Archive for the ‘Jill's Signature Recipes’ Category


My Most Popular Post: Grand Marnier Bundt Cake

January 3, 2014

When I looked at my 2013 annual report from WordPress, I was not surpised to see that my Grand Marnier Bundt Cake post was the most viewed post this year. The post is actually from 2009, and a lot of people seem to be searching for a Grand Marnier bundt cake recipe. Search no more, because this is an awesome cake.

Grand Marnier Bundt Cake

I’ve made this cake countless times, including just the other day, and it never disappoints. The original post shows mini-bundts. The slice in the photo above is from a cake baked in a 6-cup bundt pan. It’s great as-is, but you can make it prettier by garnishing with some whipped cream, or drizzling some chocolate sauce on the plate and putting the cake on top.

Give the Grand Marnier Bundt Cake recipe a try!


Chocolate Thriller Frozen Chocolate Pie

January 3, 2012

For me, eating this pie is like eating a slice of nostalgia. Even without the memories, it’s a chocolate-on-chocolate frozen delight. The recipe, titled Kraft Chocolate Thriller is from my grandma’s recipe collection, and is at least 30 years old, maybe much older than that. It may look like an ice cream pie, but one bite of the smooth, chocolate, cream-cheesy filling and you’ll forget about ice cream.

Whipped cream and maraschino cherries, just like grandma used to do

You know what else is awesome about this pie, besides the taste? It’s frozen, so it’s a great make-ahead dessert. Some days,  a “best served on the day it’s made” dessert just doesn’t fit into the schedule.

Recipe notes

  • The original recipe calls for raw eggs, but since most of us stay away from raw eggs due to food safety concerns, I used pasteurized-in-the-shell eggs. It was my first time using pasteurized eggs, and a few minutes after putting the whites in my mixer to whip, they looked very…unwhipped. I had an oh crap moment and wondered if this was going to work. I turned the mixer off and did a quick Google search, found this information, and turned the mixer back on. With a little bit of cream of tartar and a whole lot more whipping time, the whites turned out great. Whew. This is definitely a job for a stand mixer.
  • The crust uses Nabisco Famous Wafers, which are thin, crisp, chocolate cookies. If you can’t find them, use another thin, crisp, chocolate cookie. The Famous Wafers are really tasty, though, so take a look at your grocery store.

Chocolate Thriller

1 1/2 cups crushed Nabisco Famous Wafers, or other chocolate wafers
1/3 cup melted butter (salted or unsalted)

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, divided (1/4 cup and 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 pasteurized in the shell eggs, at room temperature, separated
6 ounces chocolate chips, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup heavy cream

To make crust: Preheat oven to 325° F.  Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter and press onto the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes; remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

To make filling: In a large bowl, using a stand mixer or hand mixer, blend cream cheese with 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla. Blend in the egg yolks, then the melted and cooled chocolate and mix until thoroughly combined. Whip the egg whites, adding 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar after a couple of minutes and then gradually adding 1/2 cup sugar after a few more minutes; continue to whip until whites form soft peaks (see notes about whipping pasteurized egg whites). Fold the egg whites into the cream cheese mixture. Whip the cream and fold it into the filling mixture (reserve a little bit of whipped cream if you want to use it to decorate the pie). Scoop filling into cooled crust and smooth the top. Cover the pan with plastic or foil and freeze overnight.

To serve: To soften a little before serving, put pie in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, or let it sit at room temperature for a short period.

Timing Tips: I whipped the cream in my stand mixer first and then transferred it to another bowl so I could wash the mixer bowl and use to to whip the egg whites. While the egg whites were whipping, I melted the chocolate and used a hand mixer to combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, egg yolks, and chocolate.


Homemade Kit Kat Bars

October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! I signed up to bring dessert (of course) to an office potluck lunch, but wasn’t sure what to make. Then I saw a TV commercial with trick-or-treaters and Kit Kat bars and the light bulb went off in my head: homemade Kit Kat bars! These aren’t a fancy-shmancy individually dipped in chocolate homemade candy bar; they’re a pan of bars that you cut and serve. Easy to make and really good.

They don’t taste exactly like a Kit Kat, but they taste pretty fantastic, with sweet brown sugar and butter filling between layers of crisp, salty crackers, topped off with a soft blanket of chocolate, butterscotch, and peanut butter.

I’ve made these quite a few times, but it’s been years since the last time. Right after I put them in the refrigerator to chill and sat down to type this blog post, I got an email from one of my good friends, who happens to be the person I got the recipe from. She said she got the recipe from a co-worker’s wife many years ago, and that she remembered eating them and thinking I would like them. She was right! At the top of the recipe, she wrote “A recipe for those of you who appreciate a good treat.” So true.

