of the freezer and let them thaw (they’ll be SUPER mushy!). They will also be more watery, but that’s okay! Don’t dump the water off, just use them as they are. If you’re impatient, like me and don’t plan ahead enough to let the bananas thaw naturally, you can also zap them in the microwave–30-60 seconds should do it.