Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

When Life Hands You a Snowstorm… Make Snow Ice Cream!

Sometimes in my part of the country, we’re blessed with snow.  I love to watch the large flakes dance to the ground, covering the ground in white and creating a serene scene that sparkles in the sun and seems to swallow the noise of the city.  Snowfall here isn’t always that picturesque, but I feel a little excitement even when I get to watch the “sideways snow” that flies as small ice missiles from the north, shooting across the sky.

Earlier this month, we had a beautiful snow.  Twelve inches of white.  You can almost make out my ruler in the picture.

12" of snow

12″ of snow

Last year during a wintry weekend, I saw a friend at Women’s World, a conference held in my town.  With snow on the ground, she shared an easy recipe for snow ice cream.  It was so simple and easy, that although I wrote it down (somewhere), I remembered it in my head.  When this beautiful snow fell, I knew it was time to give it a try!  With heavy snow forecasted for my area again this weekend, it’s time to share it with you!

Snow Ice Cream

8-9 cups of clean snow (I just filled a bowl full.)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients well and enjoy!

I didn't have to go far to fill my bowl with snow!

I didn’t have to go far to fill my bowl with snow!

We had made brownies earlier, so we enjoyed brownie ice cream sundaes!

Brownie Snow Ice Cream Sundaes

Brownie Snow Ice Cream Sundaes

The reviews are in…

February 4 - February 9, 2014 019

Good to the last bite (or lick)!

Good to the last bite (or lick)!



We’ll be making this again.  Maybe even today…

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Coffee Breaks (Mocha Cooler Mix Recipe)

I grew up seeing adults drink coffee black or not at all.  One taste, and when I was “of age,” I happily became one of the not-at-all category.  I relied on Mountain Dew for the caffeine necessary for all of that late-night studying in college.

But, over the course of ten years and the encouragement of three persistent friends, I discovered that coffee can be wonderful – with good friends and enough cream and sugar.  🙂  (Thanks to Mary (V.) J. for recommending my first caramel breve at Java in 1996, Anna (L.) J., and Susanna (M.) E.!  I miss you dearly, ladies!)

I tried to explain to my students when I would discuss quality management with them that coffee for me is more of an event than a beverage.  (I was giving an example as we talked about who defines quality.  The customer does.)   For me, I like to go to a coffee shop whose atmosphere fits my mood and purpose.  (Am I meeting a friend, going to reflect and journal, retreating to a quiet place to grade papers, etc.?)  I delight (or am disappointed) in the shape and texture of the cup the drink is served in.  I associate the act of drinking coffee with many, many good memories of wonderful friends, long talks, and blessed times of solitude, primarily from my days between graduating from college and getting married.

Though my trips to the local coffee shops are very rare now, I still try to enjoy coffee as an event at home.  Even my simple Folder’s brew, served in one of my china cups, and a moment of quiet before my little ones are up is a bit of a retreat for me.

But, the weather is warming up, and, remembering fond moments of taking Friday afternoon breaks to get a blended coffee drink while I worked an internship for a semiconductor company near Phoenix, I was eager to try a new recipe I found for Mocha Cooler.

I was not disappointed!  I’ve found which glass at home will hold both servings easily (without whipped cream), and as an afternoon pick-me-up, I’m finding this is an EASY and refreshing treat.  Now I just need to convince myself I don’t need one every afternoon…

A refreshing break with flowers from my dear husband and a mocha cooler.

A refreshing break with flowers from my dear husband and a mocha cooler.

Mocha Cooler (from Taste of Home’s 2002 Quick Cooking Annual Recipes, p. 95)

Make Ahead Mix:
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
1 cup sugar
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup powdered nondairy creamer
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
Additional ingredients:
1-1/2 cups crushed ice
1/2 cup milk
Whipped topping, if desired

With a rolling pin, crush coffee granules into a fine powder between sheets of waxed paper.  Place in an air-tight container.  Add the sugar, milk powder, creamer, cocoa and salt; mix well.  Sore in a cool dry place for up to 1 year.  Yield:  7 batches (3-1/2 cups total).

To prepare cooler:  In a blender, combine the ice, milk, and 1/2 cup of mocha mix; cover and process on high until smooth.  Pour into glasses.  Top with whipped topping if desired.  Yield:  2 servings per batch.  (Okay, so there’s enough to share, but you may not want to.)

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Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe (4 ingredients!)

In case I’ve been losing readers by using the words “Six Sigma” or “DMAIC” in my last few posts, here’s a little break!  Don’t imagine for a minute that I’m spending all my thoughts and time on improving my laundry process.  I’m always thinking of ways to slip making or baking some kind of “treat” into our day, or at least our week.  Here is this week’s experiment that came out WONDERFULLY!  For a simple and delicious fudge, give this one a try.

Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1-1/3 cups peanut butter
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme

In a saucepan, bring sugar and milk to a boil; boil for 3 minutes.  
Add peanut butter and marshmallow creme.; mix well.  Quickly pour into a buttered 8-in. square pan; chill until set.  Cut into squares.  Yield:  3-4 dozen 

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Toddler-Pleasing “Raspberry Steaks”

Before you think I’m coming up with really creative ways for using berries out of season, let me explain that my two-year-old daughter is still working on her vocabulary.  🙂  Nevertheless, she was asking for more of the Salisbury steaks I made last week.  It’s a simple, but good, recipe.  My husband likes it, too.

Salisbury Steaks

1 pound of ground beef
3/4 cup cracker crumbs (about 16 saltines)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
onion salt
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can water
1 can (4 oz.) mushroom stems and pieces

Mix first five ingredients together.  Form six patties.  Fry fast on both sides until browned.  Place patties in a casserole dish or roaster.  Combine the soup and 1/2 can of water.  Mix in mushrooms.  Pour the soup mixture over the patties.

Bake 40-50 minutes at 350 F.

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Kitchen Creations for the Week

I was rather impressed with myself one evening when I decided we’d have breakfast for supper, and I used what we had on hand to prepare a meal that turned out to be absolutely delicious!  I didn’t measure (except in one instance), so I can’t share an exact recipe, and I was so excited to eat the food that I neglected taking pictures.

If you’ve been following my blog or know me, you know I’m an engineer by training, so “creative cooking” is not something I typically do.  I’m good at following specifications (for the most part – I’ve been sharing my bloopers with you, but they’re not as common as it sounds.), and I’m definitely more comfortable following someone else’s tried-and-true methods.

But, I also worked as a development engineer/compounder, who worked to come up with new “recipes” for rubber products, and as a researcher who needed to develop something new for the world of applied statistics to graduate with my Ph.D., so maybe there is some potential…

I decided to make pancakes and something with eggs.   I’ve been supplementing our eggs supply with some eggs from the store since the girls are only producing enough for our breakfast each day right now.  We had enough eggs to cover supper.  I also had some spinach left over from a plan for salads last week.  I had purchased and thawed some Italian sausage with the dream of making pizza for dinner one night (It’s not hubby’s favorite, and he had gone out with friends for lunch to eat pizza already, so I knew I needed to come up with another idea.).  I had a can of mushrooms on hand for the pizza as well as some mozzarella cheese.

Here is what I came up with, based on something I liked at IHOP the week before and my handy ingredients:

Sausage, Spinach, and Mushroom Egg Bake

Yields: 4 servings

6 eggs
~1/3 c. milk
Seasonings to taste
~ 1/2 lb. sausage, browned
~ 1/2 cup fresh spinach
~ 1/2 can (4 oz.?) mushrooms (or 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms)
~1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Grease an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.  Beat eggs with milk.  Add seasonings to taste.  (I used Adobo and garlic salt.  Adobo is something my Puerto Rican roommate in graduate school introduced me to.  Salt and pepper would also be fine.)  Pour about half of the egg mixture into the baking dish.  Layer the browned sausage next, followed by a layer of spinach.  Sprinkle the mushrooms and cheese over the mixture.  Finally, add the remainder of the egg mixture.  Bake at 350° for about 20-30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  (I didn’t think to keep track of the time.)

I thought this turned out to be amazing, but when coupled with the pancakes, it really made a fantastic meal!

I used the buttermilk pancakes recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and added 1 c. of blueberries since I had some I wanted to use up.  With the remaining blueberries, I put them in a pan, added 3 Tablespoons of sugar and a heaping soup spoon of apricot preserves.  I cooked these, stirring occasionally, until I had the consistency I wanted for a type of blueberry compote.

Little Clara likes pancakes, and I was so proud to see her going after her last bites of spinach (even if she picked out the mushrooms).  My husband enjoyed the meal very much, and I was so delighted by the tastes that I was even happy to do the dishes afterward.  🙂

What creations have you developed for your family this month?  I’d love to hear about them!


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Experimental Baking – Honey Whole Wheat Bread – Part 2 (with recipe)

Hooray! The dough rose as it was supposed to for me!

On Monday, I baked bread for the first time in years.  If you’d like to read about my experience, click here for yesterday’s post.   Today, I’m sharing a picture of how the loaves turned out and the recipe.   The bread is hearty, filling, and delicious!  I’ve been eating it with butter spread on it in the mornings, but I can’t wait to try using it for a sandwich.  We also enjoyed it sliced, spread with butter, and sprinkled with garlic salt then put in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes as garlic bread with our Parmesan chicken earlier this week.

