Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mama's Broccoli Salad

A few days ago, I told my husband, after all the sugar, butter, and chocolate of my cookie baking marathon, I had strong cravings for vegetables.  The next day, I hit the produce department heavily. I bought sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli, green beans, red new potatoes, three kinds of onions, carrots, celery, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash. I also bought my bag of dried blackeye peas for New Year's, but held off on the collard greens until closer to time.   

At the same time, I had been thinking about Melynda's Culinary Smackdown, for which the December ingredient is raisins. Melynda asked me to submit my favorite raisin recipe. First, I had to decide what my favorite raisin recipe is.  Ultimately, I decided it is Rice Pudding, but after the aforementioned baking, I could not even think about making anything sweet.

That is when I came up with the idea of making my Mother's Broccoli Salad. I don't know where she got the recipe, and there are many similar recipes out there, but this is how we make it. Plunging the broccoli into boiling, salted water for 60 seconds only, takes the raw broccoli taste away and turns it a vibrant green color, without actually cooking it.

Mama's Broccoli Salad
1 head fresh broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup toasted pecans
10 slices bacon

Cut bacon into bite size pieces, and cook until crisp.  Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Put broccoli into a pot of boiling, salted water for 60 seconds only. (The water will not even come back to a boil).  Pour broccoli into a colander and immediately rinse with plenty of cold water.  Place on clean kitchen towels to dry. 

Toss together, in a salad bowl, the broccoli, onions, and raisins.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the honey, mayonnaise, and vinegar. Pour over the broccoli mixture and stir well to coat. Refrigerate for an hour or more.

Before serving, sprinkle salad with pecans and crisp bacon. 

Carrot & Raisin Salad

Continuing with my theme of wanting to eat nothing but vegetables, and still thinking about Melynda's Culinary Smackdown, not to mention my little carrot fetish, I made a carrot and raisin salad.

The salad is simply dressed with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon, where a lot of recipes call for mayonnaise and other creamy ingredients. Use the best quality of olive oil you can and know that fresh lemon really brightens the taste of the salad and balances the sweetness of both the carrots and the raisins.

The salad can be eaten right away, but I like it best the next day when the raisins have gotten really plump and juicy.

Carrot & Raisin Salad
1 pound carrots, finely and freshly shredded
1/2 cup raisins
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. lemon zest
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Toss together the finely shredded carrots and the raisins. Sprinkle with the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice, pour over the carrot mixture and stir well to coat. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Pizza

While I was baking so much for Christmas, I was also cooking meals for us. One night, when Alice and the baby were visiting, I made pizza. Because I know Alice loves green olives on her pizza and is also quite fond of sausage, I decided to build a pizza around those ingredients.  I called it Christmas pizza because of the colors.

I have made the crust recipe several times. It is quite easy, turns out great every time, and most importantly, tastes delicious.  The crust is also versatile. I press mine into a lightly oiled 12-inch cast iron skillet, but any deep dish oven proof casserole or pan would work just fine. Or you can roll or toss it to make a thinner crust. 

This combination of ingredients turned out to be quite tasty. In fact, Alice swooned and said it was the best pizza she'd ever had. I considered that a very fine compliment. 

Christmas Pizza
1 pound bulk sausage
1 medium onion, very thinly sliced
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, freshly shredded
1 (15 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
1 cup (approx.) pimiento stuffed green olives, sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare crust and place into pan of your choice. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crumble sausage into a skillet; cook and stir until evenly browned. Remove sausage to paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle the sausage evenly over and press into the crust. Scatter sliced onions over the sausage. Spread the mozzarella cheese over the onions, then top with the drained fire roasted tomatoes. Top with the sliced olives and finally, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. 

Bake to 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lime Meltaways

I love citrus at Christmas time.  When I was a girl, I always got tangerines in my Christmas stocking. The aroma of an orange being peeled can really brighten spirits on a cold and dreary winter day. Did you ever cut a hole in an orange, then insert a soft peppermint stick to suck the juice through?

I have already made a couple of orange cookies and decided to use lime for an additional citrus note. This is a dainty cookie which really does melt in your mouth. It is quite tangy and was a new recipe for me this year.

Lime Meltaways
(A Martha Stewart recipe)
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
Grated zest of 2 limes
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar, with an electric mixer, until fluffy. Add lime zest, lime juice, and vanilla; beat until fluffy.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until combined.

Divide dough in half and roll each half, in plastic wrap, into 1 1/4 inch-diameter logs. Chill at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a plastic bag. Remove plastic from logs and slice into 1/8 inch rounds. Place on baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart.

Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to  a wire rack to cool slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar filled bag and toss to coat. Return to wire racks to let the cookies cool completely.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Party Mix

Woohoo! Party Mix. This one is for me. I love this stuff. I can't stop eating it once I get started. I could easily eat it for three meals a day. All the cookies and sweets I'm making? I don't eat them. I am making them as gifts for the sweet-toothed people I love. I taste everything, but I am not tempted, at all, to indulge. Bring out the savories and I'm in trouble. 

