Classic Apple Butter

The first time I had apple butter was on my toast at a restaurant. While I can’t remember which restaurant or even how old I was, there is no doubt in my mind that I was immediately hooked. If I went anywhere that had it, you can be sure that apple deliciousness was going to be on my toast. So it is no surprise that 2 years ago I decided I was going to make some.

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Our garden was out of control that year, so I’d purchased a canning recipe book from Amazon in an attempt to figure out what I was going to do with the mountain of vegetables that was taking over the kitchen. While flipping through the book I came across the apple butter recipe and I got super excited. And for good reason. This apple butter is way better than anything I’d ever had before. We frequently eat this on toast, and it is super good as an ice cream topping. And while this recipe makes enough for you to give some to friends and family, you probably won’t want to share.

I’m all about full disclosure, so if you are thinking about making this recipe here a few things you should know. Firstly, while the ingredient list is very simple, this is a very time consuming recipe. It takes a significant amount of time to prep the apples, even if you use an apple peeler corer slicer. In addition, cooking the apple butter until it is thick enough takes about an hour and a half.

Secondly, there is a good chance that when you are cooking the apple butter it will pop and burn the crap out of you while you are trying to stir it. I would recommend keeping small children away from the stove while you are making this, just in case.

Lastly, because the apple butter pops while it is cooking, it will get all over your stove, cabinets, and probably the floor. Because it takes so long to make this recipe you will be tempted to postpone clean up until the next day. Do not wait. The apple butter will harden and you will have to rent a jackhammer to get it off. I exaggerate, but I think you get the idea.

To get started, place the apples and water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil for around 30 minutes, stirring on occasion, until the apples are soft.

Classic Apple Butter from Cooks My Books

Puree the apples in food processor or blender. Do not over process. The mixture should look like applesauce.

Classic Apple Butter from Cooks My Books

Combine the apple puree, sugar and spices in a large clean pot. If using sweet apples, start with 5 cups of sugar. Add the additional cup of sugar after the mixture thickens if desired.

Classic Apple Butter from Cooks My Books

Bring the mixture to a boil again, then reduce heat. Continue to boil gently until the mixture begins to thicken, stirring frequently to prevent burning.

Classic Apple Butter from Cooks My Books

To check to see if the butter is finished, spoon a small amount onto a chilled plate. When the mixture holds its shape and does not separate, then the butter is done.

For canning: prep water bath canner, jars and lids. Laddle hot butter into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim of jars, center lids and screw on band. Process for 10 minutes, then remove canner lid and wait 5 minutes before removing jars from the canner. Let cool, label and store.

Classic Apple Butter from Cooks My Books


Banana Cream Pie

When I first started baking and cooking, I focused most of my attention on making cupcakes. I intended on making the cupcakes for my wedding so I wanted to try to master a few recipes. As a result I have made a lot of cupcakes over the past few years. And while I do enjoy a cupcake now and then they aren’t my favorite. Without any hesitation, I would rather have pie.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved pie and I have requested pie instead of cake on my birthday more than once. So it seemed logical that the next thing on my baking to do list should be to master making pie.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon this recipe for Banana Cream Pie. It quickly became my go to recipe because it only has a few ingredients, comes together fairly quickly, and is a big hit at family gatherings.

First combine the graham crackers and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter until evenly distributed. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of a lightly greased 9 inch deep dish pie plate.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Prepare pudding in a bowl by whisking the milk and pudding mix together. Refrigerate to set.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Fold in half of the whipped topping and the banana pudding until the mixture is well combined.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Arrange the banana slices in the graham cracker crust.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Pour in half of the filling.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Repeat with remaining bananas and filling.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Put the remainder of the whipped topping into a piping bag with tip.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Pipe whipped topping around the edges of the pie and in the center. Or if you prefer, spread the whipped topping evenly over the top of the pie.

Banana Cream Pie from Cooks My Books

Refrigerate until set, about 1 to 2 hours. Serves 8.


