Homemade Taco Seasoning

In great-grandma's day, commercial mixes weren't available. If you wanted cakes or biscuits or certain seasonings, you made them yourself from scratch. Back then, I'm sure there were a few busy moms who would have loved to been able to throw a mix together!

I made another batch of this homemade taco seasoning today, and thought I'd share the recipe with you. Making your own taco seasoning is a little more trouble than just tearing open an envelope of the pre-made stuff, but you really can taste the difference. It's fresher and brighter tasting. There aren't as many chemicals and preservatives in seasoning you make yourself, and you can control the sodium, too, if you want. It goes together pretty quickly. You'll enjoy having a stash of this in your pantry, and with the holidays coming up, it would make a nice little hostess gift.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Makes about 1/2 cup of seasoning

1 tablespoon kosher salt (I do recommend the kosher salt, but if you need to use regular salt, use half the amount)
1 tablespoon black pepper
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used ground red pepper)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients in a container with a tight seal, and shake before using. I keep mine in a small canning jar. 

Use 1 to 2 tablespoons plus about 1/4 cup water per pound of beef, chicken, or veggies, or to taste. I find that 1 tablespoon is plenty. This seasoning is delicious in Taco Soup. I even like a sprinkling of it on scrambled eggs! :)

Adapted from Macheesmo.com

Baked Pumpkin Cake Donuts...topped three different ways!

In a previous post, I told you about my Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Caramel Glaze. I liked the way they turned out so well that I decided to see what else I could do with the batter recipe. Turns out, it makes some of the best baked donuts I've ever had. They're nice and moist, and they have a tender cake texture. The pumpkin flavor is smooth, warm, and has just the right level of cinnamon and spice.

These donuts were very good all by themselves, right out of the pan. They were tasty (and pretty!) with a little confectioner's sugar sifted on top. If I had thought about it, I would have mixed a little cinnamon into the confectioner's sugar, or sprinkled some on top. Next time! :) That was the first topping.

Then I also made another batch of Caramel Glaze that I had brushed on the Mini Pumpkin Cakes, and drizzled it over a few of the warm donuts for the second topping. I do love this glaze.

For the third topping, I decided to try a cream cheese-based glaze. I wanted something that looked a little different and tasted a little different from the other two, and, besides, what doesn't taste better with some cream cheese? I used brown sugar and buttermilk in the glaze to blend with those flavors in the donuts.

Cream Cheese Glaze (top)

Pumpkin Donuts: I used this recipe in a donut pan.

Cream Cheese Brown Sugar Glaze
Makes about 3/4 cup 

4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 T buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)

Soften cream cheese in microwave for a few seconds (if necessary to be able to stir). Stir in buttermilk. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Sift powdered sugar into bowl of cream cheese mixture and whisk until smooth. Adjust to taste- add more brown sugar if desired. Adjust consistency of glaze to your preference by adding a few drops of buttermilk to thin; stir in more powdered sugar to thicken. Strain if necessary (I had a few little cream cheese blobs that refused to blend; it all strains right out. Glaze donuts, let set, then glaze again if desired. Makes about ¾ cup glaze. 

All the toppings were very good. My favorite *may* have been the Caramel Glaze, but a couple of my taste testers preferred the Cream Cheese Glaze. They're all winners...and it's kind of nice to have all three! ;)

Happy Glazing!

Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Caramel Glaze

These little cakes are cute, fun, and most importantly, delicious. They are little bites of tender, pumpkin-y goodness...brushed with a caramel glaze so good, you'll want to eat it all by itself. 

I made these in a Wilton's Whoopie Pie pan, but I wanted to do something a little different with them- I thought they were wonderful all on their own as tiny cakes. 

Fresh out of the oven

Mini Pumpkin Cakes with Caramel Glaze
Makes about 28 little cakes


1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
scant 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup buttermilk


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray pan with non-stick spray.

2. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until mixed very well, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with pumpkin and buttermilk, mixing thoroughly after each addition (starting and ending with the flour mixture).

4. Fill pan no more than about 2/3 full, spreading batter to edges of cavities.

5. Bake 7-9 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes; remove to cooling rack. While they cool, you can make the glaze.

Adapted from a Wilton's recipe.

Caramel Glaze

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup milk 
pinch salt

Whisk all ingredients together in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Brush cakes with glaze. Let set and cool completely. Store cakes tightly covered.

How cute would it be to have a couple of these at each place setting on your Thanksgiving table? 

Mini Pumpkin Cakes have been taken to these great parties!