I remember my Mother making this when I was  girl. The aroma was dizzyingly delicious. She was actually making it for the "grown-ups", but I did get to sample some.  Mama baked the mix, stirring every few minutes, which is what smelled so divine, wafting through the kitchen.

A super easy version of the snack mix can be made in the microwave. 

Party Mix
3 cups corn chex
3 cups rice chex
3 cups wheat chex
1 cup mixed nuts
2 cups cheese crackers
1 stick butter
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. each: sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder

Mix cereals, nuts, and crackers in a large microwave safe bowl.

In a small bowl, melt butter in microwave, uncovered for 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings, then pour over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.

Microwave, uncovered for 6 minutes, thoroughly stirring every 2 minutes.  Spread on paper towels to cool.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fantasy Fudge

This is a very old recipe and a Christmas favorite in my family.

My Mother's recipe called for "1 jar Hipolite".  I knew she used marshmallow creme, so I was surprised last summer, when I discovered, in that box from the garage, her original recipe. What the heck is Hipolite?  From what I have learned, the Hipolite family were in the candy making business and manufactured, among other things, marshmallows.  So Hipolite was a brand of marshmallow creme.

I use the recipe on the back of the marshmallow creme jar.  It couldn't be easier.  The recipe calls for one 12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I had about a cup of bittersweet chocolate chips leftover from another recipe and tossed those in as well.  Extra chocolate never hurt anybody. 

Fantasy Fudge
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, butter, and milk in heavy 3 quart saucepan.  Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted.  Add marshmallow creme, nuts, and vanilla and stir until well blended. Pour into a greased 13 x 9 inch baking dish.  Let cool and cut into 1 inch squares.

Mama's recipe written on the back of a party invitation

Monday, December 13, 2010


This is the first time I've ever made Snickerdoodles. In fact, it is the first time I have ever eaten one.  Although I've always thought the name very cute, I really didn't know what they were.

Some years ago, there was a local grocery store which gave out samples of Snickerdoodle coffee. Apparently, it was wildly popular, but it smelled horrible.  I always thought, if that's what a Snickerdoodle cookie smells like, I'll pass.

I recently discovered that Snickerdoodles are simply sugar cookies, which have been rolled in cinnamon sugar.  I imagined the buttery cookies tasting like cinnamon toast, which I love.  One thing that distinguishes them from a regular sugar cookie is that they are leavened (traditionally with cream of tartar), which makes a cookie crisp on the outside and soft and chewy inside.

I saw this recipe in the December 2010 issue of Southern Living. A choice is given for using the bottom of a glass to flatten the dough balls, or to bake without flattening for a "snowball look".  I made some of each and Pritchard Parker and I both liked the pillowy look and texture of the unflattened cookies best.

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Beat butter at medium speed with and electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating well.  Add eggs, milk, and vanilla, beating well.

Combine flour, baking powder, and 2 tsp. cinnamon; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.

Combine 3 Tbsp. sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon in a small bowl.  Roll dough into 1 1/4 inch balls, roll in sugar mixture, and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Raspberry Almond Torte Cookies

I have been baking this cookie for over 20 years and everyone always loves it.  They are especially nice for people you love who have dietary restrictions. The cookies are sweetened with maple syrup only, so no refined sweeteners. There are no eggs or dairy so they are perfect for vegans. I use whole wheat pastry flour but alternate flours can easily be used to make them free of gluten. I use grapeseed oil to lend a buttery flavor but any oil of your choice would work  just  fine.

But I never advertise all those facts. I just present and serve the cookies as delicious, which they are.

Raspberry Almond Torte Cookies
3 cups raw almonds, ground in blender
3 cups rolled oats, ground in blender
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cups grapeseed oil
1 1/2 cups maple syrup, preferably Grade B
1 tsp. vanilla
Raspberry jam or puree

Grind almonds in a blender into a coarse nut flour. Buzz oats into a coarse flour. Combine both flours with the whole wheat pastry flour along with the cinnamon.

Whip together the maple syrup, grapeseed oil, and vanilla, until creamy.

Add the wet to dry ingredients and mix until well coated.  Form into large walnut-sized balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Press thumb gently in center to form a space for filling.  Fill each cookie with about 1/2 tsp. jam.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown, rotating trays half way through baking.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Shortbread

These cookies are the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter. They look more elegant by dipping them on only half the cookie, and the optional dusting of sea salt looks like snow. 

The dough is very crumbly, so don't become discouraged (like I did) just keep using a piece of plastic wrap to help shape into a log.  Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, they slice like a dream.  I tried to form my dough into a square edged log but was only partially successful. Despite their oblique shape, I think they look very pretty.

And, the cookies are delicious. I love the touch of salt. I love the way biting into one of these feels on my teeth. They are neither crunchy, crispy, or soft--more of a silky sandiness without the grit. 

Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Shortbread
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
4 Tbsp. butter
Coarse salt for sprinkling (optional)

Beat together the butter and peanut butter, at medium speed of an electric mixer, until smooth. Gradually add sugar, beating well.  Stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Divide the dough in half and use plastic wrap to form each half into a log.  Refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least three hours, and best overnight.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Slice each log into 3/8 inch slices and place one inch apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. When nicely browned, remove cookies to cooling racks.

When the cookies are completely cool, melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over simmering water. Dip half of each cookie in the melted chocolate and place on a parchment lined tray. Sprinkle immediately with coarse salt, if desired. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What We ARE NOT Eating Wednesday--Tomato Aspic

Photo compliments

Once again, I am blogging with my friend, Melynda, for What We ARE NOT Eating Wednesday. If you want to join the fun, check with Melynda at her excellent blog, Mom's Sunday Cafe.  She is also hosting a Culinary Smackdown which you will probably want to participate in.

When I was a girl, my Mother and I, with Mama's best friend and her two daughters, would go shopping in downtown Columbus, Georgia. The highlight of our trips was having lunch at Morrison's Cafeteria. This was a time when the cafeteria was a very nice place, with plush carpet, white linens, proper silverware, crystal chandeliers, hushed voices.  Waiters, dressed in immaculate white jackets, would bring the food trays to the table and pour goblets of ice water from silver pitchers.  The food was scrumptious and I would always have the cherry pie.

Mama's friend always ordered the tomato aspic. I would be horrified when the waiter placed it on the table, shimmying with its blob of mayonnaise.  I couldn't watch her eat it.  Tomato aspic is a Southern "delicacy" I never acquired a taste for.  Ugh, tomato jello--with Mayo!  If you want to venture it, here are a few recipes.  Tried and true from the ladies of the Trinity Methodist Church in Opelika, Alabama (my home town). 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cowboy Cookies

These cookies are big!  Many of the cookies I bake are delicate, dainty even. But not these brutes. These are man-size cookies. Cookies for Santa. They beg for a glass of milk. 

These are sturdy oatmeal cookies that lend themselves to a multitude of add-ins. Here, I have used semi-sweet chocolate chips and toasted pecans. Coconut and macadamia nuts are good, raisins and walnuts are good, M&M's are fun. Add some cinnamon if you like.

Cowboy Cookies
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Whisk together, in a medium bowl, the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the oats and set the mixture aside.

Beat together the butter and sugars, with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add dry ingredients and beat until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into balls, using about 1/4 cup dough for each. Place on greased baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball of dough with the palm of your hand, to a 3 1/2 inch round.  Bake 10 - 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown around the edges and firm in the center.  Remove to racks for cooling.

Recipe makes 2 dozen 4-inch cookies.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Vanilla Butter Cookies

These cookies are somewhat reminiscent of the European butter cookies that come in tins and are so popular at Christmas.  Only better. 

They are homemade slice-and-bake cookies.  Use a piece of plastic wrap to help form them into logs. As you can see, I flattened my logs to make them more of an oval shape, but you could make them perfectly round. I used turbinado (raw) sugar for decorating, but any coarse sugar will work. You could flatten one log as I did and make the other round, then use two different decorating sugars for variation. 

Vanilla Butter Cookies
2 cups flour
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg white
1 tsp. water
Coarse sugar for decorating

Whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl.  With an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the granulated sugar and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until blended each time.  Gather the dough into a ball and divide in half.  Roll each half into a 9-inch log.  Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to three days.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and have oven racks in the top third and center positions of the oven.  Brush each log with a mixture of the egg white beaten with a little water.  Slice logs crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, roll each slice in coarse sugar, and place on parchment lined baking sheets about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking, just until the cookies turn golden brown at the edges.  Cool on pans for 1 minute, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What We are NOT EATING Wednesday-Escargots

I am blogging with my friend, Melynda, of Mom's Sunday Cafe again this week.  She started a new feature called What We Are NOT EATING Wednesday.  I joined her a couple of weeks ago, with a recipe from Gourmet Magazine's first cookbook.  (I missed last week because of the holiday.)

This week I am featuring a recipe from my 1969 Betty Crocker Cookbook--Escargots (Snails).  I am fully aware that this is considered a French delicacy, but my stomach seizes up at the thought of actually eating one of those critters I've seen sliming across the garden and gobbling the marigolds. 

What about you? Have you eaten them? I would love to hear some comments from those who have, as I have never known a single person who had indulged. And please don't tell me they taste like chicken. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ginger Man Cookies

I have missed my blog! And all my blog friends. The last of our company pulled out yesterday around noon and I spent the rest of the day trying to get both my home and myself back together.  I had thought I would blog about some of the food we made for Thanksgiving, and post some recipes, but I  find myself wanting to put that behind me and move forward. 

Today, we are having a rainy day--one of those deary all day rains. I have beans soaking to make a bean soup for supper, I'm enjoying the quietude, and thinking about Christmas baking.  I have put away my Thanksgiving recipes and have out my folder of cookie recipes.

