Metro-East Living

Top 2016 recipe requests you decided were worth another nibble

Carrot Poke Cake
Carrot Poke Cake

According to, in 2016 its followers liked recipes for slow-cookers, chicken and soup — with some imitation crab and cheesy potatoes on the side.

Why am I not surprised? Seems to pretty much fit (except for that fake crab thing!) what recipes I would have thought News-Democrat readers asked for in 2016. And that was before I went back into my Stir Crazy columns and food stories to see what requests I answered. Here’s some of what I found our readers wanted:

1. Everybody wants the perfect rich and creamy recipe for mac and cheese.

2. Slow cookers are the royalty of kitchen appliances, no matter what is made in them.

3. Doctored cakes made from box mix, but especially dump and poke cakes, reign for easy desserts.

4. If you’re going to throw a party, metro-east party-givers are obsessed with Crack, a weird and wonderful combination of a sweet and salty snack you can’t get enough of.

5. There’s always room for soup, and copycat restaurant recipes.

So, I’m reprinting recipes I ran last year from each of those categories, with two exceptions. The Carrot Poke Cake here is a different version than the one I had in the paper last Easter; I think it’s a better recipe.

The mac and cheese is a new one, too, because I decided that this particular recipe upped the ante on flavor and taste by baking the pasta dish so it has a crispy crust.

Panera Bread’s Autumn Squash Soup

1 extra-large butternut squash

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups apple juice

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Peel squash. Remove seeds and cut in chunks. Place in baking dish or on cookie sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until fork tender.

Mash squash with a potato masher and place in a large stock pot.

Add pumpkin, apple juice, half-and-half and vegetable broth.

Puree ingredients with an immersion blender until well mixed.

Add honey, curry, cinnamon, salt and pepper, and heat through about 10-15 minutes at a low simmer.

To serve, garnish bowls of soup with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Note: Adjust the apple juice, vegetable broth and half-and-half according to how large your butternut squash is. If the squash is smaller, decrease liquids. If it’s a whopper, you may have to increase this amount.

Slow-Cooker Orange Molasses BBQ Ribs

5 pounds pork baby-back ribs, cut into 3-rib sections

1 cup barbecue sauce

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup frozen (thawed) orange juice concentrate

2 teaspoons red pepper sauce

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Spray 5- to 6-quart oval slow cooker with cooking spray. Set oven control to broil. Spray broiler pan rack with cooking spray. Place ribs on rack. Broil with tops 5 1/2 inches from heat 10 minutes. (Browning the ribs under the broiler renders water and excess fat.)

2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Arrange ribs in slow cooker; cover with sauce.

3. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 hours.

4. Remove ribs from slow cooker to serving platter; cover to keep warm. Skim fat from cooking liquid in slow cooker. Pour liquid into 2-quart saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 1/2 cups. Serve sauce with ribs.

Yield: 8 servings.

Slow ‘N’ Crispy Mac ‘N’ Cheese

1 pound elbow or rotini pasta

8 ounces Cheddar cheese, shredded

4 ounces Colby cheese, shredded

1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons butter



1/2 cup coarse dried bread crumbs

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.

Add the cheeses, milk, butter and salt to taste to the pasta and stir until the cheese is melted and everything is combined. Spread the mixture in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

To make the crispy topping: In a small bowl, mix to combine the breadcrumbs and oil; sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the pasta. Transfer to the oven, and bake 40 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

Yield: 6 servings.

“Scratch: Home Cooking For Everyone Made Simple, Fun, and Totally Delicious” by Maria Rodale

Carrot Poke Cake

1 package (2-layer size) spice cake mix

2 cups shredded carrots

1/4 cup raisins

1 package instant vanilla pudding

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (optional)

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk


2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup instant cheesecake pudding

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar


Caramel sauce

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat 350 degrees. Combine all cake ingredients up to condensed milk; mix until combined.

Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake 40-45 minutes. Let cake cool completely. Keep in pan.

Once cake has cooled, use a skewer to evenly poke the cake about 25 to 40 times. Pour condensed milk over the cake and let set overnight in refrigerator.

Once cake has set, whip together frosting ingredients until light and fluffy; evenly spread frosting over the cake.

Heat opened caramel sauce jar in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.

Pour over the frosting and top with chopped pecans.

Adapted from

Sweet & Saltines (aka Crack)

This recipe is from country singer Trisha Yearwood’s 2010 cookbook “Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood.” It’s nearly identical to many others I found online, but doesn’t have a catchy name. I adapted it slightly.

Cooking spray

40 to 50 saltine crackers, depending on pan size

2 sticks (1 cup) butter

1 cup light brown sugar

8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/3 cups)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 1 large or 2 small jelly-roll pans with aluminum foil, spray with nonstick spray and arrange the saltines salt-side down in a single layer.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Once the butter mixture has melted, bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.* Remove from the heat and pour over the crackers, covering them evenly. Spread with a knife quickly, if necessary.

Put the pan into the oven and bake 3 to 5 minutes, or until just bubbly, watching carefully. Remove from the oven and pour the chocolate chips over the crackers. When the chips melt a bit, spread them over the crackers with a knife.

Transfer the pan to the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until completely cold. They will form one big sheet. Break up into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

*Editor’s note: Recipes that call for boiling sugar and butter together to make toffee often say not to stir during this process. Trisha’s directions say to stir constantly. You decide.

Also, similar recipes add M&Ms, broken pretzels or nuts on top of the chocolate. Go ahead. Gild the lily.