Dinner on a Plate - Recipes Feed

Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

Bachelor on the Cheap Logo small 08032022By Mike Thayer

I'm pleased to announce a new blog post category called "Dinner on a Plate."   For the most part, these are recipes I've developed over the years.  Yes, there are a few here and there from ex-wives and girlfriends and sure, a sprinkling of some from Mom that have been updated and tweaked, but the majority of the recipes posted here are from yours truly, Mr. Bachelor on the Cheap.

My specialty is the grill, from appetizers to desserts, but there are plenty of recipes using other cooking methods as well, notably the bachelor's best friend, the crock pot.

Related:  Grilling & Smoking Recipes

 


Making your own "Hamburger Helper" or, never pay full price for it

Potato Stoganoff just out of the oven
The boxed stuff is OK, but this is SO much better!

By Mike Thayer

Hamburger Helper made its national debut in August 1971 and it was an instant success. With five flavors – Beef Noodle, Potato Stroganoff, Hash, Rice Oriental and Chili Tomato, America embraced the convenience that is Hamburger Helper.  Pretty much a casserole mix in a box, all you have to do is brown a pound of ground beef, add the Hamburger Helper ingredients per the box directions and you've got dinner in less than 30 minutes.

It was a family budget meal back in the day and still is, bachelors included.  Today's price for a box of Hamburger Helper (going foward we'll call it HH) averages about $2.39 a box.  Popular stuff, it didn't take long for the mainstream grocery stores to conclude they needed to grab some of that market share, contracting private label makers to create a store brand version of HH.

A serving of home made "Hamburger Helper"
An easy peasy meal to make, comfort food city.  It freezes well too.

Never pay full price!  Not even for the store brand stuff.

The store brand stuff is cheaper and essentially the same casserole in a box kind of thing having a name such as "Skillet Meal" and the like.  There was a time when the grocery store would have a sale of their discount skillet meal, 10 boxes for $10, but I haven't seen one of those sales in quite awhile and I wonder if it's now a thing of the past with inflation such as it is.  I used to take advantage of those sales, stocking my pantry with the meals.

The good news is you can make your own HH with just a few ingredients and it tastes better.  Bonus - what you make won't have NEAR the sodium.  A prepared box of HH can contain up to 990 milligrams of sodium per serving, which is nearly half the daily recommended amount - in one meal!

Here's a recipe for some home made HH, a potato stroganoff version, one of my personal favorites.

Bachelor on the Cheap Potato Stroganoff

Ingredients

  • One pound ground beef (I actually like to use a 50/50 mix of ground beef and ground pork for another layer of flavor)
  • 3-5 medium sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 generous dollops of sour cream (1 for garnish)
  • 1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (for garnish)

Directions

In a large skillet (preferably one you can transfer to the oven if desired and if you do, preheat the oven to 350 degrees) over medium heat, brown the ground meat and onion, adding the black and cayenne pepper.  While that's cooking, rinse the potatoes, pierce with a knife or fork and microwave until not quite fork tender.  After cooking, set aside for a few minutes until cool enough to handle, peel and slice.  Add the minced garlic, mushroom soup and sliced potatoes to the meat mixture, stirring occasionally.  Add two dollops of the sour cream and stir until incorporated.  STOVETOP: Let simmer on low for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes it's ready to eat, sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese, parsley flake, hit it with more sour cream and serve.  OVEN BAKE:  Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.  Top with the Parmesan cheese and bake for another 10 minutes or until the top turns golden, brown and delicious.  Let cool for 5-10 minutes, top with the parsley and sour cream, serve.

This recipe makes for a better serving of HH, you get to control the ingredients (and the sodium) and it really doesn't take up all that much more time to make.  Play with it, add bacon bits, shredded cheddar cheese, add sliced mushroom, include some green peas...  There are a lot of tasty options to try!  This recipe is also very Bachelor on the Cheap wallet friendly, using items you probably already have in your pantry and fridge.  Never pay full price for HH!  Buy it when it's on sale, better yet, make your own!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Sweet Red Winey Brats

Sweet Red Winey Brats
These will be hickory smoked and topped with red cabbage

By Mike Thayer

Winey Brats!  What?  Sweet Red Wine and Brats? Yes, it's Another Dose of YUM and in my humble opinion a better bite than beer brats!