I am making lists of both items to bake and a companion grocery list. I like to make both sweet and savory goods and something new each year.  Last summer, while I was going through some of Mama's old recipes, I found Aunt Wanda's oatmeal cookie recipe, so that is added. I also recently discovered a recipe for peanut butter shortbread with salted chocolate, which sounds scrumptious to me, so I'll be baking those. 

To kick things off, here is a copycat recipe for the crispy and spicy Pepperidge Farms Ginger Man Cookies that I have always loved.  I found the recipe at and they really do taste like the actual cookie. 

Ginger Man Cookies
1 cup dark brown sugar - (packed)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup molasses
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Sugar crystals
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cream together the sugars, shortening, molasses, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. In another large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring while you add it.

Roll a portion of the dough out on a heavily floured surface. Roll to under 1/4-inch thick. Cut the cookies using a man-shaped cookie cutter, or any other cookie cutter shape you’ve got.

Place cookies on an oiled cookie sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Bake only one cookie sheet of cookies at a time.

This recipe yields about 3 dozen cookies.

**These cookies expand a lot, so leave plenty of room between them**

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bacon, Spinach, Pear & Blue Cheese French Bread Pizzas

I have continued with the theme of super simple suppers, not only because I cut the dickens out of my thumb, but because I've been busy getting ready for a slew of company for Thanksgiving.  Also, I've been trying to use up bits and pieces of things in the refrigerator to make room for a big food shopping day. 

These were tasty! I realize I could call them open face sandwiches, but it is more fun to call them pizza and that also makes them taste better. 

Bacon, Spinach, Pear & Blue Cheese
French Bread Pizzas
French Bread
Olive Oil
Fresh minced garlic
Red pepper flakes
Red onion slices
Crisp bacon slices
Pear slices
Blue cheese crumbled
Fresh spinach
Provolone cheese slices

Slice the French bread horizontally, then cut into approximate pizza serving sizes. Brush each piece with a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until beginning to get toasty. Top each piece with a few slices of onion, then bacon, pear, and blue cheese crumbles. Top with a big handful of fresh spinach leaves and top that with a slice or two of provolone cheese. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Homemade Poultry Seasoning + Save Big on Herbs and Spices--A RE-POST

(Originally posted 11- 3-2009)

I have never been a fan of buying commercial spice blends. You know, poultry seasoning, chili seasoning, taco seasoning, grill seasoning, apple pie spice, pumpkin pie spice, seasoned salt. There are hundreds of them; they are expensive and often contain excessive salt, starch, MSG, sugar, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. The most expensive have celebrity chefs' names, with pretty labels. (I do like Old Bay seasoning.)

Here is a good poultry seasoning, which is easily adjusted to your own tastes. It contains no salt, so you can salt separately, if desired. It is delicious in stuffing/dressing, and also good on many autumn vegetables. Needless to say it is wonderful on chicken.

Poultry Seasoning
1 Tbsp. rosemary
1 Tbsp. oregano
2 tsp. sage
1 Tbsp. ginger
1 Tbsp. marjoram
1 Tbsp. thyme
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

All spices and herbs should be dry. Grind together in a mortar and pestle, or use a spice grinder. Store in an airtight container.

A huge money saving tip: buy your herbs and spices in bulk, at the health food store. Recently, while at the grocery store, I realized I was out of cumin and needed it for a recipe that evening. Feeling too lazy to make an extra stop at the health food store, even though it is a whopping mile out of the way, I said to myself, "I'll just go ahead and get it here." When I went to the spice aisle, I was shocked to discover that a tiny bottle of cumin, .9 oz., was $4.96. Yikes!

I quickly realized a extra stop was definately worth it. I bought bulk cumin for 79 cents an ounce. I calculated that the grocery store cumin was roughly 700% more expensive than what I bought from the bulk jar. Not to mention that it was organic and non-irradiated.

It is also a good way to keep your spices fresh as you can buy only as much as you need. Plus a good way to try out new spices and recipes you may be unfamiliar with. No need to make an investment in something you are not likely to use again.

Start saving those spice bottles you already have and refill them from the bulk jars.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What We ARE NOT Eating Wednesday: Veal Kidneys Flambeed

My friend and blogging buddy, Melynda, started a really fun feature on her blog last week.  She loves old cookbooks and decided to choose an icky recipe from one to post as "What we ARE NOT eating Wednesday" each week.

Last week, she focused on a salad made with both lemon jello and baked beans.  I'm not joking. You can check it out here.  This week, she DOES NOT eat French-Style Liver.

Because I also love old recipes and old cookbooks, and I thought it was such a cute idea, I decided to join her. A while back, my husband came home with a cookbook he found at a rummage sale. It is the first volume of Gourmet Magazine cookbook, published in 1950. I chose the Veal Kidneys Flambeed because I love the copper chafing dish but the thought of eating a baby cow's kidneys makes my stomach hurt.  And it also looks pretty awful.