By the way, Mini Pumpkin Cakes batter makes delicious
Baked Pumpkin Cake Donuts:

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Braided Bread

Tuesday's post was about baking Red Star Yeast's Buttermilk Whole Wheat Raisin Bread. What I didn't tell you was that the recipe sounded so good, I decided to double it…and then experiment just the tiniest bit. I decided to leave the raisins out of one of the loaves, and that’s the one I’m going to tell you about today. I guess I wanted to experience the wonder of buttermilk whole wheat bread (with brown sugar!) in more than just one way. :)

I think I'll call this one "Buttermilk Whole Wheat Brown Sugar Bread", 'cause it sounds better than "Buttermilk Whole Wheat Raisin Bread Without the Raisins"! And anyway, you know I had to mention the brown sugar. 

Oh, yeah, and I got fancy and made it into a braided loaf, partly because my mom always braided her homemade bread, and partly because I wanted to see if I could do it. She baked her braided loaves kind of free-form on a cookie sheet, but I decided to put mine in a loaf pan. I like the way this bread turned out, and how fresh it stayed for several days. I attribute that to the buttermilk and brown sugar!

My kitchen was kind of chilly the night I made this, so I turned the oven to 200 degrees, and set the bowl on top of the stove on one of the burners (off). That gave just enough indirect warmth for a good rise.

First rise

Braiding it was much easier than I had thought it might be. After the first rise, you punch the dough down, and pat it out onto a floured surface. Cut the dough into three equal parts, then roll each part with your hands into a rope (just like when you used to make Play-Doh snakes when you were a kid). Put the three ropes side by side, pinch the top ends together and just braid! When you get to the end, pinch those ends and tuck them under. Place braided loaf in a greased loaf pan and let it rise again.

Ready for the second rise

When I make this bread again (and I will), I think I will increase the brown sugar just a touch. I'd say by about one tablespoon. When you omit the raisins, it needs a bit more sweetness. That's what you do when you experiment- you find out what works, and what you might do differently next time. All part of the fun, I think.

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Raisin Bread

Many of us have wonderful memories of someone- a grandma, maybe- who made fragrant, yeasty, tender loaves of homemade bread. Heaven in a loaf pan. 

I found this recipe on the Red Star Yeast website. Buttermilk, whole wheat flour, brown sugar…..as soon as I saw those ingredients, I knew I was hooked. You just know something that’s baked with buttermilk and brown sugar is going to be good.

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Raisin Bread
Makes 1 loaf


1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 cup bread flour 
2 cups whole wheat flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup raisins


Combine bread flour, salt, brown sugar, buttermilk powder and yeast in your stand mixer bowl. We're not going to use the whole wheat flour just yet. 

In a separate bowl, combine the water and the vegetable oil. Heat these to 120 to 130 degrees. Temperature is very important here- if the liquid is not warm enough, the yeast won't grow and your bread won't rise. If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise. So, at this point, I always dig my candy thermometer out from the back of the drawer to make sure I get the liquids to just the right temperature.

Pour the heated water and oil into your stand mixer bowl and mix for 4 minutes on medium speed using the paddle attachment. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times as you go along.

Now switch to the dough hook attachment. Gradually add whole wheat flour, and raisins, and knead with dough hook(s) 5 to 7 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Get a large bowl and spray it with non-stick spray. Lightly shape your dough into a ball and set it into the greased bowl, then turn the dough over (that greases the top of the dough for you). Now cover the bowl (I use a clean kitchen towel), and set it in a warm place.


In about 1 1/2 hours (time will vary, depending on how warm it is), the dough will have just about doubled in size. This is where you'd test to see if the dough is "ripe".

after first rise

Turn the dough onto lightly floured surface and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Roll or pat (I patted) into a 14 x 7-inch rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll. Pinch edges and ends to seal. Place in greased 9 x 5- inch loaf pan.

shaped loaf before second rise

 Cover the loaf pan and let the dough rise until it has about doubled in size. That's the test my mom used. A little more accurate test you can do is to touch the side of the dough lightly with your fingertip. If the indentation remains ("ripe"), the loaf is ready for the oven. Bake in preheated 375ยบ F oven 30 to 40 minutes (mine was done in 30). Use that time to enjoy how wonderful your kitchen smells. When the bread is done, remove it from the pan onto a wire rack, and let it cool completely before slicing. 

This bread was tender and moist, and the raisins added a little extra sweetness. I was very impressed with how well the bread "kept". I think it may have been even better after a day or two.

Mix up some cinnamon honey butter to serve with the bread

Recipe by Red Star Yeast

This bread was baked for the 7th annual World Bread Day: Oct. 16, 2012. World Bread Day is a time to have fun and unite with other home bakers, but it’s also a day to be grateful to have enough food and to heighten awareness of the world food problem.