Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Ham

There are so many things that take your time and attention during the holidays, why make things harder than they have to be?

This ham is the easiest and simplest thing you could possibly ask for.

One whole ham
2 Cups Sorghum Molasses
2 Cups Brown Sugar
1 Large Reynolds Baking Bag
2 Cups Water

Like I said, it doesn't get any easier than this! Unwrap your ham and place it in the baking bag then center in a large baking dish. Pour 1 cup molasses over the top of the ham. Prick the ham with a steak knife to allow the molasses to soak into the ham. Flip ham over and repeat with remaining molasses. Prick the bottom of the ham to let molasses soak in. Cover bottom of ham with 1 cup brown sugar, flip and cover the top with the remaining cup of sugar. Pour 2 cups of warm water in the bottom of the baking bag. (Don't pour over your ham - you don't want to wash off all that sugary goodness.) Seal and bake at 350 degrees for one hour - reduce heat to 250 degrees and cook for an additional hour. Let set for at least 30 minutes after removing from oven.

Save the juices to baste slices's what gives this ham it's wonderful sugary flavor!

Slice with an electric knife and seal in large zip lock bags. You can make this well in advance and serve with croissants for a quick breakfast, add mashed potatoes and veggies for a nice dinner, put it on bread for a lunch on the run, throw it on a salad or use the very last of it in bean soup! Anything you do with this ham will be WONDERFUL! I Promise! Merry Christmas and Enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tennessee Jam Cake

This was my Mama's "fancy" cake that she made when she wanted to have something a little extra special for guests. Truth be told, it's the simplest cake ever and you can change it up with different jams and fruit to keep it seasonal!

Mama worked full time and also ran a very busy household and kept Daddy's farm records so she didn't spend a lot of time trying to "re-invent the wheel". For all of you traditional bakers about to grab your flour sifters....brace yourselves!

2 boxes of white cake mix
8 eggs
1 cup oil
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup jam
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Bakers Joy cooking spray
Fresh Fruit

I always buy the best cake mix I can get my hands on. Cheap cake mix tastes like ... cheap cake! Add 8 whole eggs, oil and 2 cups of water. Mix well with blender starting on slow and then graduating to a medium high speed while scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the mix. If your batter is too thick, add a bit more oil and a little more of the water. Be careful not to over thin your batter - you want it to be on the thick side. Spray cake pans (I always use 3) liberally with baking spray and bake in a pre-heated 350* oven for 25-30 minutes until cooked thru the center completely.

Let cake cool completely....and I do mean completely! It usually takes a couple of hours on a cooling rack so plan ahead and use this time to get other things done!

Flip first layer onto serving dish. Use a metal skewer, a knife point or even the end of a fork to poke small random holes in the cake. Open sweetened condensed milk and sparingly drizzle 1-2 tsp over the first layer. Brush this around the layer and allow it a few minutes to soak in. Add 2 TBLSP jam (I like Strawberry the best) and spread it to the edge of the layer but not over the edge. Slice fruit (again, I like to use Strawberries) and place thin slices on top the jam.

Add the second layer and repeat the skewer and glazing with the sweetened condensed milk process. Repeat the jam spread and sliced fruit layering.

Top with third layer. Press layers firmly together. Pierce this layer with tiny pricks as you don't want holes to be visible (I like to use a corn on the cob holder as it makes the tiniest holes) then drizzle with remaining sweetened condensed milk. Cook cake in fridge to set (see below).

This cake may tend to shift so you might want to chill it in the fridge to help set your layers as you build it. About 20 minutes per layer should set it nicely.

Garnish with fruit and let sit out of the fridge for a couple of hours to come up to room temperature prior to serving. Left over cake (RIGHT, like there is any of this ever left over!) should be refrigerated.

As with any recipe, this is just a guide. You can take your own liberties with it and change it up. Use two complimentary jams....change up the fruits to keep it seasonal. Today I frosted it instead of topping with sweetened condensed milk. I have a Bride and I needed something more formal! Get Fancy and Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Standards

I had a lovely young lady come up to me today and ask where to begin on her first Thanksgiving side dishes. These are three basics to get you off on the right track if you've never ventured down this road before. Don't stress out, just stay calm and don't let anybody leave hungry!

Green Bean Casserole

I truly believe this is the house dish of the South!

1 Quart of Green Beans = 3 cans of store bought if you don't have home canned beans. I prefer whole or cut beans instead of the french cut. I'm a country gal...just sayin'...
1-2* Can Cream of Chicken (or Cream of Mushroom) soup - *depends on how creamy you like your casserole
1 Can French Fried Onions (large or small, depending on how "oniony" you like things)
Salt and Pepper

Drain beans completely, salt and pepper to taste. Combine with soup (undiluted). I like to use a large container of onions with about a can and a half of soup. I mix half my onions in the soup and bean mixture. I top with the remaining onions and bake at 350* oven for 30 minutes.

Now these instructions may seem less than scientific but it's cooking people, not rocket science. I know that this is a really basic dish but a gal's gotta start somewhere now doesn't she!

Mashed Potatoes

I remember calling home from college asking my Mama how to make mashed potatoes. It was a long distance call and she hung up on me promptly. I called my Grandmother and she knew it was a "toll" call so she talked to fast I had NO IDEA what she said. Somewhere over the years, I figured it out. Just remember, this is a good recipe meant to be enjoyed...your physician may or may not approve of my methods but he or she will sure enjoy your mashed potatoes!

5 lbs Russet Potatoes (feeds 4-6 hearty eaters) peel, rinse and quarter
2 sticks butter
1/3 cup evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste

Peel, rinse and quarter potatoes. Try to keep the chunks to all about the same size for equal cooking time. Boil in a large pot of lightly salted (1/2 a teaspoon or so) of boiling water until each potato section is cooked completely. Drain and add butter and evaporated milk, salt and pepper to taste.

NOW - I prefer the traditional potato masher - that old fashioned thing that leaves a few lumps here and there. Some may prefer to whip these with a hand mixer or a blender. That's fine if you want whipped potatoes but this Whitlock, TN lady likes a few lumps so I am a hand masher. You do what you want. Serve within a half hour of making and it's wonderful! We'll talk about left overs later on!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Yankees call these yams but we all know they are really Sweet Potatoes!

6 good size sweet potatoes (1/2 potato per person to be served)
1 stick butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup evaporated milk (possibly less depending on consistency of mixture)
1 cup sliced pecans
additional 1/4 cup brown sugar for topping

Peel and bake potatoes until completely cooked. Cook 40 Minutes @ 400* in a conventional oven or 20 minutes inthe mocrowave. You can quarter and bake them in the oven or in the microwave. Mash and combine with butter and evaporated milk to desired consistency (do not let them get runny, control this by reducing the milk if necessary). Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with potato mixture.

Top with sliced pecans and brown sugar. You can get extra devilish and drizzle the whole thing with more melted butter (but only if you dare)!!!

Some prefer to top this with marshmallows and brown them under the broiler. I will ALWAYS remember this as the "timer" of the smoke alarm going off at my in-laws house...a sure signal that dinner was ready!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NASCAR Nibbles

It's the final weekend for NASCAR (HALLELUJAH!)so we might as well make for a day of grazing to let the hubs enjoy it to the fullest!