Banana Bread

My little boy seriously loves fruit. I have to keep the fruit hidden at mealtimes until he is done eating other things otherwise he will only ask for fruit. Honestly, that is probably all he would eat if I let him. His favorites fruits to eat are strawberries and blueberries, or any other type of berry he can get his hands on. He never met a berry he didn’t like. I try to throw in other fruit, such as bananas, to mix things up, but he isn’t quite as enthusiastic about eating them. As a result, some of the bananas were looking a little sad and brown in the fruit bowl the other day. Since he was napping, I decided to make some banana bread.

I had never made banana bread before, so when I started making this recipe I was a little surprised with how many steps were involved. Looking at some other recipes after the fact, I realized this recipe is a little more complicated than other recipes. But it is definitely worth the effort because this banana bread turned out fantastic.

To get started, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Place peeled bananas in a microwave safe bowl, and then cover it with plastic wrap. Use a paring knife to cut a few vent holes in the plastic. Microwave the bananas for about 5 minutes, so they will get soft and release some liquid. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, and place it in a similar sized bowl. Pour the soft bananas into the strainer lined with cheesecloth. Let the bananas sit for about 15 minutes, stirring on occasion, until ½ to ¾ cup of liquid has drained.

Pour banana liquid into a small pan. Boil over medium heat, stirring consistently, for about 5 minutes or until it has reduced by about half. Make sure to watch it because it can bubble over easily.

Stir reduced banana liquid back into the bananas, mashing the bananas until there are no large chunks.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Using a stand or hand mixer, combine the banana mixture with the butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Add the flour mixture, and stir with a spatula until only some streaks of flour remain.

Add walnuts, if using. Mix until combined. I don’t like nuts in my baked goods, so I skipped this step.

Pour the banana bread batter into a greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the sugar over the top of the uncooked batter.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Bake for 55 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books

Remove from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.

Banana Bread from Cooks My Books


Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetable Rice Bowls

I won’t hesitate to admit that I’m a bit of a Pinterest addict. Before I had my son, I could easily browse garden tips, home decorating ideas, and recipes for hours. During one of these sessions, I came across a recipe for teriyaki chicken. I decided to give it a try because it was pretty similar to recipe I made with shrimp, only it had an awesome homemade teriyaki sauce. And I already had all of the ingredients to make it, which was an added bonus.

This recipe quickly became one of my husband favorite things to eat. And I don’t feel guilty about eating it often. It’s even great leftover. You can’t go wrong with chicken, vegetables, and rice.

First, make the teriyaki sauce by adding the soy sauce, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, brown sugar, honey, rice vinegar, and garlic to a small saucepan. Mix  everything together and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cornstarch with the remaining 2 tablespoons water, then add to the saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to a boil for 1 minute longer, making sure to stir continuously so the sauce doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.

To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the chicken breasts in half in order to make 2 smaller chicken breasts. I do this so the chicken will cook faster, but you can skip this step if you want. Just adjust your baking time.

Place breasts in a lightly greased 9 by 13 baking pan, then season with salt and pepper. Next, brush the chicken breasts with some of the teriyaki sauce.

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes, and then cut into strips or cubes.

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

To cook the vegetables, place the butter and chopped vegetables in a large pan with lid over medium heat. Next, season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books

To assemble the bowls, first scoop a layer of rice into the bowl. Next, add a layer of vegetables, then a layer of chicken. Finally, drizzle the desired amount of teriyaki sauce over the top. Serve and enjoy!

Teriyaki Chicken from Cooks My Books



Quick and Easy Cheeseball

Yesterday, I was watching the Super Bowl with my husband when he said “We need some finger foods. We usually have snacks during the Super Bowl.” I racked my brain for something that would be quick to make. I wanted to make something that we already had all of the ingredients for so I didn’t have to go to the store. It took a minute, but then it came to me. A cheeseball.

I went to the kitchen and grabbed my family cookbook. I could look up the recipe – butter, cream cheese, black olives, and green onions. Seemed simple enough. And then I remembered there was some leftover bacon in the fridge from breakfast. Everything is better with bacon right?

