The Firelands Kitchen

The Firelands Kitchen by Erin Howarth

Experimenting In The Kitchen With Secret Ingredients



An internet message board I frequent recently had members discussing some of their favorite ‘secret’ ingredients they add to take a dish from ho-hum to “Wow!” Some of the suggestions really got my wheels turning so I thought you’d enjoy reading them also. If you choose to try any, drop me a note and let me know how it went.

In chocolate chip cookies:

- Add a bit of ginger to chocolate chip cookies with walnuts.

- Substitute oatmeal flour for some of the all-purpose flour. You can purchase already-ground oat flour or give oats a quick whirl in a food processor until it has a flour-like consistency.

- For chocolate chip cookies, try using high-quality chocolate chips.

- Put a splash of Kahlua in chocolate chip cookies.

- Add a little malted milk powder to chocolate chip cookies.

- Add some cinnamon to chocolate chips cookies.

To brownie mixes:

- Substitute part of the water with Kahlua.

- To any brownie mix, add an extra egg and a tablespoon of Mexican vanilla.

In other sweet treats:

- In boxed white or yellow cake mixes, substitute orange juice for sort of the water.

- Add a good subtle flavor to sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal cookies, blondies, etc. by adding a 1/2 or 1 teaspoon of almond extract along with the vanilla.

- Try adding a 1/2 tsp. maple flavoring to peanut butter cookies.

- Add a bit of fresh ground black pepper to pumpkin pie - it intensifies the cinnamon and spices perfectly.

- Cherry pie is amazing with some lemon zest and a bit of cinnamon.

- When making cinnamon rolls, add a bit of cayenne pepper to the filling mixture.

- Add vanilla and extra marshmallows to Rice Krispie treats.

For sauces:

- Try adding a little white wine to spaghetti sauce.

- To spaghetti sauce, add a little wedge of Parmesan cheese and allow it to melt.

- Try a splash of Sriracha sauce for tangy kick to spaghetti sauce – it adds a bell pepper-like tang.

- Cinnamon is also a great spice to try a pinch of in spaghetti sauces and lasagna.

- Or for a different spice combination, add a few shakes of pumpkin pie spice to any spaghetti sauce, including the jar kind.

- For any bechamel sauces, add a pinch of dry mustard.

- For cream sauces, try a pinch of cayenne (except for alfredo sauce, try a bit of nutmeg).

Other take-it-up-a-notch ingredients:

- Add a good pinch of nutmeg to bring out the flavor in any dish with cheese.

- Use espresso powder in any recipes containing chocolate.

- Try Beau Monde spice in coleslaw dressing and pasta salads.

- Adding lemon juice to chicken noodle soup really brightens the flavor. Actually, lemon juice is a great addition to many recipes.

- And so is Frank’s RedHot Sauce.

- Try celery salt in tuna salad.

- Try adding a splash of vanilla extract into French toast batter

- Add nutmeg to beef stroganoff.

- Cocoa recipes – experiment using a high-quality unsweetened cocoa in place of your usual kind.

- For chili, try adding some unsweetened cocoa or a pinch of cinnamon.

In addition to some great recipes submitted by our readers (check out the Zucchini Bread Baked in a Jar which you can gift your friends!), I also have a couple recipes for a bechamel sauce. Bechamel is a white sauce made from flour, butter, and milk. every cook should know how to make a good white sauce. I think it’s next on my list to teach Sadie.

Have a great week everyone!

Healthy No-Bake

Granola Bars

Submitted by Brenda Nolt, Shiloh, Ohio

1/4 cup margarine

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 lbs. marshmallows

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup peanut butter

Melt margarine, oil, and marshmallows. Turn off heat and add honey and peanut butter.


9 1/2 cups cereal (crushed Bran Flakes or Rice Krispies)

1 cup wheat germ

5 cups toasted oatmeal

1 cup peanuts

1 1/2 cups raisins

1 cup coconut

1 cup tiny chocolate chips

1 cup M&Ms (small)

Pour the marshmallow mixture over the dry mix. Mix together and press into bar pans. Cut into squares and wrap them to freeze for school lunches.