Southwest Potato Skins
2 medium russet potatoes
non-stick cooking spray
salt and pepper
3/4 cup salsa
1 cup crumbled corn chips
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbl chopped jalapeno peppers
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbl chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and set it aside.
Prick the surface of the potatoes several times with a fork. Microwave the potatoes on high until they are completely cooked through, about 12 minutes, turning them halfway through. Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them.

Cut each potato in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scoop out and discard (or reserve for another use) the flesh of the potatoes, leaving a very thin wall of flesh -- less than 1/4 inch thick -- attached to the skin. Put the potato shells on the prepared baking sheet, hollowed side up. Spray them inside and out with cooking spray, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake the potato shells until they are golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 10 minutes. If the bottoms of the shells start to brown too much, flip the shells over and continue baking.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of salsa into each shell. Scatter the crumbled chips over the salsa. Toss the cheese and jalapeno together in a small bowl and top the chips with the cheese mix. Bake until the cheese is bubbly, about 8 minutes.

Serve the potatoes topped with dollops of sour cream and the remaining salsa and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Bar-B-Que Bleu Cheese Sliders

1 lb ground chuck
3/4 cup Bar-B-Que Sauce
4 oz bleu cheese crumbles
salt and pepper

Season your beef and separate into 2 inch balls. Insert a few bleu cheese crumbles into the center of the beef ball then flatten it to form a small patty. Grill until at least medium well then baste with Bar-B-Que Sauce and let the sliders sit for 10minutes in a warm grill (or oven) but not over direct heat. This time allows the sauce flavors to blend with the burger. Dress your sliders with tomato, lettuce and pickle. Serve on Hawaiian Rolls.

I know this sounds to simple but it's the combination of the tangy of the Bar-B-
Que sauce, the tart of the bleu cheese, and the sweet of the Hawaiian rolls that makes this so tasty!

Pepperoni Cheese Dip

8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup finely shredded Italian five cheese blend
1/2 cup chopped pepperoni
1/3 cup chopped red peppers
1/3 cup chopped green peppers
RITZ Crackers

HEAT oven to 350ºF. Mix cream cheese and pizza sauce until well blended; spread onto bottom of 9-inch pie plate. Top with peppers, pepperoni and cheese. Bake 18 to 20 min. or until dip is heated through and shredded cheese is melted. Serve with crackers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cheers To Fall

Refreshments for the over and under 21 crowd.

Hot Apple Pie Cocktail
This is so delicious it begs to be drunk often and makes a perfect fall cocktail. Tuaca is an Italian liqueur with deep roots and a wonderful citrus and vanilla hint and, when combined with hot apple cider, it is extremely comforting and soothing.

2 oz Tuaca
hot apple cider
whipped cream
cinnamon stick for garnish

Pour the Tuaca in an Irish coffee glass.
Fill with hot apple cider.
Top with whipped cream.

Garnish with a cinnamon stick. Except for the ice cream (which you could serve along side this drink for a dessert pairing), this cocktail does a fair job of replicating the taste of apple crisp in a glass. The Apple Crisp cocktail is one that uses cake-flavored vodka quite well without coming across as an overly sweet drink. It features UV Cake mixed with Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky and is accented with maple syrup and apples. The result is a spicy, sweet dessert cocktail that is balanced and ideal an ideal comfort cocktail for those chilly autumn days.


The Calabatini is an excellent tequila-based Pumpkin Martini. The name is derived from the Spanish word for pumpkin, calabaza. This pumpkin cocktail is considerably creamier than many of the others and makes an excellent autumnal dessert drink, especially after that giant Thanksgiving dinner with family.

1 1/2 oz Herradura Reposado Tequila
1/2 oz Monin Pumpkin Spice Syrup
3 oz half-and-half
cinnamon for garnish

Add ice to cocktail shaker and the ingredients in the order listed above.
Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with cinnamon.

Cardinal Punch (non alcoholic)

Cardinal Punch is an easy, fruit-filled punch that is great when hosting any type of party, especially outdoor events in the spring and summer. You can keep the same ratio of ingredients and adapt this recipe to fill a punch bowl. I also like to keep a pitcher of the juice mix stored in the refrigerator. It's more complex than the straight bottled juices and, with a bottle of ginger ale on hand, can be transformed into this refreshing mocktail.

2 oz cranberry juice
2 oz Ginger ale
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz orange juice
lemon and orange slices for garnish

Pour the juices into a collins glass half filled with ice cubes.
Top with the ginger ale.
Garnish with orange and lemon slices.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween Treaties!

The simplest things can make Halloween Treats so special for the little goblins in your life!

Moon Pie Pops

Just take your store bought Moon Pies and embellish them with sprinkles, candy or cake decorations. Use melted chocolate as "glue" and you're almost done. Wrap with cellophane - add a ribbon and voila'!

Melt chocolate chips by adding 1 tsp cooking oil per 1/2 bag of chips. Microwave 30 seconds, stir, repeat. Don't over cook the chocolate. If two cycles of stirring does not melt your chips, give it another 10 seconds and stir again. Add to a zip lock bag. Cut off the corner tip and you can pipe it onto the moon pies. Let decorations set completely before wrapping.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crock Pot Soups!

Hoppin' John Soup
A local restaurant serves this daily and I just can't get enough of it!

1 lb browned country sausage
1 pkg of black eye peas (soaked) or 4 cans of shelf canned black eye peas
4 cups white rice (prepared) any rice or combo you choose will be fine
1/2 medium onion chopped and sauteed(or a healthy dash of onion flakes is fine too)
1/2 cup sauteed finely chopped celery (optional)
1 teaspoon Greek Seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Mix browned, drained sausage with white rice, sauteed veggies and seasonings, cover with water and cook on low for 4 hours. You will need to adjust Greek Seasoning, salt and pepper to your taste.

Fantastic with Tabasco sauce and fresh bread!!! Makes great left overs for lunches too!

Chicken Noodle

Does ANYTHING say comfort more than chicken noodle soup? NO! This is so simple and can be ready in less than an hour but I prefer to let it simmer about 60 minutes to let the flavors really intensify.

2 cans chopped chicken (or you can chop a deli prepared chicken or bake the thing yourself - no skin)
1 package wide egg noodles
2 cans diced or crinkle cut carrots (crinkle cut presents so much prettier but little guys like diced)
1/2 sleeve of celery, diced fine and sauteed until tender.
2 boxes of chicken stock (any variety is fine)

Prepare noodles as directed and rinse with cold water to stop the starches from making your noodles sticky when done. Drain and add to chicken, carrots, celery and chicken stock. Cover and cook on high for an hour...serve with saltines (of course).

This is hard to freeze as that pasta doesn't always come back as fresh from the freezer...but you'll rarely have left overs so it's no worry!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breakfast Bakes

Bacon Crouton Breakfast Bake
4-1/2 cups seasoned croutons
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 jar (4-1/2 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained (may omit)
8 eggs
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon pepper
8 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled

Sprinkle the croutons, cheese, onion, peppers and mushrooms into two greased 8-in. square baking dishes. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, salt, mustard and pepper. Slowly pour over vegetables. Sprinkle with bacon.

Cover and freeze one casserole for up to 3 months. Bake the second casserole, uncovered, at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

To use frozen casserole: Completely thaw in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 50-60 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Yield: 2 casseroles (6-8 servings each).

I leave out the mushrooms but you can adjust veggies to suit.