Ingredients:

  • A package of your favorite brand of brats (typical package of 5 or 6)
  • 1 cup of sweet red wine (You can go with a port, a red Moscato, or medium sweets like a Zinfandel, Malbec or Shiraz, heck, any red blend will do in a pinch)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
Dusk Shooting Star Red Wine
Tip: Always cook with wine you enjoy drinking. If you don't like the taste of a wine, you probably won't like your food if you cook with it.

Directions:  Break out a large skillet, but do NOT preheat.  Place the brats in the pan, pour in the remaining ingredients.  Turn the heat to medium.  This is kind of like boiling potatoes, starting out cold with a slow build up of heat to ensure those brats get cooked through and soak up the wine bath.  Bring the bath to a boil, turning the brats frequently, reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes.  Finish brats on a grill over direct heat, just long enough to pick up a hint smoke, get those great grill marks and put a snap on the skin.

Marinade Option:  The above is when you're in a hurry to eat a good brat!  If you've got time, skip the wine bath thing and marinate the brats instead using the same ingredients.  Place in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least four hours.  Then grill (or smoke) low and slow using INdirect heat, about 30 - 45 minutes or until the internal temp hits 160 degrees.  There's no need to turn, let the smoke do it's thing.  I like to smoke mine with pecan wood.

White wines work great too!  Moscato, Riesling, Sauternes, Ice wine all make for a better brat!

It's Another Dose of YUM!

Related:  Bachelor on the Cheap Wine Reviews

$pend Wisely My Friends...

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Bachelor on the Cheap Bacon Cheddar Burgers

Bachelor on the Cheap Bacon Cheddar Burgers
Kick your burgers up a notch with sausage, bacon and cheddar!

By Mike Thayer

I'm not really into baking anymore in trying to go pretty much gluten free aside from a hamburger bun a day during my Burger Challenge. SO instead of mixing flour with my trusty Kitchenaid, I'm mixing meat! Bacon Cheddar Burgers!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 pound pork sausage
  • 6 - 8 slices of bacon, pre-cooked and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Worchestershire

Directions:

It's pretty straight forward, put all ingredients in a mixer, mix on low setting for about a minute.  You only want to mix long enough to ensure everything is combined thoroughly.  Overmixing will compact the meat making it dense and heavy, giving it more of a meatball feel in the mouth rather than a 'fluffy' burger bite.  Tip:  Let the meats "UNchill" for a bit, they'll mix easier.  Trying to mix the meats just pulled from the refrigerator isn't as efficient and the other ingredients won't distribute as evenly through the ground beef and sausage.  Makes 12 quarter pound patties.

Cooking Tip:  Once patties are formed, you're good to go if frying.  A cast iron skillet on medium high heat will give you the best outer crust.  If grilling, Remember Grilling Tip #1 from Chapter 2 of Grilling Good Eats: Ground meats should be cold when putting on the grill. If patties are at room temperature, they tend to fall apart or droop through the cooking grate. As I make patties, I like to stack them with plastic wrap or parchment paper between each patty and put them in the freezer for about an hour before grilling. 

Enjoy!  It's Another Dose of YUM!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

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Lights Out Cocktail Recipe - Bachelor on the Cheap

20220829_160217By Mike Thayer

This is a recipe motivated by my first real girlfriend, as in, an actual relationship.  I was in ninth grade.  She and I used to play the Padiddle game, where you tally up the number of vehicles with burnt out headlights.  The 'Tally' was a kiss.   Whoever saw and called out the "Padiddle" first, received a kiss.  I had no clue about what Padiddle was before I met her and kissing isn't part of the original game.  How to 'Tally' a Padiddle was her idea...