If you want to join in on the fun, check with Melynda at her very sweet blog, Mom's Sunday Cafe

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taco Soup

I don't want to gross you out and I'm not giving gory details, but let's just say I was in my kitchen, happily slicing potatoes with a mandolin. . . yes, you know where this is going. I sliced a little more than potato, namely my thumb. 

I knew I was going to need super simple recipes for a few days, recipes which did not involve slicing or chopping vegetables. While I really don't feel like I have cooked if I don't dice something, necessity prevails.  I saw a recipe for Taco Soup on one of the many blogs I follow, and decided to try it. 

I used a packet of taco seasoning, unheard of for me.  I even bought a package of shredded cheese, which I never use because the cheese doesn't taste as good as freshly grated.  But I did what I had to do. I didn't follow Claudia's (love the name) recipe exactly, but then I never do.  I did use a jar of my home canned summer tomatoes so  I did have at least some of my tender loving care in the soup. 

I was surprised by how tasty this was and how much I enjoyed it!

Taco Soup
1 pound ground sirloin
1 package taco seasoning
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 quart tomatoes with their juices
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup water (rinse out the tomato sauce can)

In a soup pot, brown the ground sirloin. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapeno peppers and serve with tortilla chips.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Two Pair of Pears

My husband and I just celebrated our anniversary and a funny thing happened. We bought each other the same card. While we often joke that we are two people with one brain (we read each other's mind a lot) in this case I blame it on Beatrice and Virgil, a novel by Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, one of my favorite books. I recently read Beatrice and Virgil and also listened to it on audio. One day when Pritchard Parker and I were in the car together, I played my favorite part of the book for him.  

The scene opens when Virgil expresses his desire for a pear, Beatrice reveals she has never seen a pear and asks him to describe one.  I can't quote the entire passage, but here are some juicy excerpts in Virgil's words.

"To start with, a pear has an unusual shape. It's round and fat on the bottom, but tapered on top.

It's a pale, translucent yellow, moving towards beige, but not creamy, more watery, approaching the visual texture of a watercolour wash.

A ripe pear bruises easily, so it must be handled with care.

The pear is characterized by a thin roughness, delicate and interesting to the touch.

The skin of a pear is soft and yielding when ripe.

A ripe pear breathes a fragrance that is watery and subtle, its power lying in the lightness of its impression upon the olfactory sense.

The mind is arrested, spellbound, and a thousand and one memories and associations are thrown up as the mind burrows deep to understand the allure of the beguiling smell.

A pear overflows with sweet juiciness.

Slice a pear and you will find that its flesh is incandescent white. It glows with inner light. Those who carry a knife and a pear are never afraid of the dark.

The texture of a pear is a difficult matter to put into words. Some pears are a little crunchy. Not at all like an apple! An apple is not eaten, it is conquered. The crunchiness of a pear is far more appealing. It is giving and fragile. To eat a pear is akin to kissing.

The flesh of a pear can be slightly gritty. And yet it melts in the mouth.

The taste of a good pear is such that when you eat one, when your teeth sink into the bliss of one, it becomes a wholly engrossing activity. You want to do nothing else but eat your pear.  You would rather sit than stand. You would rather be alone than in company. You would rather have silence than music. All your senses but taste fall inactive.  You see nothing, you hear nothing, you feel nothing--or only as it helps you to appreciate the divine taste of your pear.

And if I had one, I would give it to you."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Loaded Baked Potatoes (as a Meal)

A loaded baked potato can be a meal in itself, and Pritchard Parker said that is what sounded really good to him. 

Almost anything can be used to top a baked potato--if you serve it beside a baked potato, you can serve it on top.  Some things I have used are leftover chili with cheese, leftover roast beef and gravy, scrambled eggs, with sauteed green peppers, onions, and salsa.  Taco toppings work really well. For a casual meal for family or friends, it is fun to set out a variety of toppings and let everyone fix their own potato.

Most produce departments have loose "Baking Potatoes", which are Russet potatoes, graded to be a consistent size and shape.  I start with those but any potato will work.

Loaded Baked Potatoes
One baked potato per person
Streamed fresh broccoli
Sauteed fresh mushrooms
Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
Crisp bacon, broken into bite size pieces
Sour cream
Chopped scallions

Scrub potatoes very well and inspect carefully for any discolorations, blemishes, or sprouts, and trim away as necessary.  Dry them thoroughly.  Coat the outside of each potato lightly with vegetable oil and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for approximately 1 hour, until the skin is crispy and the potato is tender.

To serve, pierce the potato in a dotted line from end to end, with a fork.  Crack the potato open by pushing the ends toward the center.  Dress each potato with desired amounts of toppings. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Orange Kiss-Me Cake

Here is another recipe I borrowed, last summer, from my Mother's collection

I have always loved her pretty handwriting. Here she has titled the dessert, "Orange Kiss Me Kate", marking over the "C" she had previously written.  I can just see her, sitting at the kitchen table, on the phone, with a sheet of notebook paper, taking down the recipe.  The recipe giver probably made sure to emphasize the "Kate", not "Cake".

When I decided I wanted to make it, I needed to clarify a couple of things. Mama wrote in her instructions, "Grease pan", but not what kind of pan.  When I asked her, she said she thinks she made it in a tube pan.  On further consideration, I was puzzled about the part of drizzling the topping on the warm cake.  Did you top the cake while it was still in the tube pan? What kept the topping from falling off when removed from the pan? Or should you take it out of the pan first? Immediately, or wait for. . .5 minutes? 10 minutes? 

I did a research about this cake and found out some interesting things. First of all the title is Orange Kiss-Me Cake (not Kate) and it was the winner of the 2nd Pillsbury Bake Off, in the year 1950.  And it was made as a sheet cake.  I saw some slight variations on the cake, but decided to stick with Mama's, with the exception of using butter rather than shortening.

Orange Kiss-Me Cake
6 oz. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed, divided
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. cinnamon

Grease and flour a 13 x 9 inch baking pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together the topping ingredients and set aside.

Combine 1/2 of the orange juice concentrate with remaining ingredients in a large bowl.  Beat at low speed of an electric mixer for about 30 seconds.  Beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Drizzle remaining orange juice concentrate over the warm cake and sprinkle on the topping.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rich and Hearty Beef Stew

Well, we had our first cold weather--down to 25 degrees.  It will get colder, but I always find the first cold days rather shocking until I get used to them.  I don't mind winter, and love certain aspects of it.  For example, I get to wear my favorite garment, the sweater, all the time.  I love snuggling under warm blankets.  And I really enjoy cooking hearty soups and stews, which can simmer all afternoon, to develop rich flavor, and keep the kitchen warm.  And baking, ooh-la-la, I love running my oven. 

Because I knew I would be simmering this stew for a few hours, I did not find it necessary to use beef stock for cooking.  The beef itself makes plenty of its own stock. But I did use coffee, which is a tip I learned from my Mother, and she learned from her Mother, from making the ubiquitous Southern Red Eye Gravy.  Although you don't really taste coffee in the end, it does add richness to the sauce, and more importantly, it helps tenderize the meat. 

The vegetables I added in the beginning mostly melted away and helped make a delicious gravy for the baby potatoes and mushrooms I added toward the end.  Once the potatoes were tender, I found myself staring into the pan and wondering what I would use to to thicken the sauce.  I thought about using flour or cornstarch but didn't like that idea. I also contemplated adding some dumplings to that delicious smelling, simmering broth.  In the end, I just keep simmering, uncovered, until it was thickened.  We were both very happy with the way this tasted. 

Rich and Hearty Beef Stew
2 lbs. stew beef
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. each, salt, pepper, and paprika
2 Tbsp. bacon fat, or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 15 oz. can tomatoes, with their juice
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 cup strong, brewed coffee
Several stems fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 lbs. tiny Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed very well
6 oz. tiny white mushrooms, cleaned and inspected

Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika; coat the beef very well, all over, with the mixture. Heat the bacon fat, in a large soup pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat.  Add the beef and cook until well browned.  Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and stir well.  Add the tomatoes with their juice. Stir in the soy sauce and coffee. Add enough water to barely cover all the ingredients in the pan, reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the beef is very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the thyme stems and bay leaves and add more salt and pepper to taste. Drop the potatoes and mushrooms into the simmering stew, cover and continue to cook, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook the stew until it is reduced to desired consistency. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mexican Egg Rolls

I was lying back in the dental chair at 8:30 in the morning, and while my hygienist scraped at my teeth, I thought about food.  Specifically, what I would make for supper.  Because of my husband's schedule this day, I was thinking along the lines of a nice sandwich or maybe pizza.

Quesadillas occurred to me and I contemplated that for a while, scrape, scrape, for instance, what kind of quesadilla and did I want to grill them, cook them in a frypan, bake them, stack them? Pick, pick, scrape.  As I imagined this dish further, a reality struck. I don't really enjoy flour tortillas.  I like corn tortillas.  So I flipped to enchiladas in my mind, but no, once again, because of scheduling, I needed something that didn't necessarily need to be served piping hot. 

I think it was when the dental hygienist shined that light (you know the one I'm talking about) right in my eyes, that I thought about egg roll wrappers and decided to make Mexican egg rolls.  Or perhaps I should call them mini-chimichangas. 

For more about using egg roll wrappers, click here.  And I have also used them for dessert.  Now I'm thinking about using them for a "breakfast burrito". 

Mexican Egg Rolls
1 lb. ground chuck
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, chopped, seeds removed if desired
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 oz.) can refried beans
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
8 oz. grated pepper jack cheese
1 pkg. (20) egg roll wrappers
1 egg, beaten with a little water

In a large skillet, cook ground chuck over medium heat until no longer pink.  Drain off any excess fat.  Stir in onions, garlic, peppers, tomato paste, water, chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper.  Simmer at medium low heat, until vegetables are tender and water has cooked off. 