Ham and Cheese Braid
1/2 cup milk
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
8 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
2 (8 ounce) packages refrigerated crescent roll dough
4 ounces cooked ham, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

Beat milk and cream cheese together until smooth. Mix in eggs, and season with salt and pepper. Heat a lightly oiled skillet over medium high heat and cook egg mixture until eggs are almost set.

Arrange the crescent rolls from one package into a rectangle shape on top of a lightly greased cookie sheet. Place rolls from remaining package along the edges of the two long sides of the rectangle, with the broad half of the rolls on top of the first layer of rolls, and the pointed ends extending over the sides of the pan.

Arrange the ham in a layer down the center of the dough. Spoon the cooked egg mixture on top of the ham and then sprinkle the cheddar cheese on top of the eggs. Bring the corners of the rolls together over the cheese to form a 'braid' shape.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and rolls are golden brown.

This really presents pretty and is very portable. Excellent for taking to the will NOT have any left overs by lunch time!

Country Gravy Breakfast Casserole
1 roll (12 ounces) breakfast sausage
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 package country or sausage gravy mix
6 slices bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons melted butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Cook crumbled sausage in large skillet on medium heat until brown, stirring occasionally. Drain sausage. Spread in lightly greased 11x7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle cheese over sausage.

Beat eggs, water, milk and Gravy Mix in medium bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Pour over cheese. Arrange bread cubes evenly over mixture. Drizzle butter over bread, if desired. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate unbaked casserole overnight. Bake, uncovered, in preheated 325°F oven 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Yes, I cheat and use gravy mix. Of all the things I never learned to do well, I cannot make gravy! I've tried many times and get something that will hold bricks together nicely or a glob that will kill a trash disposal...but NEVER gravy. I either get frozen starts for a dear friend or use a mix. Please forgive my Southern Sin!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday Sandwiches

Sunday Sandwiches are a GREAT way to celebrate your favorite sport or just provide an easy dinner that the whole family will enjoy.

Bacon Jack Chicken Sandwich
per sandwich:
2 slices of bacon, browned and drained
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 bun sliced (any variety of bun is fine - use your favorite)
1 slice pepper jack cheese
1 slice tomato
lettuce leaves
dill pickle slices

Rub chicken with poultry seasoning, grill six minutes per side (or until no longer pink in the center), top with bacon and cheese, return to grill until cheese melts. Serve on a bun with toppings and your favorite condiments...I like just mayonnaise, you can use whatever you wish.

Classic Ruben Sandwich
makes 4 sandwiches
8 slices pumpernickel bread
1/2 cup Russian dressing
4 Tbl butter
1 lb corned beef (thinly sliced)
8 slices Swiss cheese
1/2 lb sauerkraut (drained well)
Spread 4 bread slices with butter and 4 bread slices with Russian dressing. Use the dressing topped slices as a base and layer with Swiss cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut and another slice of Swiss, then top with buttered slice of bread. Wrap sandwich tightly in aluminum foil. Bake at 425* for 15 minutes. Super yummy, easy and almost no clean up required.

Muffuletta (from N'Awlins Ya'll)

1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, crushed
1/2 cup drained kalamata olives, crushed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup roughly chopped pickled cauliflower florets
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 tablespoon chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped carrot
1/2 cup pepperoncini, drained
1/4 cup marinated cocktail onions
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 (1 pound) loaves Italian bread
8 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami
8 ounces thinly sliced cooked ham
8 ounces sliced mortadella (spicy Italian bologna)
8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
8 ounces sliced provolone cheese

To Make Olive Salad: In a medium bowl, combine the green olives, kalamata olives, garlic, cauliflower, capers, celery, carrot, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, celery seed, oregano, basil, black pepper, vinegar, olive oil and canola oil. Mix together and transfer mixture into a glass jar (or other nonreactive container). If needed, pour in more oil to cover. Cover jar or container and refrigerate at least overnight.

To Make Sandwiches: Cut loaves of bread in half horizontally; hollow out some of the excess bread to make room for filling. Spread each piece of bread with equal amounts olive salad, including oil. Layer 'bottom half' of each loaf with 1/2 of the salami, ham, mortadella, mozzarella and Provolone. Replace 'top half' on each loaf and cut sandwich into quarters.

Serve immediately, or wrap tightly and refrigerate for a few hours; this will allow for the flavors to mingle and the olive salad to soak into the bread.

I like the idea of using a large round loaf of bread to make this sandwich a one feeds four idea and is a really authentic N'Awlins look. You may purchase your favorite olive salad at the deli if you'd prefer.

Grilled Pizza Sandwiches
This is a family friendly favorite. You can jazz it up for the grown ups or keep it simple for the kids.
makes 4 sandwiches
8 slices of bread
1 c marinara sauce
2 Tbl butter
4 slices Mozzerella cheese
2 ounces sliced pepperoni

Spread butter on each slice of bread. Place buttered side down on waxed paper. Spread other side of bread with 1 Tablespoon of marinara sauce, layer with pepperoni then top with a slice of Mozzerella and the other slice of bread (butter side facing out). Grill sandwich a couple of minutes on each side in skillet on medium heat (until golden brown). Slice diagonally and serve.

You can jazz this up with your favorite sliced meats and add sliced veggies for a heartier grown up version. You can even switch to Alfredo sauce and use left over grilled chicken with spinach leaves and sliced tomato or avacodo. Use your imagination but I promise, the kids will love this!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tailgate Time

Yes, I LOVE Football! SEC Saturday's and Cowboy/Titan Sunday's are some of the best times in life! We're snuggled in on a rainy Saturday and the food for the next two days are ready to go! I hope you'll try a couple of these with your favorite fans!

Buffalo Chicken Dip
2 cans Cooked Chicken Breasts
8 oz Cream Cheese or Neufchatel Cheese
1 small bottle Hot Sauce (Franks or Tobasco are best)
1/2 cup Ranch or Blue Cheese Salad Dressing
1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella or Blue Cheese Crumbles
Drain and shred chicken. In a separate dish (I use the mixer) combine cream cheese, salad dressing, hot sauce and shredded cheese. Pour mixture over chicken and combine thoroughly. You can bake this at 350* for 20 minutes or just put it in a pretty serving dish and pop it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. Serve with sliced veggies or crackers & pretzels. If you are going to be at the stadium, put it in a disposable aluminum pan and warm it over the grill. This is diet friendly - 1/4 cup is only 4 Weight Watcher points!

1 lb Smoked Pulled Pork
Tortilla Chips
Queso Cheese Sauce
Shredded Lettuce
Diced Tomatoes
I was lucky enough to bring home some of my favorite Tennessee pulled pork last weekend. You can make your own using a pork loin on the smoker or even in the crock pot (cover with water and cook on low for 8 hours - shred with forks, salt and pepper). Layer the tortilla chips on a platter, layer with lettuce, pork, cheese sauce then top with peppers and tomatoes. Some like to add a Bar-B-Que sauce to their pork for this dish but I like my pork just plain. Warm in the microwave if desired and dig in! These aren't nachos - they're Piggy-Chos!