Recipe Notes:

  • The original recipe calls for Waverly crackers. I couldn’t find those, so I used Club Crackers instead. The Waverly people, whoever they are, may not agree, but I think the Club Crackers are pretty much the same thing.
  • I used unsalted butter, but I bet you’d do fine with salted too.
  • Thanks to the peanut butter in the topping, they are easy to cut. None of that rock-hard chocolate that cracks when you cut it.

Kit Kat Bars

Club Crackers: I used 90 crackers, which is about 3/4 of a box
1 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

Spray a 9 x 13″ pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line with whole Club Crackers. Put butter, sugar, brown sugar, graham cracker crumbs, and milk in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat; bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Pour half of the mixture over the crackers. Spread to create an even layer. Add another layer of crackers and top with the remaining sauce mixture. Add a final layer of crackers for a total of three layers of crackers.

In a small bowl, melt chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter. Mix until smooth and pour over the top layer of crackers. Spread to create an even layer. Refrigerate until firm. Cut and eat!

I used Club Crackers

First layer of crackers

Adding the second layer of crackers


Brandy Slush – the perfect summer drink

August 6, 2010

This recipe and I go way back.  I had some friends over for dinner recently and I knew that they’d remember this blast-from-the-past drink, which was good in the ’90s and is just as good in 2010. It’s a sweet, slushy, fun drink, perfect for a hot summer evening.

I couldn’t remember where I got the recipe from and my friend said that her mom used to make it. Mystery solved. She also said that her mom served it with cream soda. I’ve always used 7-Up, but you can branch out and try another flavor.
Sip (responsibly!) and enjoy.

Brandy Slush

source: Linda’s mom

4 1/2 cups water, divided
1 cup sugar
2 tea bags
6 oz frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 cup brandy

In a large saucepan, heat 3 1/2 cups water. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. Heat the remaining 1 cup water and steep the tea bags for a few minutes. Stir tea into saucepan of sugar and water. Add lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate, and brandy. Stir well. Freeze overnight.

To serve, scoop slush into a large glass and fill glass with 7-Up or other soda. Add a straw for stirring and sipping!

Makes 1 3/4 quarts

Notes: This is scoopable straight out of the freezer. However, it will be easier to scoop if you freeze it in a flat container or divide it into a few smaller containers. Lemonade and orange juice concentrates usually come in 12 oz containers. Re-freeze the other half of the concentrates for another batch of Brandy Slush!


Peanut Butter M&M Cookies for My Kitchen, My World

July 28, 2010

Each month, the My Kitchen, My World group cooks dishes from a different country. For July, in honor of Independence Day, Andrea of Nummy Kitchen selected the USA. Melting pot that this country is, this was an interesting one to think about.

I settled on peanut butter cookies, and none other than the recipe that I grew up with. Somewhere along the line in my years of making these, I started adding one of America’s favorite candies: M&Ms. Chocolate chips are a good addition too, but there’s something about that crunchy, colorful candy coating along with this thin, crunchy, peanut buttery cookie.

But I have to say, every time I open a bag of M&Ms, I’m surprised and dismayed by the blue ones. Yes, I know they’ve been around for quite a while, and I’m sure some youngsters don’t know any different, but I haven’t bonded with them. I’m all about the different flavors of M&Ms though – have you tried the pretzel ones yet? If you like sweet and salty, give them a try!

Back to the cookies, when I was little, we mixed cookies by hand with a wooden spoon. I used my stand mixer to make these, but I did use my favorite measuring cup, which I’ve had forever. I always use Skippy peanut butter, sometimes creamy, sometimes super chunk. I added a little salt, which wasn’t part of the original recipe. I wonder if they don’t need it because of the salt in the peanut butter, but it didn’t seem to hurt.

I’m sure there will be quite a melting pot of recipes this month, so be sure to check out what the others have made. There will be a roundup post on My Kitchen, My World on the last day of the month.

Peanut Butter Cookies

source: My mom

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 cups (12 oz bag) plain M&Ms, divided

Sift together baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add brown and granulated sugar and mix until combined. Beat in eggs and then peanut butter. When thoroughly combined, add sifted dry ingredients and mix until combined. Gently stir in 1 cup of M&Ms.

Form into walnut-sized balls and flatten with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Leave at least 2 inches of space between the flattened cookies. Press a few M&Ms onto the top of each cookie (add as many as needed, depending on how many are already mixed into the cookie). If you do it right, you’ll have a handful left over for snacking!

Bake at 375º F approximately 10 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through baking. Cookies should be lightly browned. These are a crisp cookie, and the browner they get, the crisper they are.


Back to work…with cookies!