Before you start mixing anything, make sure that your butter and cream cheese are room temperature. To do this, I usually leave the butter out on the counter. For the cream cheese, I put in it the microwave using the  softening function.

Once they are softened, cream together butter and cream cheese in a bowl using a stand mixer or hand mixer.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

Stir in olives, bacon, and green onions with a spatula until well incorporated.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

Scoop the mixture onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Roll into one large ball or two small balls. Usually, I will do the one large ball.

Roll the ball(s) in the chopped walnuts until completely covered, if desired. You can skip this step if you just aren’t a fan of nuts, or have an allergy. This is also were having two smaller cheese-balls comes in handy, because you can roll one in the chopped walnuts and leave the other plain. I skipped this step this time because we were out of walnuts.

Place on plate(s) and chill in the refrigerator until set.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books

Serve with your favorite crackers. I usually use wheat thins because they are sturdy and won’t crack when I’m trying to scoop up some cheeseball.

Quick and Easy Cheeseball by Cooks My Books




Parmesan Chicken

A few years back, I was trying to decide what to make for dinner. I was bored with my usual go-to chicken dinners, so I decided to try something new. After poking around on the internet for a bit, I stumbled across this recipe for Parmesan Chicken on Simply Recipes. After looking over the recipe, I decided to make it for two reasons.

  1. I had all the ingredients
  2. Little bites of paremsan chicken baked in butter sounded delicious.

Since then, I’ve made it many times and it has always been a big hit. I’ve even had family members request that I make it for special occasions. But don’t take my word for it, give it a try for yourself.

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To get started, melt the butter in a bowl or pie plate. Add the minced garlic and stir together. Then, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, dried parsley, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and black pepper in a separate bowl or pie plate.

Dip the chicken chunks into the garlic butter to coat. Be sure to reheat the butter if it starts to thicken.

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My BooksIMG_0058
Pieces in garlic butter

Next, move the pieces to the pie plates with the breadcrumb mixture and coat. When I first started making this, I would use small bowls, but I’ve found it’s easier to use pie plates.

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My Books
Pieces coated in breadcrumb mixture

When coated with the breadcrumb mixture, place the chicken into a greased 9 by 13 baking dish (or whatever size you have), leaving a little bit of space in between each piece. Depending on the amount of chicken, you might need to use more than one baking dish. When all of the chicken is in the pan, drizzle the remaining garlic butter over the chicken pieces.

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My Books
Ready to go in the oven

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 165 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celsius).

Parmesan Chicken by Cooks My Books

We usually eat this with spaghetti marinara and corn.  Yum!


Pollo Rey Fiesta Veggie Burrito Copycat

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I remember being  surprised when I took my first bite of the burrito. It was was heaven on a flour tortilla. After that day, whenever I would go to Pollo Rey I would order the Fiesta Veggie Burrito. So when I heard that Pollo Rey would be closing in the fall of 2017, I knew that if I wanted another veggie burrito I would have to make it myself.

When I was working as an auditor, I would eat out quite a bit. Mostly because I was really bad at remembering to pack my lunch. But it was also because my downtown Boise office was within walking distance of TONS of great restaurants. On any given day of the week, I could eat whatever my little heart desired, from bagels to sushi and everything in between. But when I got pregnant, there was one thing that I wanted more than anything else – a burrito.

Luckily for me, there were multiple burrito options that I could choose from depending on what kind of burrito I wanted. If I wanted sweet pork, I would walk to Costa Vida. If I wanted chicken, I would make the short drive to Parilla in Hyde Park. On the days I wanted a veggie burrito, I would head to Pollo Rey.

I had never had a veggie burrito before I went to Pollo Rey. One day, some of my co-workers were going so I decided to tag along. I remember staring up at the menu and trying to decide what to get, when one of the ladies I was with ordered a fiesta veggie burrito. Shortly after it was my turn, so I panicked and ordered the same thing.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I remember being  surprised when I took my first bite of the burrito. It was was heaven on a flour tortilla. After that day, whenever I would go to Pollo Rey I would order the Fiesta Veggie Burrito.