So here's a recipe called "Lights Out" with that fond memory in mind. 

  • 3 ounces vanilla flavored Vodka
  • 1-1/2 ounces  Bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Maple extract

Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice, shake well, pour into a cinnamon & sugar (1 part cinnamon, 4 parts sugar) rimmed glass.

Enjoy!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

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Apple Pie Wonder

Apple Pie Wonder RecipeBy Mike Thayer

Here's a recipe inspired by my longest term relationship outside of marriage, two plus years.  I was a senior in high school, she was a sophomore attending a different high school across town.  We met in Junior Achievement.  She won me over with her penetrating green eyes, blonde hair and a gorgeous smile.   I never gave her a pet name (that would come later in relationships), but let me tell you Kathy was as Apple Pie, Girl Next Door, All American Girl as a girl could be.  I completely blew this one, being young, dumb and full of...   I violated Mike's Relationship Rules, The Other Rule #1.  I did her wrong and I've always wondered where this relationship would have gone had I not screwed up.

Apple Pie Wonder

Ingredients:

  • 1 box of refrigerated Pillsbury or store brand pie crusts (2 count box), softened as directed on the box.
  • 6 cups of thinly sliced, peeled apples.  (I like to use a mix, Braeburn, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious and/or Jonagold)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • The juice from half a lime (poke a whole lime with a knife and microwave for 30 seconds for prime juiciness, then half it and juice, go for at least a Tablespoon)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place 1 pie crust in ungreased 9-inch glass pie plate.  Press firmly against sides and the bottom.  In a large bowl, gently mix/fold all the remaining ingredients, ensuring to get good coverage of everything in the mix.  Pour into the crust-lined pie plate.  Top with the second crust, wrapping the excess top crust under the bottom crust edge.  Press the edges together to seal, doing those cute little curvy things (that means "Flute" the edges for those of you who live in Valley Center) as you go around the rim.  Cut slits in the top crust in several places to vent the steam while baking.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden, brown and delicious.  Cover the edge of crust with foil strips after the first 15 to 20 minutes or so of baking to prevent excessive browning.  Brush the top crust with melted butter and dust with cinnamon/sugar (1 part cinnamon, 4 parts sugar).  Cool for at least 2 hours before serving, this allows the filling to set up. 

I love this recipe because I hate making my own crust and using the store bought stuff is a HUGE time saver and quite tasty.

Enjoy!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

 

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Coq Au Vin Ren

Coq au vinBy Mike Thayer

This is a true "Dinner on a Plate" recipe inspired by ex-wife #1. 

I was twenty-years-old and working as a member of the maintenance crew at a shopping mall, Rene' worked in a clothing shop and caught my eye when I was in the store talking to her boss about some issue that I can't recall.  Rene' was/is gorgeous and quick witted too.  But me being kind of shy and reserved, well instead of talking to Ren (What became my pet name of sorts for her) directly, I danced a bit with my desire to ask her out, inquiring with her boss and the boss's daughter, "Is she seeing anybody?"  Well the boss was no nonsense, she helped break the ice for me and quick as a wink I had a first date.  Long story short that first date led to marriage to include leaving that maintenance job for a stint in the Air Force.  We got divorced after six years, chalk it up to a young couple playing house, but we remain friends to this day.  She sums up our marriage demise smartly, but also very kindly, we were both guilty of violating Mike's Rules for Relationships Rule #1.

Like a fine wine, Ren improves with age.  Cheers Babe.