Delicious warmed and spread with butter!

Here’s the recipe that even I didn’t mess up.  🙂

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

from Farm Journal’s Best-Ever Recipes (1977), edited by Elise W. Manning, p. 132

2 pkgs. active dry yeast

1/2 c. lukewarm water (110 to 115°)

6 tbsp. shortening

1/4 c. honey

4-1/2 c. lukewarm water (110 to 115°)

4 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. instant mashed potatoes (not reconstituted)

1/2 c. nonfat dry milk

1 tbsp. salt

6-1/2 to 8 c. sifted flour

Sprinkle yeast on 1/2 c. lukewarm water; stir to dissolve.

Melt shortening in 6-qt. saucepan; remove from heat.  Add honey and 4 1/2 c. lukewarm water.

Mix whole wheat flour (stirred before measuring), instant potatoes, dry milk, and salt.  Add to saucepan; beat until smooth.

Add yeast and beat to blend.  Then with wooden spoon, mix in enough flour, a little at a time, to make a dough that leaves the sides of the pan.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny and small bubbles appear, 8 to 10 minutes.  (I didn’t see these bubbles appearing.)

Place in lightly greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top.  Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Punch down dough, turn onto board and divide in thirds.  Cover and let rest 5 minutes.  Shape into 3 loaves and place in greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake in 400° oven about 50 minutes or until bread tests done.  Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.  Makes 3 loaves.

Note:  You may use 1 c. mashed potatoes in place of instant potatoes.  Combine with the honey-water mixture.




Cheesy Mushroom Appetizers

Are you looking for a crowd-pleasing snack for an upcoming New Year’s Eve party?  Consider this easy recipe!

Three years ago, with my aunt providing the main meal and my mom covering the pies for Christmas dinner, I decided to bring appetizers to share.  Cheesy Mushroom Appetizers had been a hit at my Lincoln Christmas parties, and I thought I’d share them with my family.

My cousin hasn’t forgotten them, and when I asked my aunt what I should bring this year, she mentioned my cousin had been talking about them again.  I really wasn’t planning to write about them here (hence, no picture), but another cousin asked for the recipe on Sunday, too, and since he was one of my first blog followers, I said I would share it.  🙂

Cheesy Mushroom Appetizers

Prep Time: ~15 minutes

Bake Time: ~25 minutes


3 tubes (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls (I used the Pillsbury Recipe Creations kind with no perforations this time.  This change saved time and gave better results.)

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened

3 cans (4 ounces each) mushroom stems and pieces, drained and chopped

1-1/4 teaspoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (I don’t have this in my cupboard, or didn’t until today, so I usually put in Italian seasoning.)

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


Unroll crescent dough into three long rectangles; seal seams and perforations.  In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, mushrooms, garlic powder and Cajun seasoning.  Divide mixture into thirds (one-third for each crescent rectangle).  Spread over dough to within 1 inch of edges.  Roll up each rectangle, jelly-roll style, starting with a long side; seal edges.  Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet.  Beat egg and water; brush over dough.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  (I made a note to myself to bake them at least 25 minutes.)  Cut into slices about 1 inch wide.

Yield: 24-36 appetizers (depends on how thick you slice them).

(Modified from The Best of Country Cooking 2000, p. 14)




Kitchen Folly – Follow Up and Ginger Snap Recipe

Well, if you didn’t read about my adventures with the ginger snaps Friday, read here first.

I admit, things looked pretty bad without the sugar mixed in with the shortening, but I did purchase the molasses on the way home, mixed together the remaining ingredients, and ended up with a normal-looking kind of dough!  🙂

These cookies ended up being delicious!  I did find, though, that I do NOT like the smell of molasses.  (Maybe it’s a pregnancy thing right now?)   And, that smell was nearly enough to make me plan to give the entire batch of cookies away.  The cookies are crisp on the outside and moist inside, my favorite!  Since they did turn out well, I’m sharing the recipe with it reworded a bit to help you all avoid the mistakes I made Friday.

Grand Champion Ginger Snaps, a recipe robust enough to handle my silly mistake!

Grand Champion Ginger Snaps

(from Favorite Recipes Old & New, Willing Workers 1906-1996, Ellsworth County, Kansas)

2 cups sugar

1 cup shortening

1 cup molasses

2 eggs

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 Tbsp. vanilla

5 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1-1/2 Tbsp. ginger

1/2 tsp. soda

4 tsp. baking powder

Cream shortening and sugar, then add vinegar, molasses, vanilla; mix.  Mix dry ingredients together and sift 2 or 3 times.  (If using hard winter wheat flour, 5 cups of flour is enough.  If not, adding an additional 1/2 cup may be needed.)  Add flour mixture to other ingredients.  Chill.  Roll into small balls about walnut size.  Place on greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° for about 10-12 minutes.  When baked, they will be nice round ginger snaps with the little cracks (or little rivers) just like the ready-made ginger snaps.  Secret:  Take cookies out a little raw, so they will crack.