In the summer of 2017 I heard horrible news. Pollo Rey would be closing the coming fall. I knew I had to go have one last burrito. So I packed my little boy in the car and we met some friends downtown for lunch. As we were eating, I paid special attention to what was in the burrito. I knew that from then on if I wanted a veggie burrito I would have to make it myself. Here is what I came up with.

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The first thing I did was chop the vegetables. I used a mandolin for the zucchini and summer squash so they’d have a more uniform size, and the remaining vegetables I chopped by hand, except for the carrot because I bought a bag of shredded carrots at the store. Then I threw them in a big pan with a lid along with some butter, salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. I covered the vegetables and let them cook, stirring occasionally until they were tender.

Fiesta Veggie Burrito by Cooks My Books

Meanwhile, I opened a can of black beans and put them in a separate pan to warm up. I also made some Cilantro Lime Rice to include in the burrito. If you prefer Mexican Rice then you can make that instead.

When everything was ready, I warmed up some flour tortillas on our cast iron griddle. When the tortilla was ready, I added the rice beans, cheese, vegetable mix, sour cream, salsa, and avocado into the tortilla and wrapped it up.

Fiesta Veggie Burrito by Cooks My BooksFiesta Veggie Burrito by Cooks My Books

Not to pat myself on the back, but it was just as good as the ones I used to get at Pollo Rey.


Homemade Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni

Have you ever made a boxed version of something and thought to yourself, “I wonder how hard it would be to make this from scratch?” I had that exact thought as I was making a box of RiceARoni a while back. So I decided to do some poking around online to find a recipe.
Guess what? I found a recipe on Pinterest by Life Currents. And guess what else? It was super easy to make. Turns out RiceARoni is a combination of rice and Orzo pasta. Honestly, I think the hardest part for me was finding the Orzo pasta. Mostly because I kept accidentally walking past it in the pasta aisle at the grocery store.
I’ve made this recipe a few times now, and have made some tweaks. There has even been a few occasions where I thought I had broccoli in the fridge but didn’t, or I forgot to put the cheese on, and it was still super good. I usually make a double batch of the recipe to make sure that we have leftovers. 🙂
Before I start cooking, I like to chop up the veggies first. I try to make the onion bits on the smaller side, but usually leave the broccoli a little larger. If you’d like the final product to look like the boxed version, then I would recommend chopping the broccoli into smaller pieces.
To get started, put the oil and onion in the pan over medium heat. Cook until the onions start to get tender. This will take a few minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for a minute longer.
Note: Make sure the pan you choose has a lid, as you will need to cover it later on.
Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni By Cooks My Books
Next, stir in the rice and orzo pasta until they are coated with oil. Let the rice and pasta cook for a few minutes. The pasta will brown and the rice will start to look translucent.
Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni By Cooks My Books
Next, stir the broth into the RiceARoni mixture. I’ve used both chicken broth and vegetable stock when I’ve made this, or a combination of the two. It is delicious either way. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low  (it should still boil on low). Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until a majority of the broth has been absorbed.
Broccoli Cheese RiceARoni By Cooks My Books
Stir in the broccoli. Re-cover and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed and the broccoli is tender. (If you accidentally wait too long to put in the broccoli, don’t panic. You can always add a little more broth to help the broccoli cook and it will turn out just fine.)
When the broccoli is tender, remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cheese to melt, or serve as is and let each person add as much cheese as they want. Or both. Enjoy!


Easy Garden Fresh Salsa

It seems like forever since I wrote a blog post. Probably because it has been. But I promise I haven’t been ignoring writing for no reason. I have been in the garden pulling weeds, making sure everything was growing, or trying to figure out what to do with 50 pounds of cucumbers. Literally 50 pounds of cucumbers. But I didn’t start writing this post so I could rant about cucumbers. I wanted to write today because our tomatoes are finally starting to ripen and I’m super excited about it. 