There are a thousand ways to make chili. For years I made mine with beef and beans, until a friend asked for no beans, then my family turned on me and bailed on their long loved version of my chili. Now they like meat only but lately I've added bell peppers to the mix. It's just the two of us and we've really started to like it that way! You can add pasta if you like - some do, some don't.
2-3 Quarts of Tomato Juice
3 lbs. Ground Chuck
2-3 Bell Peppers (diced and sauteed)
Chili Powder
Onion Flakes
This is as simple as it gets! When browning the beef, sprinkle liberally with chili powder, add salt and pepper and a few shakes of onion flakes. Drain beef and add to crock pot. Add tomato juice and peppers, sprinkle a liberal amount of chili powder, salt and pepper again, then cook on low heat for at least 4 hours. You'll have to adjust the seasoning to suit your heat preference. We like it pretty zippy! I serve my chili with Fritos and shredded Velveeta! You can add sour cream or just use crackers - cornbread is pretty yummy with chili too! Just curl up in your team jersey and dig into a big mug of chili and cheer your little heart out!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Apple Bread

There are two schools of thought on this on this one...super simple or from scratch.

I opted for super simple today as I am very busy and it's just plain easier folks!

2 cans Apple Pie Filling
4 c Baking Mix (Bisquick or Jiffy Mix, either is fine)
2 cans Evaporated Milk (fat free is fine)
3 eggs
1/3 c Canola Oil (or Vegetable oil if you prefer)
1 c White Sugar
1 c Brown Sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
Baker's Secret baking spray

I run the apple pie filling through the mixer to mash up the apples and blend it well (there will be lumps, that's a good thing:). In a clean mixing bowl, combine baking mix, milk, eggs, oil, both sugars, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until well mixed then add smashed apples. Blend well, pour into loaf pans (should fill 2. Bake at 350* for one hour or until pick comes out clean from the center.

I let mine cool on a wire rack then sprinkle with powdered can make a strudel topping if you like by combining 1/4 c Baking Mix, 1/2 c Brown Sugar and 1/4stick of butter, just cut the butter into the mix and sugar then top before baking (nuts are fine if you like them, just add them to the topping mix).

If you are feeling particularly energetic - peel and slice thin, 3 lbs apples (I like Granny Smith the best), dot with sliced butter pats (1/2 stick)and sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar. Bake in a baking dish at 350* for 40 minutes.. Let cool and smash apple slices. Add all other ingredients and bake as directed.

I can't over recommend the Baker's Secret cooking spray...those sugars with the natural sugar of the fruit are a trifecta of sticking....if you spray your loaf pans liberally with Baker's Secret, you'll be much happier with your results. You may need to loosen the sides with a spatula then jiggle the pan but the loaves pop out beautifully!

Potato Soup
On a very rainy Sunday evening, this is just the ticket to sit back with a mug of soup and enjoy football!

5 lbs Idaho Potatoes (peel, rinse and dice)
1/2 block Velveeta (2% is fine)
3 cans Evaporated Milk (or 4 c Skim Milk if you're trying to be good)
Salt and Pepper

Peel potatoes, rinse and cube, add to boiling water. Cook at a low boil for 45 minutes. Drain excess water (almost all of it). Mash most of the potatoes in the pot with the back of a cooking spoon (lumps will remain and you want those). Add 1 can of evaporated milk (or 2 c skim milk). Place back on low heat. Dice Velveeta (or buy 2 bags of shredded Velveeta) and salt and pepper to taste. When cheese starts to melt, add the remaining evaporated (or skim) milk and stir until a creamy consistency is achieved.

I like to top my Potato Soup with Bacon Bits (REAL, not baco-s) and scallions. You may like this or leave it out if you don't.

This is a great make and eat meal but does not freeze very well.

Honey Butter
(for Jessi:)
1/2 c butter softened to room temperature
1/2 c honey (room temperature)
1/2 c powdered sugar

Blend all well - taste to see if you want more honey (I usually do) then when completely blended (don't be in a hurry, let is mix for a few minutes), transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate until needed. Super simple but beats the heck out of that stuff they sell in the grocery!
If it is too loose, add more powdered sugar to tighten up the mix. If too thick, add more honey to get the right consistency.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pork Chops

Pork Chops are a delicious quick fix for dinner. At the request of a long time friend...these are for Rachel!

Marinated Chops
1 Tbl Soy Sauce
1 Tbl Worcestershire Sauce
2 Tbl Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbl Brown Sugar
2 Tbl Ketchup
4 Pork Chops (trimmed)

Mix soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, oil, lemon juice, brown sugar and ketchup. Place chops in an oiled baking dish and spread 1/2 marinade over chops. Bake @350* for 30 minutes. Turn chops over and spread remaining marinade over them, bake another 20-30 minutes.

Baked Chops
1 Tbl Season Salt
1 Tbl Garlic Powder
4 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Eggs (beaten)
1/4 C Flour
1/2 C Milk
1/3 C White Wine
2 C Italian Bread Crumbs
1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup
4 - 6 Pork Chops (cut of your choice)

Pat chops dry and season with season salt and garlic powder (pepper if you like) to taste. Drag chops thru flour then dip chops in egg mixture, cover with breadcrumbs. Put oil in skillet and heat on medium, fry chops for 5 minutes each side (until they start to brown). Transfer chops to a baking dish. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes. Whisk together, soup (do not dilute) wine and milk, pour over chops after 30 minutes of baking. Cover with foil and bake another 30-40 minutes. Serve over white rice and add a veggie side or two...super good supper!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Meat and Potato Meals

Cottage Pie

I learned this from a dear friend on Sunday that "Cottage Pie" has beef, "Shepherd's Pie" has I am a Tennessee Farmer's daughter, I firmly believe that God gave us Sheep for Sweaters - NOT for dinner! Keeping that in mind, here is my spin on a one dish meat and potato meal!
1 1/2 lb Ground Beef (brown into crumbles and drain)
1 onion (chopped) or 2 Tbl Onion Flakes if you prefer
1 can Corn (whole kernel - drained)
1 can English Peas (drained)
1 can Diced Carrotts (drained)
1 stick butter
1/2 cup beef broth (store bought is fine)
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce (hope I spelled that better than I say it!)
2 lbs Potatoes (peeled, chopped, boiled and drained)
While those potatoes boil, saute the onion in 2 Tbl butter (if using onion flakes, omit this step). Add onions to drained vegetables. Brown beef into crumbles, add salt and pepper to taste along with Worcestershire sauce and beef broth. Let the liquids reduce for about 10 minutes while beef continues to simmer. Mash cooked potatoes with butter, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Mix beef and vegetables, add to greased baking dish. Top with potatoes and bake for about half an hour at 400*. Pop the broiler on for the last 3 or 4 minutes to lightly brown the potatoes for a pretty presentation. If you really like to pack in the veggies, add chopped celery to the onions and saute them too. Use the veggies of your choice - it's YOUR dinner!

Pulled Pork

Super simple, and freezes wonderfully for a quick sandwich dinner on a night when you are to busy to breath!
1 Pork Loin
salt and pepper
BBQ Sauce of your choice
Yep, that's it! Season the pork loin with salt and pepper (rub it well by hand). Place pork into a large crock pot, cover with water (don't wash off the seasonings) and cook on low for 6 - 8 hours. You'll know it is done when it falls apart when you try to turn it with a fork. Remove pork and shred it with a fork (use a light touch or you'll have chopped pork! It will be THAT tender!) Taste to see if you want to add additional salt and pepper (I always do). You can serve it plain or add your favorite BBQ Sauce. I prefer to only sauce what I am serving immediately. I like to freeze the left overs plain. Those left overs make awesome pork nachos for game night!