January 14, 2010

I brought these cookies to work today as an “I’m baaaaaaack” treat. After a nice chunk of time off over the holidays, I am now working as a consultant for a former employer. When I worked there before, I brought these cookies in for a treat many, many times. So when I decided to bake some treats for work, I knew these would be the thing to bring. When my boss asked what I brought, I told her that they were my “old cookies.” Way to make them sound appealing! Can you tell that I’m not in sales?

Thankfully, these sell themselves. Chocolate chips, oatmeal, and coconut in a crisp cookie. Yum! I’ve been making these since I was a child, and they are now my standby cookie. I’ve seen numerous recipes for cookies called Ranger Cookies. This is my version. Sounds better than Old Cookies, doesn’t it?

I used a #70 cookie scoop, but you can make them larger or smaller. They do need some space to spread out as they bake. I’m not good at estimating distance, so here are photos of the cookies before and after baking.

I use an 11x14" cookie sheet and this is how I distribute the dough

Here they are post-baking

This is a decidedly unfussy recipe. Back in the old days, I mixed these by hand with a wooden spoon, I’m sure I didn’t use unsalted butter, and I didn’t know what parchment paper was. Now I use unsalted butter because that’s what I have on hand, and I mix in a stand mixer. Although I often use parchment for baking, I don’t use it for these cookies. I always use Nestle Toll House chocolate chips. The original recipe calls for Rice Krispies and raisins too, but over the years, this has become the preferred recipe and it’s how I always make them. If you’re a dough eater, watch out; it’s irresistible.

Ranger Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats (quick or old fashioned)
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir into creamed mixture.  Add oats, coconut, and chocolate chips.  If using a stand mixer, add the chips last and mix gently so they don’t get chopped up.

Drop by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350° 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Don’t let them get too brown or they’ll be super-crispy. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two and then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes about 6 dozen 3-inch cookies.


Peanut Butter Caramel Corn

January 6, 2010

I’ve been making Peanut Butter Caramel Corn for quite a few years. It’s easy to make and very addictive! The peanut butter is a nice twist on the classic caramel corn flavor.

I made a batch and gave some away to friends over the holidays. One of them is a long time fan of this and was very happy when I handed him a bag. My other friend hadn’t had it before, but she took it home with her to North Carolina and served it at a party and reported back that her guests loved it. The rest of the batch which was sitting in my kitchen also disappeared quickly! I gave this recipe to Michele at Veggie Num Nums and she made it too. Check out her post to see what she thought of it, and to see the other great-looking caramel corn she made!

You can use your favorite method of making popcorn: stove, microwave, air popper. You just want some plain popcorn to use as a base. I’ve been using a Presto Power Pop for years and I love it. It pops corn in the microwave without oil, plus it has Orville Redenbacher’s autograph on the lid! (No extra charge for that!) There is a cardboard cup that sits in the bottom of the popper. Each cup can be used many times, so it’s not expensive to keep the popper going.

Image from

The recipe came from a library book, but it’s been so many years that I don’t know the name of the book anymore, so unfortunately I can’t give it proper credit. The original recipe name is Peanut Butter Candied Corn.

Peanut Butter Caramel Corn

4 quarts popped popcorn (16 cups)
12 ounces lightly salted peanuts*
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

*I like to use regular dry roasted peanuts; use no-salt, low-salt, or regular to suit your tastes

Preheat oven to 250º F. Combine popcorn and peanuts in a large roasting pan (I divide between 2 9 x 13″ pans, sprayed with non-stick spray). In a large saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla; stir until smooth. Strin in baking soda (mixture will foam). Pour over popcorn mixture; stir until well coated. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on wax paper, parchment, a silicone mat, or lightly greased foil to cool. Store in an airtight container.


Spinach Lasagna

December 28, 2009

This lasagna is my signature dish. If you’re coming over for dinner and I haven’t made this for you, this is probably what you’re going to get. Even if I have made it for you, you might get it again!

The first time I made this was the day I graduated from college, which was in 19somethingoranother. After the ceremony, I made dinner for my family at my apartment. I’m sure I could have wrangled a restaurant meal out of my parents, so I must have really wanted to host a dinner party! The lasagna was a hit and my dad said that if I was going to cook like that, I could move back home. OK, that was a relief, because I was already packed up and set to move home while I looked for a job.

Fast forward to 2009 and I’m still making this. (And I moved out of my parents’ house long ago!) I’ve passed the recipe to many people; I don’t know how many times my mother-in-law has said “I made your lasagna again.” Even though it’s great for company, I make it for the two of us too. We enjoy eating it for a few dinners and then I freeze the leftovers. It’s a happy day when I discover a package of spinach lasagna in the freezer!

I wish I had cool photos of this, but it’s lasagna and I hope you’ll give me a break. And I hope you’ll give it a try.