I realized how silly my complaint about the “work instructions” sounded this morning as I pulled out my oldest cookbook, The Oakland Cook Book, published in 1902 by the Ladies Society of the Free Baptist Church in Oakland Centre, Wisconsin.  A dear friend, who has since passed away, gave this book to me.  It was her grandmother’s.

Now, I had to search a bit in my newer cookbooks to find a recipe for ginger snaps.  Not so in this book.  There are 13 recipes for ginger cookies, ginger snaps, ginger creams, ginger drop cakes, and ginger bread.  I haven’t tried them, but I wanted to share what a recipe from that time looked like.

Ginger Snaps

One cup of New Orleans sugar, one cup of New Orleans molasses, one cup of butter or lard, one tablespoonful of vinegar, one teaspoonful of soda in three tablespoonfuls of boiling water, one egg, one teaspoonful of ground cloves, one tablespoonful of ginger and salt.  Mix soft.   –Mrs. H. Wilder, Koshkonong, Wis.

I don’t have a chance with this one, do I?  🙂


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Special Mornings with Special Treats

Saturday mornings, I’ve been trying to bake a little for fun if time allows.  Usually these treats have been something I can enjoy over the next few mornings as well.  (See my previous posts for recipes for Cherry Squares and Caramel Rolls.)  I enjoy the baking itself, the creating and, most of all, the eating! 🙂

At my house right now, I’m really the only one who is very interested in something like scones at 6:30 in the morning, but as I sit down with a hot cup of tea or hot chocolate and open my Bible, I feel rather pampered with a delicious baked treat to nibble on as I read.  It’s me trying to bring a rich, coffee-shop experience into my own home. 

I savor my times in the mornings when the house is quiet.  I’ll get up at 5 a.m. to have that hour of solitude, if needed.  (Lately, it’s been more like 6 or 6:30 though.  And don’t be too impressed.  We generally retire for the night earlier than most people.) 

 Tomorrow, I’ll be back to my regular bowl of cereal, but this morning was sweet!

Cranberry Buttermilk Scones – a perfect morning treat!

Cranberry Buttermilk Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup cold butter or margarine

1 cup buttermilk (or substitute 1 tbsp. lemon juice and fill with milk to make 1 cup.  Let stand 5 minutes.)

1 cup dried or fresh cranberries

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 tablespoon milk

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a bowl, combine the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking power, salt and baking soda; cut in butter.  Stir in the buttermilk just until combined.  Fold in the cranberries and orange peel.  Turn onto a floured surface; divide dough in half.  Shape each portion into a ball and pat into a 6-in. circle.  Cut each circle into six wedges.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Brush with milk.  Combine the cinnamon and remaining sugar; sprinkle over scones.  Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Yield: 1 dozen




Company-Pleasing Breakfast Rolls

Easy, Pleasing Caramel Rolls

One of my favorite breakfast treats growing up was, well, I don’t really want to say what we called these in our family.  I’ll call them caramel rolls.  They are similar to what many people know as “monkey bread.”  These are VERY easy to make and are quite impressive for company or for a family large enough to enjoy them in one setting.  (I love to eat these things, but that was more than I could do as a single gal or even for us as a couple.  In a few years, as our children get bigger, that will change.  A family of 4 can easily finish off a batch of these for breakfast.)

Again, these are very easy to make, but are prepared for the most part, the night before, so you just have to remember to plan to spend a few minutes before going to bed.

We have the pleasure of having some family here to visit this weekend, and we’re sending them off to the football game with some of these rolls in their tummies.


20-24 frozen dinner rolls (Rhodes or off-brand work fine.  They are usually sold in a bag of 36.)

1 package of cook and serve butterscotch pudding (NOT instant!)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup margarine (1 stick) (Butter will work, but sauce will be thicker on finished rolls and will get harder/stickier if they get cold, i.e. transferring them to your workplace to share for a treat.)



Grease an angel food cake pan (A bundt pan may also work.  I don’t have one, so I haven’t tried that.).  Pour rolls into pan.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  In a saucepan, combine pudding mix, brown sugar, and margarine.  Heat until margarine is melted and sauce is smooth.  Pour over rolls.

Let rolls sit in a cold oven overnight to rise.  In the morning, turn oven on to 350° and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown on top.  Invert pan onto a dinner plate or platter.