I already made a list of all the things I plan to make with them, but I since I haven’t blogged in a while I figured I’d start with something simple. Today I wanted to share with everyone a recipe for a simple garden fresh salsa.
Easy Garden Fresh Salsa by Cooks My Books

In the past, I’ve mentioned that I’m a little obsessed with vegetables in unusual colors. For example, last year we had a yellow tomato plant. The yellow tomatoes looked so pretty in salsa. SO, when picking out plants this spring I made sure to include a yellow lemon boy heirloom tomato plant.

Do you have to include yellow tomatoes in your salsa? Nope. It will taste just as good with any color tomato that you decide to use. The best thing about this recipe is that you can tweak it to taste however you want it. 
Easy Garden Fresh Salsa by Cooks My BooksTo get started, chop 4 to 5 cups of tomatoes. I used roma tomatoes and the yellow lemon boy tomatoes. Roma tomatoes aren’t as juicy as other tomatoes. They are usually the main ingredient in making tomato paste because of their lower moisture content. If you want a less juicy salsa, you can use all roma tomatoes.

Kitchen Tip: When you are cutting the tomatoes, try putting a towel under your cutting board. This will keep your cutting board from wiggling around, and it will hopefully soak up any excess tomato juice that drips off.

Next, chop the onion and jalapenos. I used 2 small red onions, but white or yellow will work just as well.

Did you notice that I didn’t say how many jalapenos to use? That’s because it depends on how spicy they are. And how spicy you want the salsa to be. This time, I chopped up 4 jalapenos and the salsa ended up being between mild and medium. Other times when I use 4 jalapenos the salsa is too spicy for me to eat. If you don’t like spicy at all, you can skip the jalapenos or substituting for sweet or bell peppers. 

Lastly, add the cilantro, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir everything together. Ta da! You have salsa. Give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments or on the Cooks My Books Facebook Page.


Easy Crockpot Baked Beans

Have you ever been invited to a barbecue or a potluck and not known what you should take? I have many times. Luckily, many years ago my Mom helped to compile a cookbook of family recipes from her mother’s side of the family, who happen to have the last name of “Cook.” We call it the “Cook”book. There are quite a few recipes in this book that I have made over the years and taken to potlucks or parties including a cheese-ball, pumpkin cookies, and raspberry punch to name a few. But today, I’m going to share the recipe for Crock-pot Baked Beans.

If I was on top of things I would have shared this recipe before the Fourth of July so you could have used it for any barbecues you where invited to. But lately I’ve been spending most days in the garden pulling weeds, so the Fourth snuck up on me. But hopefully you will enjoy this recipe no matter when you decide to try it.

One day I’ll actually remember to take pictures before I start making something and not half way through. I’m still figuring out how to do this whole blog thing. At this point I’d already put all the beans into the crock-pot with the tomato sauce, brown sugar, maple flavoring, and liquid smoke. Then I mixed everything together.

Easy Crockpot Baked Beans from Cooks My Books

Wait, liquid wait? Yes, I did say liquid smoke. If you haven’t heard of it before, its a flavoring that adds a slightly smoky taste to the recipe. It comes in different smoke flavors, but for this recipe I used the hickory (cause honestly I thought that was the only way it came until I looked online). I found it at the grocery store by the BBQ sauce. Or if you can’t find it at a local store, you can get it on Amazon here.

Next, I added the chopped onion and hamburger meat to a frying pan over medium heat. To season the meat, I added salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. You can season the hamburger however you like. If you don’t have an onion on hand you could add onion powder.

As you can see from the picture, the hamburger I used was super fatty. I would definitely recommend draining the fat before you add the hamburger to the crock-pot.


Next, I cut the package of turkey bacon into pieces and cooked it in the same frying pan that I used for the hamburger.

When the turkey bacon was done, I drained the fat away (there wasn’t much), and added it to the crock-pot as well. This is what it looked like when everything was all mixed up.

Yummy right? All that’s left to do is turn the crock-pot on low, cover, and let it bubble up for about 4 hours.

This is how it looked when it was ready to eat.

Another thing I need work on is taking a picture when I put it on a plate. Which I forgot to do the day I made it because I was so excited to eat it. Oops. But you can always make it for yourself and see how it looks on your own plate. Enjoy!