Coq Au Vin Ren - A French dish in honor of Rene's (Ren) name, a blissfully delicious dish combining chicken and wine.  Traditionally, a burgundy is used, but a Riesling is also a nice choice.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 - 3 pounds of boneless/skinless chicken thighs
  • 8 shallots
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons brandy
  • 1 pint of fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 sprigs of Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 celery branch with leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups of Burgundy (this will turn the chicken purple) or if you prefer, Riesling (it's a cleaner look and slightly sweeter)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large skillet, brown the bacon and chopped onion.  Remove and set aside.  Brown the chicken slowly in the bacon drippings.  Remove and set aside.  Add shallots, carrots, garlic and brandy, cook for about 3 minutes.  In a separate pan, cook the mushrooms in butter.  In a tea ball or cheesecloth bag, make a Bouquet Garni with the parsley, bay leaf, thyme and celery.  Place in a 2 quart casserole dish.  Arrange chicken, vegetables and mushrooms in layers.  Add wine to the skillet (doing so off the burner), heating to boiling while stirring to loosen the brown bits on the bottom of the pan, that's FLAVOR!  Pour mixture over the casserole.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.  Don't forget to remove the Bouquet Garni before serving! 

This dish is Capital "A" Awesome served over butter/garlic mashed potatoes.  Enjoy!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

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Blueberry Shortcake Sweetness

Blueberry Shortcake SweetnessBy Mike Thayer

Here's a recipe inspired by a woman who really tugged at my heart.  Coming off a divorce from ex-wife #1 and set up on a blind date of sorts through a military buddy and his wife, Madge and I really hit it off.  Things went fast, it was intense, dating quickly bloomed into full blown relationship, we couldn't see enough of each other and with the 'couple comfort' we shared at full tilt, the relationship rapidly expanded to outings involving her two young boys.  My pet name for her was Sweetness and she mesmerized me with those gorgeous blue eyes.  My mistake in the relationship... Falling for a woman that was separated from her husband, not divorced.  When she went back to him, I was crushed.   She violated Mike's Rules for Relationships Rule #12 and I was guilty of Rule #13.  

Blueberry Shortcake Sweetness - Blueberry (for her gorgeous blue eyes), Shortcake (she was petite), Sweetness (It was a really good thing while it lasted).

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 to 4 cups of blueberries, macerated (put sugar on the berries and let them sit for a spell)
  • 1 cup of Cool Whip

To macerate the berries, rinse, drain and place them into a bowl.  Sprinkle with sugar, 2 Tablespoons for every cup of fruit.  Stir in the sugar, cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate.

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Combine the egg, cream and vanilla, then add to the crumble, stirring just enough to moisten.  Spread the dough in a round shallow cake pan, slightly building up the edges.  Bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove from pan, cool on a rack for 5 minutes.  Split into two layers, lifting the top layer off carefully.  Butter the bottom layer.  Spoon blueberries and whipped topping between layers and over the top.  Serve warm, garnish servings with a sprig of mint.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

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Chilly Hanim Lemon Flan

The juice from two lemonsBy Mike Thayer

This recipe was inspired by ex-wife #2.  We were married for 20 years, about eight years too long.   We met in Turkey when I was in the Air Force and got married after I came back stateside.  My pet name for her was Hanim, which loosely translated from Turkish to English means 'lady, wife.'  I don't have much good to say about this woman other than I'm glad she's the mother of my three boys.  She got what she wanted from me, children, but not long after our twins were born she pretty much checked out from the husband/wife relationship.  Her interest in me changed from being partners in life, to what I could do for her and the boys strictly as a provider. Hanim enjoys desserts to include flan, I chose the lemon variety (post-divorce) because it can be sweet, but also quite tart.  Indeed.  True to her, I violated a few other of Mike's Rules for Relationships through our 20 years of marriage, but so did she.

Ingredients:

  • 1 packet of digestive biscuits, rough crumble (use a food processor, or go old school with a zip lock bag and a rolling pin). 
  • 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar (combine w/biscuits when crumbling)
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 large lemons or 3 medium, juiced and zested
  • blackberries for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the crumbled biscuit and sugar mixture in a 9 inch pie plate, (one of those disposable aluminum pans will do) set aside.  Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and once melted, pour over the biscuit crumbs.  Mix, then press the butter and biscuit mixture on the base and up the sides of the pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.  Using an electric mixer, combine the cream, condensed milk and the zest from the lemons.  Slowly add in the lemon juice, mixing to incorporate and until the mixture stars to thicken.  Pour into the pie plate, cover and chill for four hours or until set.  Garnish with blackberries around the edge just before serving.