Sweet Potato Fries

Now I know that not everyone is a Sweet Potato fan but these fries are really good and you'd never guess it's a Sweet Potato except for the color. The vitamin content is amazing and very low fat!
5 Sweet Potatoes, slice length wise or crinkle cut with a crinkle cut knife for cute shapes that kids like (and does a dandy job at holding ketchup)
2 Tbl Olive Oil
1/4 c Seasoned Salt
1/8 c Garlic Powder
1/8 c Black Pepper
1/8 c Paprika
Mix all spices together. Toss potatoes in Olive Oil until lightly coated. Dust potatoes lightly with spice mixture, place on a greased cookie sheet (leave plenty of space between them) and bake at 450* for about 20 minutes (until golden). Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Never Fails Pot Roast

1 large Beef Roast (ask the butcher to trim the fat off as much as possible)
1 parcel Celery
3 lbs Potatoes (new or Idaho)
2 lbs Baby Carrots (I like a lot of carrots)
Season Salt
Extra Large Baking Bag (Turkey size)
Peel and chop potatoes. Wash and chop celery. Baby carrots are ready to go so just wash and drain them well. Rub roast with season salt and pepper (rub with hands). Place in the center of the baking bag in a large roasting pan. Surround roast with vegetables. Add 4 cups of water (careful not to pour directly on meat as it will wash off the seasonings). Add salt and pepper to the veggies and tie as directed on baking bag package. Poke holes in the top of the bag as vents. Bake for 3 - 4 hours at 325*. Your house will smell heavenly and the left overs (not that we ever have any of this left over) makes a great Beef Stew. Just chop the bites small and add some beef stock for a second dinner. Serve with fresh baked bread and it's all over but the compliments!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Italian Hoagie Sandwich

For a lovely friend that grew up in Pennsylvania...this is a nostalgic favorite posted specially for Sally!

2 TBL Red Wine Vinegar
1 TBL Oregano
1 TBL Olive Oil

Mix very well and set aside.

4 Lg Hoagie rolls or Sub rolls, slice horizontally, leave seam intact
Mayonnaise (optional)
*All meats, cheese and veggies must be very thinly sliced.
1/4 Lb. Prosciutto (or Baked Ham)
1/4 Lb. Capicola (Spicy or Pepper Ham)
1/4 Lb. Mortadella (or Garlic Bologna)
1/4 Lb. Sopresatta (or Salami)
1/4 Lb. Provolone Cheese
1 Small Onion
1 Large Tomato
1/2 Bell Pepper
Pickled Peppers (Hot if you like them)
Shredded Lettuce

Hollow out the center of each roll (you'll need the room for all the stuffings!)Spread each half roll lightly with mayonnaise if you like it. You don't have to use mayo if you are not a fan. Starting with the bottom roll, layer two meats then one cheese. Top with onion, tomato, bell pepper, pickled peppers then lettuce. Drizzle with the vinegar mixture. Heat in oven for 5 min on 250* or serve cold if you prefer.

Personally, I'd butter the rolls lightly and toast them before starting to build my on earth can butter on a roll be wrong?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Simple Sunday Supper

Sometimes you just need to keep it Simple! Quiche, Ceasar Salad and Chocolate Croissants.

Quiche Lorraine
12 Large Eggs
2 c Heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 tsp Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
2 Deep Dish Pie Crusts
1 lb Crisp Bacon
2 c Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Whip eggs until well blended, add cream and spices. Crumble bacon into bottom of pie shells, cover with cheese (divide each evenly between the two). Pour egg mixture over in the pie crusts. Let filled crusts sit for 10 minutes then place on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until center is completely set at 350*.

You can change up the fillings and keep the basic egg and cream base. Ham and broccoli with Swiss cheese makes an excellent quiche. Use all veggies from the garden and pair it with a blend of mozzarella and jack cheese. Be creative and enjoy!

Serve with a Ceasar Salad and Chocolate Croissants for dessert.

Chocolate Croissants
1 tube Crescent Rolls (refrigerated)
3/4 c Mini Chocolate Chips (milk or dark)
Powdered Sugar

Divide the sections for the rolls as directed. Add mini Chocolate Chipsthen roll up (careful....those chips will want to wander) and bake as directed on the package.
Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Light but Devilishly Delicious!

Switch the chocolate chips for berries or even jam (just a dab) and it is still just as wonderful!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Peppermint Bark

YES, I know it's August...but when the newest "daughter" asks for something, a Mom's got to do it!

12 oz white chocolate chips
24 crushed peppermint candies
1 tsp vegetable oil

Melt white chocolate in the microwave with 1 tsp vegetable oil (do NOT substitute olive oil) Cook for 30 seconds, stir well and you'll notice the chips start to melt. Heat for an extra 30 seconds and stir well again...this may be enough to get you a smooth chocolate base or you may need to heat it an additional 10 - 15 seconds..stir until not over cook!

Spread in a well grease baking dish (spray it liberally with cooking spray). Pour in chocolate to a 1/4 inch sheet. I use an 8x8 dish and this does nicely for this amount of bark. If you increase the recipe, use a larger dish.

Top immediately with crushed peppermints, you may want to tap them down into the chocolate so it doesn't fall off (why waste the yummiest part?).

Place in the refrigerator (or freezer if you are in a hurry)until the chocolate sets completely. Flip onto a chopping board and then break into sections!

I like "two tone" bark. I do a layer of milk chocolate or dark chocolate first, let it sit in the freezer for 15 minutes then add the layer of white chocolate then the peppermints...I like the combinations of dark and white chocolate the best.

You can substitute crushed Oreo cookies instead of the peppermint or practically any hard candy, cookie or chopped candy bar of your choice to make this your personal holiday favorite. It also makes an inexpensive and attractive gift!

SALSA Time!!!

Everybody Dance...

The hubs harvested a bountiful basket of tomatoes tonight...a sure fire hint that he's ready for some homemade salsa! This is a basic recipe to make yummy use of your tomato crop...there are a wide variety of options that I'll list at then end...the degree of heat is completely up to you!

6 large ripe tomatoes (diced)
1 medium sweet onion (finely chopped)
1 bell pepper (seeds removed and minced)
8 oz green chilies chopped (with juice)
3 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 Tbl olive oil
Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Combine the base ingredients, sample and see how you like the flavor. If you prefer extra heat, add 4 oz chopped jalapeno peppers.


I prefer 1 bunch of chopped green onions to white onions
15 oz black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 large avocado (peeled and diced)
chopped cilantro if desires(I must admit, I am not a fan)
2 Tbl fresh lime juice (love this to make it taste incredibly fresh)
Tabasco Sauce (to taste for added heat)

You pick the options that you prefer...and be sure to write down your combinations as you proceed....there is NOTHING worse than making the best salsa of your life and not knowing what you put in there!

I never met a nacho I didn't like! Salsa along and Enjoy!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Grant's Birthday Favorites

As it's Grant's (aka, Moose or Thing #2) are some of his favorite Mama Moose dishes!

Baked Spaghetti
1 box spaghetti noodles
2 lbs ground beef
1 large jar of Ragu Spaghetti sauce (We like the flavored with meat version)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Boil and drain noodles, brown and drain ground beef. Mix noodles with ground beef, spaghetti sauce and soup. When well blended, add 1 1/2 c shredded cheese, add to large baking dish. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and let melt in oven for another 5 minutes. Let this sit for 10 minutes before you attempt to serve. A carbohydrate Bomb but OH SO GOOD!! Serve with a tossed salad and Spice Cake for dessert (add the appropriate number of candles atop the cake depending on how grown up your birthday boy is at the time:)!!!