(If you know me in real life and you haven’t had this, let me know and I’ll have you over for dinner!)

This recipe is my own, but it originated with one in the Ideals Gourmet Christmas Cookbook, which is a skinny paperback cookbook. This cookbook and I go way back; it’s also where I got the recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Pie.

Spinach Lasagna

8 oz (1/2 pound) lasagna noodles

6 oz can tomato paste
15 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained with juice reserved
2 tablespoons Italian blend seasoning, or your favorite combination of Italian herbs

Small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

Add water to reserved tomato juice to equal 1/2 cup

2 eggs
10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed with excess water squeezed out

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
15 oz container part-skim Ricotta cheese

For Layering
12 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
Handful of roasted red peppers, chopped (optional but tasty)

Noodles: Boil water in a large pot and cook noodles 10 minutes (they will be partially cooked).  Drain noodles, rinse, and set aside. While noodles are cooking, make sauce and filling.

Sauce: Mix all sauce ingredients in a saucepan and simmer at least 20 minutes.

Filling: Beat eggs in a large bowl.  Stir in parmesan and ricotta.  Add spinach.

Assembly: Spray a 13 x 9 x 2” pan (it bakes best in glass or stoneware) with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of the pan. Layer 1/2 of the noodles, 1/2 of the filling, 1/3 of the mozzarella, and 1/2 of the sauce twice, ending with the sauce.  If using roasted red peppers, scatter them on top of the filling in one of the layers.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the mozzarella on top. Spray a piece of foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover the lasagna.

Baking: Bake at 350° F 1 hour 15 minutes (1 1/2 hours if lasagna has been refrigerated). Remove the foil after 40 minutes of baking time. Lasagna is done when browned and bubbly around the edges. Let stand a few minutes before cutting.


Grand Marnier Bundt Cake

December 17, 2009

This cake rocks. It rocks because it’s easy to make, and it rocks because it’s best the next day and beyond. Oh, did I mention that it’s super-delicious too? It’s moist, chocolaty, and has a nice smooth orange liqueur taste. It’s not a liquor-soaked cake that makes your gums go numb.

I’ve made this quite a few times and every time I thought “gee, this would make a great gift if I had a mini-bundt pan.” This year was the year and I bought a pan. I filled the minis about 3/4 full and had a small amount of batter left over, so I also baked two cupcakes. Perfect for taste-testing!

Instead of unmolding the cake and then pouring a glaze on top, you poke holes in the bottom of the cake while it’s still in the pan and then pour a syrup on; it goes into the cake and around the sides.


  • The recipe is originally from Cooking Light magazine, but I can’t find it on their site. It was called something like Mom’s Company Cake.
  • When I’m talking to myself, I call this “The million dollar cake.” Yeah, Grand Marnier is pretty expensive. I bought another brand of orange liqueur once and did a taste-test and the Grand Marnier won by a mile. I’m not usually an expensive liquor type of gal, but in this case I am.
  • I haven’t tried this with orange juice, but I think it would be good. If I used juice, I’d skip the water in the syrup and use all juice.
  • I packaged these in plastic bags to give as gifts, but next time I’ll put the cake on a plate and then wrap it up with plastic. The syrup makes the cake sticky, so I think a plate would work better.

Grand Marnier Bundt Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
3 large egg whites or 1 (4-oz) carton egg substitute

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine
1/3 cup Grand Marnier
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 6-cup bundt or angel food pan with cooking spray; dust with flour.

Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a hand mixer at low speed until most, then beat 3 minutes on medium speed (if you use a stand mixer, beat for less time; it doesn’t need a thorough beating).  Pour batter into pan.

Bake 40-50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Leave cake in pan. Pierce with a fork about 15 times.  Combine syrup ingredients in a saucepan and boil 1 minute.  Pour glaze over cake slowly while cake is warm and still in the pan.  There is a lot of syrup, so you may need to give it a minute to soak in before pouring all of it, or poke more holes to give it somewhere to go. Cool completely; remove from pan.  Wrap securely to keep moist. This is best served the next day or even a couple of days after baking.

Recipe notes

  • Minis will bake in less time.
  • I used a pan with an intricate design, so I coated it thoroughly with butter and then dusted with flour. I had to work at getting them out, but they did come out in one piece.
  • A larger bundt pan works fine, but the cake will be a bit short.
  • I usually cool the cake, then leave it in the pan and cover with plastic wrap and unmold it the next day. That gives it plenty of time to soak up all the syrup.
  • Update: I haven’t tried it, but my mother-in-law reports that this cake freezes well. If you try it, I suggest giving it a couple of days for the flavor to develop before freezing.
%d bloggers like this: