Friday, April 26, 2013

Southern Corn Pudding

I'll tell you a little secret about Pritchard Parker: He loves to shop. I loathe it. I like to go to the grocery store, otherwise, count me out. Browsing in stores is not my idea of a good time, so he goes without me and avoids my complaining.  He loves to shop in thrift stores--please, don't even ask me to enter one of those. And pawing through someone else's discards at a yard sale? No thanks, I'll just sit in the car and listen to the voices in my head. Wal*Mart = HELL.

Lucky for me though. He buys almost all my clothes and is constantly bringing me little surprises in the form of gadgets for the kitchen, pretty dishes and linens, cookbooks. Just yesterday, he came home with a beautiful red silk blouse for me.

He recently brought home one of those fund-raiser cookbooks we all love. Even though he got it at a thrift store, it was "brand new" and still wrapped in cellophane. I decided to visit the Business and Professional Women of Alabama (my home state) in the year 1989 through their recipes.

Wait till you see the cake I made from this book. The one with a very catchy name.

Corn Pudding
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can cream corn
1 stick melted butter
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. red pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix all ingredients except the cheese. Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish or pan. Cover tightly and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, top with the cheese and continue baking, uncovered, for 15 more minutes, until done.

The irony here is that the only food my husband will not eat is corn. But don't worry, I made some of his favorites to enjoy while I ate my corn.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Homemade Butter

Homemade butter is very easy to make and results in a lower moisture, creamier textured butter which resembles European style butter.
Start with the best quality heavy cream (36% - 40% butterfat) which is pasteurized but not "ultra-pasteurized". Whipping cream (30% butterfat) will result in butter but won't be as creamy. Ultra-pasteurization provides a longer shelf life but regular pasteurization tastes fresher. 

While there are many ways to churn butter, I opted for ye old-tyme electric mixer method. Place 16 ounces of cream into a deep bowl and start beating. First, it will become whipped cream, but keep beating. Add a pinch of salt, if desired.

If your mixer comes with a spatter guard, use it. If not, drape a kitchen towel around the bowl. Once the butter starts forming, it will start splashing madly. I am NOT exaggerating here. Once the butter has completely separated from the liquid and formed into a mass, you are finished beating. Strain the butter and pack it into a crock (aka ramekin) or other container.

The liquid that separates out from the butter is buttermilk. Save it for baking. I poured mine back into the cream carton, labeled and dated it.

From my pint of heavy cream, I yielded about 8 ounces each butter and buttermilk.

Enjoy at the table.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie

This smoothie seemed a little decadent, but no worries. It is plenty healthful.

I have used silken tofu here, not the firm, curdy type you are probably thinking of. Silken tofu usually comes in an aseptic package on a grocery aisle rather than in the produce department. Silken tofu has a smooth, creamy, custard-like texture and a very mild flavor. I promise that with the other stronger flavors, you would never, ever guess there was tofu present. But you would enjoy the health benefits of the soy bean along with a truly smooth creaminess.  And it actually does taste like a liquid peanut butter cup. Yum.

Peanut Butter Cup Smoothie
(A Deborah Madison Recipe)
1 1/2 cups soy milk
1/2 cup silken tofu
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp. honey
1 banana
2 Tbsp. dark chocolate syrup
1-2 tsp. instant espresso powder

Puree all ingredients in blender until smooth, scraping down the sides once or twice.

~I just noticed that the recipe says  to serve in small glasses--4 servings. Oops. I already drank the whole thing.~

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baked Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese

I was in the mood for something cheesy for dinner and what is cheesier than macaroni and cheese? I was also feeling a little lazy and didn't want to bother with making a white sauce. This dish
was so easy to make and it turned out to be very delicious.

I don't have many kitchen appliances. I don't like them. I like to cook, not operate machines. I don't like the noise, they take up counter space, and they are ugly. The few I do have stay put away and I typically avoid making things that need them. I'm too lazy to get them out, clean them afterwards, then put them back away.  Too much trouble.

But since I have been drinking smoothies everyday, my blender has taken up semi-permanent residence out in the open and on the ready.  Since it was sitting there looking at me, I decided to employ it to make an easy cheese sauce.

As I plundered around the kitchen, this is what I came up with, based on my current inventory. Alice asked what made me think of using a sweet potato. Well, I'm always looking to boost the nutritional profile of foods I cook, and I had a leftover baked one on hand.

Baked Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese
8 oz. macaroni, cooked and drained
1 sweet potato, baked until tender
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided
2-3 Tbsp. sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 egg (next time I'll use 2)
1-12 ounce can evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Butter or spray a 2 quart baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook macaroni to desired tenderness, drain and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in blender, reserving a handful of cheese for the top, and blend until completely smooth.

Put 1/2 the macaroni into the prepared casserole dish; pour over half the sauce. Repeat layers and top with reserved cheese.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and cook for 10 more minutes, until puffed, bubbly, and beginning to brown around the edges.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chicken and Dumplings

I don't believe chicken and dumplings is a dish associated with Easter but for some reason that is what I wanted. It turned out to be a really good thing and perfect for the rainy and very cool (cold!) spring day.

Other than the cooking of the actual chicken, this is essentially the recipe of Chef Tyler Florence. Chef went to great pains to make a roasted chicken, then he picked the meat off the bones, discarding the skin, and reserved the bones to make chicken stock. While I'm sure his roasted chicken made a beautiful presentation on TV, it didn't make sense to me. If he was going to discard the skin anyway, why bother with the roasting step? And making the stock in a separate step seemed like nothing more than a waste of time.

Since I was not presenting my chicken on TV or even outside my kitchen, I went with poaching. While poaching does not result in a glamorous bird, it does serve the dual purpose of cooking the chicken and making the broth in the same step. Poaching also creates chicken meat which is not only extremely flavorful, but also has a very tender, almost velvety texture.

I did make Chef Florence's Supreme Sauce which was heavenly and his Dumplings which were light and fluffy and acted like little sponges, sucking up the delicious sauce. 

Poached Chicken
1 3-pound whole chicken
2 carrots, cut into large chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
1 onion, peeled and quartered
Several whole peeled garlic cloves, to taste
Several whole peppercorns, to taste
Several stems fresh parsley
Several stems fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. salt

Place vegetables, herbs and spices into bottom of a large stock pot. Place cleaned chicken on top. Add water, to the top of the chicken. Put the pan over medium and bring to a slow simmer. Do not boil the chicken or it will be tough. Lower heat and cook the chicken, covered, at a bare simmer for 2 hours.

Remove the chicken from the broth and when cool enough to handle, shred the meat, discarding the skin and bones.

Strain the broth.

Supreme Sauce
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. oil
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
8 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat oil and butter in a large Dutch oven. Add carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Saute until the vegetables are soft. Stir in the flour. Continue to stir and cook for about 2 minutes to coat the vegetables with the flour. Slowly pour in the chicken stock, a cup or so at a time, stirring well after each addition.

Let sauce simmer until it is thickened, about 15 minutes. Stir in heavy cream. Fold in the chicken meat and bring the mixture up to a simmer.  Using 2 spoons, carefully drop heaping tablespoons of the dumpling batter into the hot mixture. Let the dumplings poach for 10 to 15 minutes until they are firm and puffy.

Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Lightly beat the eggs and milk together. Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and gently fold. Mix just until the dough comes together.