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

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Beautiful Bread Crumbs Recipe - Gluten Free

Bread CrumbingBy Mike Thayer

Here's a recipe I came up with, motivated by an ex-girlfriend.   My pet name for her was Beautiful...  beautiful mind, spirit, body.  But as it turns out that beautiful mind was manipulative, she breadcrumbed me and like a love sick fool I let her.  If you don't know what 'breadcrumbing' is in the context of a relationship, it involves leading someone on, keeping their hopes up through small and superficial acts of interest.  Beautiful was flirtatious, complimentary and so engaged with me at first, but she ultimately ended up disappointing me with empty promises, falsehoods and emotional abandonment.  Hence the name for this recipe, Beautiful Bread Crumbs - Gluten Free (now free of her manipulation).  Seriously though, her and wheat don't get along and kudos to Beautiful, I started paying more attention to food nutrition hanging with her. When I cooked for her, whatever I was preparing I was all in regarding her dietary needs (she shouldn't eat nightshade veggies either), embracing those needs for the both of us, sharing, caring, from appetizer to dessert.  But she was guilty of Mike's Relationship Rule #10:  If it feels like you’re being played, you probably are. 

Beautiful Bread Crumbs Recipe - Gluten Free  Let's face it, most gluten free breads just don't taste as good as the real deal.  But introducing some seasoning and crumbing those leftover slices up is a game changer!  These breadcrumbs taste great and can be used in any recipe that calls for regular breadcrumbs.  They're great for making a meatloaf, excellent as a topper for baked mac & cheese (yes, a gluten free noodle version) and make a great breadcrumb coating for a crispy style Buffalo chicken.  I haven't sought out a diagnosis for being gluten intolerant and I don't have celiac disease, but I did learn from Beautiful that I felt better physically when not eating so much wheat.   To this day I still try to eat Gluten Free products rather than the regular wheat stuff.

Ingredients:

  • Leftover gluten free bread (and the following seasonings are for every 1 cup of bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon grated, Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the gluten free bread into one inch cubes.  Food process those cubes on pulse until you get the consistency desired.  I don't like mine too fine.  Pulsing the food processor for about 30 seconds to one minute usually does the trick, the key is not having your processor too full of cubes, break it down into batches if you're making a large amount of bread crumbs.  Spread the crumbs onto the parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes then stir.  Bake for another 5 minutes or so until you get evenly dry breadcrumbs.  You don't want any moisture remaining before transferring to a container.  Allow to completely cool before putting in a ziplock bag or storage container.  I keep mine in the freezer, ziplocked in one cup portions.  Pull frozen crumbs out about a 1/2 hour before use for easier application. 

Enjoy the flavor of these breadcrumbs and enjoy the savings over store bought gluten free crumbs!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

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Awesome Holiday Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin breadBy Mike Thayer

Simply put, as the name suggests, this pumpkin bread is awesome.  A double batch is pictured right.  It's a recipe given to me by an ex-girlfriend.   My pet name for her was Awesome, hence the name for the recipe.  She really knows how to bake and we truly enjoyed cooking, baking, grilling, shopping, dining out and gardening together, those were good times.  But she violated Mike's Relationship Rule #1:  Communicate.  Deal breaker.

Ingredients

  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Set aside. Using a mixer, combine the pumpkin, oil, sugar and eggs. Mix until well blended. Add dry ingredients and mix well. By hand, mix in the nuts and raisins. Pour the loaf pans half full with batter.  Pipe cream cheese over that half layer of batter. Pour remaining batter to fill the pans. Bake for 50 - 55 minutes or until you get a clean toothpick test. Cool pans on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pans to cool completely.

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 2 bricks (8 ounce packages) of cream cheese - softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla.

And excellent addition to your holiday menu, enjoy!

$pend Wisely My Friends...

Related: Dinner on a Plate - Recipes by Bachelor on the Cheap

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