Sausage Bread
This is an excellent make ahead breakfast for times when you have a house full of overnight guests.
2 loaves frozen bread dough (thaw completely)
1 lb county sausage (brown into crumbles, drain and cool)
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Flour your work surface, roll out one loaf of dough at a time. Spread in 1/2 the sausage crumbles on each loaf, top with a cup or so of mozzarella cheese and roll into a log. Place on a well greased large cookie sheet or in a greased loaf pan and bake 20 minutes in a 350* oven. Let cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack, since and serve. You may let this cool completely then roll in saran wrap and refrigerate until breakfast. Sounds so simple but is soooo delicious.

Monkey Bread
This is not a cinnamon, sweet Monkey Bread...someone must have "Monkeyed" with my recipe:)
2 cans refrigerated biscuits (quarter each biscuit)
1 dozen eggs
1/2 c milk
1 lb bacon (cooked, drained and diced)
2 c Velveeta shredded cheese
1/2 stick butter
salt and pepper

Spray a bundt pan liberally with cooking spray. Whip milk and eggs together (salt and pepper as you wish). Layer ingredients in this order: Biscuit wedges, 2 pats of butter separated and spread around the pan, bacon pieces, 1/4 c Velveeta - repeat layers again, top with a final layer of biscuit wedges and cheese on the top. Pour egg and milk mixture over the layers and let the dish sit for 15 minutes. Bake at 375* for 45 minutes or until completely set. I test the center with a skewer to make sure it has cooked through completely. Place a serving tray on top of the bundt pan then flip it over and (hopefully) the pan will slide off easily revealing a lovely breakfast bundt! We have this on Christmas morning as it is easy to make ahead and re-heat in the morning and has a lovely presentation.

This is a unique combination of recipies but then again...."Nobody Loves Their Moose Like His Mama Do"!

Cajun Creations

2 boxes low sodium chicken broth
2 cans Rotel tomatoes
2 cans tomato paste
1 box long grain wild rice
1 lb skinless smoked sausage (sliced)
1 lb smoked ham (diced)
1 lb shrimp (deveined, tails off)
1 parcel celery (sliced thin)
2 lg green peppers (diced)
1 lg red pepper (diced)
1 bunch green onions (seperate greens from onion bulbs)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced onion
2 Tbl Old Bay Seasoning
1 Tbl black pepper
2 tsp salt
1/3 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Slice Sausage and add to bottom of stock pot with a little EVOO to brown. Chop Ham and add to stock pot to brown. Slice celery (very thin), slice bulbs of scallions and dice peppers. Place veggies in skillet on medium heat with some EVOO (or butter if you prefer) to "sweat" the veggies until they start to tender.

Add 3 C chicken stock (1 box) to sausage and ham mixture after about 10-15 minutes of browning. Add seasonings, minced garlic, minced onion. Stir in one can of Rotel tomatoes and one can of tomato paste. Bring to a boil and add celery, onions and peppers. Add remaining box of chicken stock, another can of Rotel tomatoes and the other can or tomato paste and bring back to a boil. Add rice and let cook on a low boil for 30-40 minutes.

Add shrimp and cook another 15 minutes on medium boil. Add chopped greens of scallions at the last minute and serve.

Red Beans and Rice
2 pkgs instant white rice
1 lb kielbasa, cut diagonally into 1/4 inch slices (optional)
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove chopped garlic
2 (15 ounce) cans canned kidney beans, drained
1 (16 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Prepare rice and set aside. Brown kielbasa, pepper and garlic until veggies are tender. Add beans, tomatoes and spices...simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve over prepared white rice.

Fried Corn
3 cans sweet corn (drained)
1 stick butter
salt and pepper
It can't be any simpler than this but the browning of the corn brings out such sugary'll be glad you tried this.

Drain Corn and place in a large skillet with 1/2 stick butter, season with salt and pepper and a heavy pinch of sugar. Fry the corn over medium high heat. As the butter soaks in, you'll have to add a pat or two more to keep your corn cooking. Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the majority or the kernels are lightly browned. Ummm....good!

Corn Bread
Okay, you can cheat and use a box mix if you really is pretty tasty. But if you want to go all out, here is my Mama's recipe.
2 cups white cornmeal (use yellow if that's what you have on hand)
2/3 cup flour
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (omit if you use regular milk rather than buttermilk)
1 beaten egg (2 if you like really fluffy corn bread)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk (more or less)
3 to 4 tablespoons of bacon drippings (you can substitute cooking oil)
Pre heat oven to 400* Mix dry ingredients then add wet ingredients. Pour into well greased dish or iron skillet and bake 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it if using an iron may cook faster!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Ladies Light Dinner

Having the girls over for a fun get together? Serve something light and easy with just that right unique twist to keep them talking you (favorably) after they leave!

Chicken Salad on Croissants.
4 chicken breasts (boiled and chopped) *add 1/2 cup chopped celery while cooking chicken if desired
1 cup seedless grapes halved (I like the red to add a pretty color to the salad)
1/2 c chopped pecans
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c sweet relish (dill relish is also amazingly good but use one or the other - NOT both)
salt and pepper to taste
butter lettuce leaves
Mix and let sit in refrigerator a couple hours then spread on mini croissants or if you can't find mini's use full size croissants but slice them in half before spreading chicken salad. Add butter lettuce leaf, top with a tablespoon or two of chicken salad, top! Serves six. Voila'

Baked Brie
1 8 oz round of brie (leave rind intact)
3 Tbl brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 sheet puff pastry (thawed)
2 Granny Smith apples sliced
Ritz Crackers or Town House Crackers
Line a baking dish with parchment paper. Spread pastry on a flat surface. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans together. Spread nut mixture in the center of the pastry. Set the brie on top of the nut mixture then fold the pastry up and over the brie (wrap it like a package) and pinch the seams of the pastry closed to seal the cheese. Flip the pastry onto the baking sheet (seam side down). Bake at 350* for 20 minutes until the pastry is browned. Serve with sliced apples and crackers.

Melon Salad
This is all about presentation. Select the melon (or a combination of them) to serve as your bowl. Take the top 1/3 off the melon in a horizontal slice. Shell out fruit and cube the contents. Use a paring knife to make a jagged edge to the top of the melon shell (or a scalloped edge if you're good with that knife). Combine the melon cubes (your choice on which melons to use...a combination of Honeydew, Cantaloupe and Watermelon is colorful and delicious). You can even add drained mandarin oranges or peach slices if you'd like. Serve from your decorative melon shell. That's it! Simple, elegant and diet friendly!

Cake Balls
1 package cake mix of your choice, prepared as directed
1 can ready to use cake frosting (a flavor that would go well with your cake mix flavor)
3 oz confectioner's chocolate (melted smooth) Select the better fit for your cake flavor to determine if you use milk chocolate or white chocolate.
Crumble cooled cake into a mixing bowl and combine with frosting. Scoop out with a tablespoon or melon baller and shape into golf ball size balls (roll them tightly using your hands). Insert a toothpick or candy stick and dip cake balls into the melted chocolate. If you feel really jazzy, let cool on waxed paper (I refrigerate mine to hurry the setting) then drizzle with the opposite color chocolate or dip in crushed nuts, or sprinkles. You can leave the pick in or remove it...I leave it is as it makes it easy to serve.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Veggie Side Salads

Garden Vegetables are some of Summer's greatest goodies! To change up the pace of your summer sides, try one of these to energize your summer dinners.