Spread about a tablespoon of beans onto the center of each egg roll wrapper. Top with a couple tablespoons of the meat mixture, then some cheese, and a few diced tomatoes.  Roll up like a little envelope, using a little of the egg wash to seal them.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush all over with egg wash.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown. 

Serve with salsa and sour cream.  I wanted to also include guacamole, but I did not plan ahead and all the avocados at the store were rock hard.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nutritional Yeast (A Couple of Recipes Will Follow Immediately)

Nutritional yeast is a product and ingredient I came to know and love, around 20 years ago, when I was a vegetarian.  Though I am no longer  vegetarian, I still regularly enjoy cooking, serving, and eating vegetarian dishes I learned long ago. 

Nutritional yeast (not to be mistaken for baking yeast or brewing yeast) has long been recognized as an excellent source of nutrition, containing 18 amino acids, making it a complete protein, as well as 15 different minerals.  Nutritional yeast is also a rich source of B-complex vitamins, which among other great benefits, helps regulate mood.  

Did I mention that it is delicious?  It can be used in a variety of ways, adding a nutty, cheesy flavor to soups, salads, popcorn, toast, sprinkled on spaghetti in place of cheese, added to tomato juice for a quick pick-up, added to soups for a creamy taste and texture, in place of dairy.   

Stay tuned. . .

Oven Fried Tofu

Whenever I have been eating a lot of rich food, most specifically meat, I inevitably find myself desiring this simple and healthful meal.  My husband will also request it from time to time when he is feeling the need for some super nutrition. 

This is my favorite way to use nutritional yeast. If you are prejudiced about tofu, there is nothing I can say to change or open your mind so I won't bother.  But if you enjoy tofu, or are curious about ways to use tofu, may I invite you to try this? 

Any of your favorite herbs and spices can be used here with good results.  Garlic and onion powder are good, chili powder and cumin are good, any herbs I've ever used taste great.  This time I simply used parsley. 

Oven Fried Tofu
1 14-oz. block of extra firm tofu
2 - 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or Tamari
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp. parsley
Canola oil

Drain the tofu, pat dry, and slice into 6 slices.  Put into a shallow dish in a single layer.  Drizzle with soy sauce and allow to marinate for about 10 minutes. Turn, and continue marinating, adding more soy sauce if needed, and marinate for another 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, mix together the nutritional yeast and parsley, or other seasonings of your choice, in another shallow dish.  Dredge the tofu slices and cover on all sides with the yeast mixture.  Place on a well-oiled, rimmed sheet pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  Turn the tofu slices, rotate the pan, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and crunchy on the outside.

Serve with brown rice sprinkled with Gomasio, and braised, steamed, or stir fried fresh vegetables.

Dare I say it tastes like chicken?

Nutritional Spread

Another delicious way to use nutritional yeast is this spread.  It looks like peanut butter but tastes more like cheese.  Use it on crackers, toast, or on a sandwich topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, and avocado. Make a "grilled cheese".  Wonderful with raw carrot and celery sticks.  It really is surprisingly yummy!

Nutritional Spread
2 cups nutritional yeast
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water

Mix together the yeast and oil; blend well, then add the soy sauce and mix until smooth.  Add the water, a little at a time, stirring after each addition.  Don't be discouraged if the mixture doesn't seem to be coming together, just keep stirring until it is a spreadable consistency.  Store in the refrigerator.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Root Vegetables with a Pot Roast

Onion, Turnips, Celeriac, Carrots, Parsnips, and Rutabaga

Root vegetables are not the most beautiful of vegetables, but I love their earthy, sweet flavor, and their health giving qualities. 

Rutabagas, turnips, parsnips, celeriac, and carrots are all excellent sources of potassium (proven to help regulate blood pressure) and good sources of vitamin C, magnesium, and folic acid.  Additionally, carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A.  Onions have been credited with so many medicinal qualities they could be called a panacea.

Root Vegetables with a Pot Roast
1 (approx.) 3 lb. pot roast
Salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 cups brewed strong coffee
1 1/2 cups water
Several stems fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 large rutabaga, peeled and sliced into "french fries"
2 medium turnips, scrubbed and diced
3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 small celeriac, peeled and sliced

Heat the oil in a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the pot roast on all sides.  Place the roast into the hot pan; sear and brown on all sides.  Once the roast is thoroughly browned, remove from heat for a few minutes.  Add the hot coffee and the water, along with the thyme and bay leaves.  Return to heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the roast is very tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove the roast to a platter and keep warm.  Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves, and add the prepared vegetables to the simmering stock.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, covered for about 20 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  Arrange the vegetables around the roast.  Serve with french bread and the au jus.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Don't Forget to Vote

We have early voting in our state, which makes voting very convenient.  No excuse not to.  Please vote--it is your right, your privilege, and your duty.

Crockpot Brunswick Stew

I really enjoy using my crockpot when I know I will be otherwise occupied and not able to cook dinner.  Where some may resort to fast food or frozen dinners, I always prefer homemade food, though using the crockpot does require some advance planning.  The crockpot is ideal for meats and stews, which require long cooking times anyway.  Like this Brunswick Stew.

For those not familiar, Brunswick Stew is a Southern thing. Both Brunswick County, Virginia and Brunswick, Georgia claim this well-loved stew as their own. Both State Legislatures have issued proclamations claiming to be the rightful birthplace of the dish.

There have been many good natured "stew wars", but most agree on a couple of points. The stew should be very thick and should have a good kick of heat. Virginia stew leans more toward chicken, while Georgia stew is more pork based, associated with barbecue, and presided over by pit-masters. (Historically, game was used--squirrel, rabbit, venison, etc.)

Here, I have used both chicken and pork, along with bacon for a smoky element.

Crockpot Brunswick Stew
4 slices bacon
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 lb. boneless pork ribs
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. potatoes, sliced or diced
1 pkg. frozen cream style corn, thawed
1 pkg. frozen butter beans, thawed
1 quart tomatoes and their juice
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
Several squirts Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Build layers, in the crockpot, first the bacon then the chicken. Top with onions, celery, carrots, and garlic. Add a layer of the potatoes, then salt and pepper heavily. Add the corn and then the butter beans. Sprinkle oregano and sage over the beans.  Add the tomatoes, Tabasco, Worchestershire, and mustard. Top with the pork and cover each piece with BBQ sauce.

No need to stir at this point. Put on the lid and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce to low and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir all together, breaking apart and shredding the meat. Adjust seasonings.

Serve with saltine crackers or hushpuppies, along with hot coffee, iced tea, or cold beer.  And don't forget to pass the hot sauce!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cream Cheese (Candy Roaster) Squash Bread with Toasted Pecans

 This was originally a Southern Living recipe for Banana Bread.  I had made several Candy Roaster Squash pies, had some leftover puree, froze some for later, and decided to use the balance for bread.  Originally, I had in mind using the flavors of orange and fresh ginger.  After looking at a number of Squash Bread and Pumpkin Bread recipes, nothing was really ringing my chimes.  Then I remembered the banana bread recipe my husband loves so much, which is flavored with cream cheese and toasted pecans.

Don't skip toasting your pecans because it really does add another level of delicious flavor and aroma to the bread. Some people toast their nuts in the oven.  I toast mine in a skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally. Pull the nuts from the heat as soon as you smell them because once they become fragrant, they will burn very quickly.

Also, I did use a Candy Roaster squash, but acorn, butternut, pumpkin, or any other winter squash should work just fine.

Cream Cheese (Candy Roaster) Squash Bread with Toasted Pecans
3/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups squash puree
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8x4 inch loaf pans.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating  just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in squash puree, pecans, and vanilla.  Spoon in prepared pans. 

Bake for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan.  Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

And here are some other interesting and pretty squashes, pumpkins, and gourds I saw on my trip to the Farmers Market to find a Candy Roaster Squash.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Several years ago, I heard Barbara Walters speak of her Mother's stuffed cabbage rolls. She spoke so lovingly and longingly, I wanted to cook them for her. I told my family for years I was going to invite Barbara Walters to Thanksgiving dinner.  Alas, I never did, because I didn't want to risk rejection.  Of course, it is not too late.

I did a search for the recipe and found it, as described by Ms. Walters, at Cooks. com.  Now I can't absolutely guarantee, that this is THE recipe, but I have made this several times and can tell you that it is excellent.

Barbara Walters' Mother's Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
3 lb. lean ground chuck
2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 c. catsup
2 eggs
1/2 c. crushed unsalted crackers
2 heads (2 lb. size) green cabbage
6 qts. boiling water
3 c. chopped onion
2 bottles (12 oz. size) chili sauce (2 c.)
1 jar (12 oz.) grape jelly (1 c.)

In large bowl, combine chuck, salt, pepper, celery salt, catsup, eggs and crushed crackers. Mix with hands just until mixture is well combined.

Cut out and discard hard center core of cabbage. Place cabbage in large kettle. Pour boiling water over it; let stand until leaves are flexible and can be removed easily from the head, about 5 minutes. (If necessary, return cabbage to hot water to soften inner leaves.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop up a scant 1/4 cup meat mixture. With hands, form into rolls, 3 inches long and 1 inch wide, making about 28 rolls in all.

Place each meat roll on a drained cabbage leaf; fold top of leaf over meat, then fold sides and roll up into an oblong. Continue rolling remaining meat rolls and cabbage leaves.

In bottom of lightly greased 12 x 11 1/2 x 2 1/4 inch roasting pan, spread chopped onion evenly. Arrange cabbage rolls in neat rows on top of onion.

In 2 quart saucepan, combine chili sauce and grape jelly with 1/4 cup water; heat over medium heat, stirring to melt jelly. Pour over cabbage rolls.

Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 2 hours. Remove foil; brush rolls with sauce; bake, uncovered, 40 minutes longer or until sauce is thick and syrupy and cabbage rolls are glazed. Serve with sauce spooned over rolls. Makes 28 cabbage rolls, 14 servings.