Mother’s O’ Henry Bars

Submitted by Brenda Nolt, Shiloh, Ohio

4 cups quick oatmeal

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white syrup

12 oz. chocolate chips

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

Combine oatmeal, butter, brown sugar, and syrup. Spread in a greased 9x13” pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool. Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter and spread on top. Cool and cut.

Zucchini Bread Baked in a Jar

Submitted by Fannie Garber, Ashland, Ohio

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups grated zucchini

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix all ingredients. Bake in 8 wide-mouth jelly jars or 4 (1-1/2 pt.) wide-mouth jars. Sterilize and spray inside of jars with cooking spray. Fill jars half full. Put in cake pan to bake. For small jars, bake only 35 minutes. For 1-1/2 p. jars, bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn jars while baking so they bake evenly. After they are baked, screw lids on tightly. Set on dish towels to cool. Decorate jars with nice labels, ribbon, etc. Give to your friends.

Blueberry Whoppie Pies

Submitted by Fannie Garber, Ashland, Ohio

1 cup shortening

4 eggs

1 3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

Mix shortening until fluffy. Add eggs and continue to mix. Add sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder’; mix well. Add flour gradually. Roll blueberries in flour to keep from coloring dough. Gently fold in blueberries. Bake at 350 degrees. Fill with blueberry filling.

Blueberry Filling:

3 cups shortening

7 cups powdered sugar

6 cups flour

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup blueberries, thawed

Beat shortening until creamy. Add sugar, flour, vanilla and milk. Beat well. Add blueberries. Beat about 10 minutes.

Omelet Biscuit Cups

Submitted by Fannie Garber, Ashland, Ohio

1 tube (12 oz.) large refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

4 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1/8 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 cup diced fully cooked ham

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1/3 cup chopped canned mushrooms

1 Tbsp. butter

Press biscuits onto the bottom and up the sides of greased muffin cups; set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Add ham, 1/4 cup cheese and mushrooms; mix well. In a skillet, melt butter; add the egg mixture. Cook and stir until eggs are nearly set. Spoon into biscuit cups.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 2 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Yield: 5 servings.

Canning Blueberries

Submitted by Fannie Garber, Ashland, Ohio

5 qt. blueberries

3 qt. water

6 cups sugar (white)

2 1/4 cups Perma Flo (not Clear Jel)

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. ReaLemon or vinegar

Heat sugar and water. Mix Perma Flo and water. Add to sugar water and boil. Add ReaLemon or vinegar and salt. Mix in berries. Put in jars. Cold pack 10 minutes. Let set 15 minutes. Makes 7 quarts.

Sweet n Sour Dressing

Submitted by Fannie Garber, Ashland, Ohio

4 cups salad dressing

2 cups sugar

1 cup oil

1/4 cup vinegar

2 Tbsp. mustard

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. celery seed

Mix together. This is a good salad sauce.

Breakfast Casserole

Submitted by Mrs Keim’s Kitchen, Ashland, Ohio

3 cups cubed bread

3 cups cubed ham

3 cups shredded cheese

1 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

2 Tbsp. melted butter

6 eggs

3 cups milk

Mix at least 8 hours before baking. Place first 3 ingredients in a large cake pan or baking dish (9x12”). Combine flour and mustard and sprinkle over bread mixture. Beat eggs, butter, and milk together. Pour over bread, cheese, and meat mixture and refrigerate. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour uncovered. Prepare the evening before for a delicious breakfast!

Hot n Spicy Pretzels

Submitted by Mrs Keim’s Kitchen, Ashland, Ohio

1 1/2 lbs. pretzels

1 cup vegetable oil

1 pkg. Hidden Valley Ranch mix

1/4 tsp. red pepper

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Bake 15 minutes or till done at 250 degrees or 300 degrees.

Bechamel Sauce

5 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

4 cups milk

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use. Yield: 3 cups.

Bechamel Sauce or White Sauce

From the Fannie Farmer Cookbook

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

1 1/4 cups milk, heated*


Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown - about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming. Yield: 1 cup.

Cheese Sauce: Stir in 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking, along with a pinch of cayenne pepper.

*How hot should the milk be? Warm the milk on low heat just until little bubbles begin to form at the edges. Then remove from heat.

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