Green Bean Salad

1 lb whole green beans (fresh, ends snapped, rinse and drain or 2 cans), 1 medium purple onion sliced, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, 6 Tbl vinegar, 1/4 c cooking oil, 6 slices of bacon (cooked, drained and chopped), 4 hard boiled eggs (sliced), 4 Tbl salad dressing, 4 tsp vinegar, 4 tsp prepared mustard. Mix first six ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. Drain standing marinate, add remaining ingredients, mix well and chill for a couple of hours and serve. You can add sliced tomatoes, sliced almonds or even blue cheese crumbles to dress this up a bit.

Summer Corn Salad

6 ears of corn, cut from the cob, cooked and drained or 4 cups of canned corn (drained), 2 tomatoes diced, 1 medium onion diced, 1/4 c olive oil, 2 Tbl vinegar, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or fresh basil if you prefer), salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together, chill and serve. Good on it's own or with saltines or even tortilla chips.

Tennessee Caviar

3 cans black eyed peas, 1 can black beans, 1 can Rotel tomatoes (mild or regular - your choice), 1 can corn, 1 tomato chopped, 1 bunch green onions chopped (just the greens), salt and pepper to taste. Drain all veggies and Rotel, mix well with other ingredients, let chill and serve. Good alone or with corn chips to scoop up every yummy bite!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Salad Options, more than just lettuce

You always need options for a holiday side dish that will draw some interest at the pic-nic! Salad is more than the traditional lettuce with ranch dressing or pasta with Italian dressing ... try something different today and get yourself noticed!

Cracker Salad
1 sleeve saltines, crushed (name them after who ever you are mad at when you crush them, makes you feel a little better when you are smashing them:), 3-4 chopped green onions, 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 c mayonnaise, 1 hard boiled egg, a couple of grinds of fresh peppercorns. Mix onions, tomatoes mayonnaise, egg and pepper. Toss in the crushed crackers and serve immediately. I made this for a pic-nic years ago and one guest still asks for this each time she comes over!

Greek Pasta Salad
3 c cooked shell pasta (I like the medium size shells), 1 pint of cherry tomatoes sliced in halves, 1 cucumber diced, 1 sweet pepper diced (I like yellow for extra color in your salad), 1/2 small red onion diced, 1/4 cup pitted olives sliced, 1 can of cannelloni beans (rinse and drain), 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese. Mix all together then make the dressing: 3Tbl extra virgin olive oil, 3Tbl red wine vinegar, 3Tbl lemon juice, 1tsp honey, 1tsp minced garlic, 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard, salt and pepper with a pinch of oregano. Whisk dressing together ten toss with pasta and veggies and serve.

Taco Salad
Kid's favorite! 1/2 bag of nacho flavored Doritos (crushed), 1 head of lettuce chopped, 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved, 1 bell pepper chopped, 1 bundle of green onions chopped, 2 c shredded cheddar cheese, 1 can kidney beans (rinsed and drained), *1 lb of ground beef (browned, drained and cooled). In a very large Tupperware box with a good fitting lid, toss all your ingredients together. I put the lid on and just tumble it about! Dress with 1/2 bottle of Catalina dressing. Let sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours and this makes nice summer lunch. Serve with flour tortillas cut into wedges. You can lighten this recipe with baked chips, low fat cheese and the meat is optional.

Ramen Salad
1 bag of broccoli slaw mix, 2 packages of beef flavor ramen noodles, 2 small packages of sunflower seeds (about 1/4 c), 1/4 c sliced almonds. Crush noodles and mix with slaw mix, seeds and nuts. Dressing: 1c light olive oil, 1/3 c apple cider vinegar, 1/2c sugar, the two beef seasoning packets from the ramen, whisk all together and pour over slaw mix. Let salad chill in refrigerator for a hour then serve. Great for pic-nics as there is no mayonnaise in this recipe! The crunch of the noodles make this just fantastic!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Potato Salad, a variety of options

Potato Salad is a deeply personal recipe in the either Love it or Hate it...or it may depend on who made it and out did your recipe! Please try one or two of the recipes below as they represent excellent flavor from some of my "besties"!

Deviled Egg Potato Salad

3 lbs of new potatoes, washed and drained, 1/2 c mayonnaise, 1/2 cup sour cream, 3 T mustard (Dijon or regular yellow mustard), 4 hard boiled eggs, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 c chopped parsley. Cube potatoes and bake in the oven until tender, 30-40 minutes. Chop boiled eggs, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard (I like plain old yellow mustard but it's your choice entirely). Let potatoes cool, salt and pepper to taste, then combine with mayo mixture and add chopped eggs, mix gently and add parsley on top at the last step as a garnish.

German Potato Salad

4 Idaho baking potatoes, 4 slices of bacon, 1 Tbl flour, 2 Tbl sugar, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 c white vinegar, 1/2 c chopped green onions. Boil potatoes until tender, cool with cold water and chop. Cook bacon and set aside to cool, then chop. Add flour, water and vinegar to bacon grease and cook over medium heat until thick.'s your choice - hot or cold. If you like your potato salad hot, toss in the potatoes and green onions into the skillet until it is all coated and warm, then serve. If you like your potato salad cold, let your dressing mixture cool then toss with potatoes and garnish with green onions.

Loaded Potato Salad

This has everything but the kitchen sink in it and I wouldn't leave out one single thing! 4 lbs new potatoes, cubed and cooked until tender, 1 lb of bacon, cooked, cooled and chopped, 1/2 stick of butter, 1/2 c green onions, 1 1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 c sour cream (light or fat free is fine), 1 Tlb fresh ground black pepper (if you don't have a pepper grinder...GET ONE! It is a thousand times better than that powdered stuff), 1 tsp sea salt. Cube and cook your potatoes until just tender (boil or bake, your choice) - do not over cook your potatoes. Mix all other ingredients together. When potato cubes are cooled completely, toss with dressing mixture and chill for 4 hours. Adjust salt and pepper to taste prior to serving.

Southern Potato Salad

Okay, I have to confess, this is the BEST potato salad I've EVER had...the deviled potato salad comes close but trust me ... I bow to this recipe over ALL others! 1 bag (2-3 lbs) new potatoes, skin on, cubed and boil until just not over cook. mix with 1/2 onion chopped fine (or green onions are fine too 1/2 c), mix potatoes, onions with 3/4 c mayonnaise, 3/4 cup salad dressing (YES, mayonnaise and salad dressing are two different things), 1/4 c yellow mustard, 1 - 2 tsp sugar, salt and pepper. Mix the cooled potatoes with the remaining ingredients and serve right off the counter, if you have left overs, do refrigerate them but this is good as gold just as it is.

I've eaten and enjoyed a lot of variations on potato salad, you can add chopped celery, chopped bell peppers or even celery seed, chopped pimento, what ever you like, to adjust the flavor to suit you...Just pick a base that suits you and make it your own and let the carbohydrates run wild!!!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Kentucky Pork Tenderloin

Looking for something to change up your Sunday dinner menu? Try this marinated Pork'll need to plan ahead as this needs to sleep with the marinade in the fridge on Saturday night, but it is OH SO worth it!

Kentucky Pork Tenderloin

1/4 c Kentucky Bourbon, 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/4 c brown sugar, 1/4 c Dijon mustard, 1/4 c canola oil, 3 cloves minced garlic (or 1 1/2 tsp if using garlic flakes), 1/4 tsp powdered ginger, 1 tsp worchestershire sauce - whisk all together and pour into a very large zip lock bag, add your pork loin and let everyone get a good nights sleep - you go to bed and the pork goes in the fridge.

Remove from the fridge an hour before cooking, discard the marinade let the pork come up in temperature before grilling. Cook over hot coals for 20-25 minutes, until the center is 165 degrees (no pink pork ... that's my rule).

I recommend making double the marinade and reserve 1/2 to baste with while cooking.

If you're in a hurry, you can slice you pork tenderloin before you marinate and you can cut the fridge time to about 8 hours. You can start this before you leave for church and still grill it for dinner.

Thursday, June 30, 2011 special request

Your request is my demand...brownies it 'tis ladies and gents!

Grab a glass of milk and get ready!

Back in the day... a long, long time ago, I was asked to stop submitting Brownies to the Henry County Fair as I had won far more than my share of Blue Ribbons!

Well, my brownies have improved over the years (as have I :) so at the request of a dear is my very BEST brownie recipe...WARNING...cheating is involved...

2 packages of your grocery favorite cake brownie mix plus ingredients as instructed (eggs, oil, etc.)

2 Hershey's Symphony bars (the very large bars)

Powdered Sugar to embellish.

Mix brownie mix according to package instructions ( or make from scratch if you have a family favorite batch recipe). Grease a 9x11 baking pan with non-stick baking spray, pour in 1/2 the brownie batter. Add Hershey Symphony bars (one beside the other), and top with the other 1/2 the brownie mix. Bake as directed on the brownie mix package. This should be "toothpick" done ... insert a toothpick in the center... it should come out clean with no batter marks = done!

Patience My Dear....let the brownies cool on a cooling rack until completely cool before cutting. Slice with a serrated knife then separate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to add to the sugar content and pretty appearance!

The candy bars in the middle are the secret to making these impossible to resist!

If you feel really wild, reheat the brownie in the microwave for 30 seconds, pair with Coffee Ice Cream (my all time fav) or Vanilla Bean Ice Cream or the flavor of your choice, drizzle with warmed store bought hot fudge sauce and is officially ... "Who Needs A Man" time ... yep, it's that dang good!

Ya'll brace yourselves and let me know if you have the same reaction :)

Chocolate Love Ladies & Gents!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Grilled Chicken...let me count the ways

There it is - staring at you again tonight - that chicken...what to do with it?

Are you sick of the Italian Dressing marinade or slathering on the BBQ sauce? There must be hundreds of ways to grill chicken ... here are some of our favorites.

Patti's Chicken
Patti's Settlement in Grand Rivers, Kentucky makes a sauce that is just out of this world! A boneless skinless chicken breast, grilled with seasoned salt and pepper never found a better friend. You can order the sauce from Patti's website and it is well worth the effort (it's also fantastic on steaks).

Mediterranean Chicken
3 Tbl balsamic vinegar, a splash of olive oil, 1 tsp Seasoned Salt, 1 tsp crushed rosemary, 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, two medium tomatoes, pepper to taste. Whisk the vinegar and olive oil together, add salt, rosemary and pepper, whisk again until all are well blended. Slice the tomato into hearty slices, brush each with oil mixture and place on indirect grill with low heat. Using a separate brush, baste chicken breasts and put them over low heat on the grill. (NEVER use the same basting brush on meat that you use on veggies). Turn them all with tongs every 5 minutes or so, the tomatoes may cook faster so you may want to put them on after the chicken is half way done. Dinner in 20 minutes or so!

Beer Can Chicken
My husband is the cook for this particular dish ... and it's only fair since he graciously donated the can! Take a whole bird (about 4 lbs or so) - wash him (or her) and remove all the cracker jack surprises from within ... rub the bird with salt and pepper. Open the beer can with a can opener, you want then entire top open, then place the beer can - you guessed it - in between the legs ... they should "sit" on the can (there is just no lady like way to possibly describe that process)! Leaving the beer in the can (or at least part of one) makes steam and helps to retain moisture in the bird. Sit birds on your grill with a low flame, you can brush them with plain water for he first couple of hours then change to your favorite BBQ sauce (in Kentucky, they call it "DIP" - recipe to follow) for the last hour. It takes approximately 4 hours to cook until done(when you turn the leg bone, it should twist easily) that's how you know your bird is done. It's important to keep the bird moist during the cooking process, just baste it every 20 minutes or so and it will be fine.

Chinese Chicken
1/4 cup dry cooking sherry, 1Tbl Asian sesame oil, 1 Tsp of Chinese Five Spice powder, 1/4 Tsp of ground red cayenne pepper, 1/3 cup hoisin sauce, 1 Tbl soy sauce, 1 Tsp sesame seeds, 1 chicken, washed and cut (skin on or off for every piece except the wings - your preference). Mix sherry, oil ,Five Spice and cayenne pepper, toss chicken into a large zip lock bag and add the oil mixture to coat chicken well. Grill chicken on medium grill for 20 - 25 minutes, turning only once with clean tongs. Remove each piece as soon as it is done and put on a platter. Brush the cooked chicken with the hoisin and soy sauce mixture and return chicken to the grill for another 5 minutes (flip once) to let glaze bake onto the meat. Sprinkle meat with sesame seeds and serve.

Kentucky Chicken "DIP"
I had never ever heard of chicken dip until I moved to Owensboro, Kentucky. They guard these recipes closely and pass them from one generation to another. I asked and have "official" permission to share our recipe with you! 1 gal Worcestershire sauce, 1 gal white vinegar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 cups of hot sauce, 1 hand full of black pepper, 1 hand full of salt, 2 lbs brown sugar, 1 lb butter, 1 bottle of catsup ... quite a list huh? Mix all of this in the biggest pot you can possibly get your hands on and boil it for 2 minutes. We do this in the deep fryer and boil it outside (it will smell up your house quickly). This yields 2 gallons of dip. Use a food mop (even Wal-Mart sells them) to baste your chickens. This will freeze and keep for a couple of months. Cut the recipe in half for a more manageable amount.

Grilled Vegetables

I love to make an entire dinner on the grill, less heat in the house and keeps my kitchen clean!

You can grill practically any vegetable - summer produces an abundance of fresh and delicious veggies, here are some of my absolute favs...

Grilled Corn

The fresher the better but frozen is fine if that's what you have on hand. Remove husk and silks, wash and pat dry with paper towels. Brush each ear with mayonnaise, just enough to lightly coat should still be able to see the kernels then roll the corn in shredded Parmesan cheese (not the stuff you sprinkle on pizza - use real shredded Parmesan cheese). I know that mayonnaise and cheese sounds crazy but trust me, no one will ever guess if you don't tell them. Salt and pepper each ear and roll in heavy duty aluminum foil. Grill on low heat, turn every 10 minutes or so....cook in about 40 minutes. I leave mine on longer as I like it really dark - that's when all the natural sugars come out the most!

Grilled Asparagus

I have a real problem making this - I tend to eat it as fast as it comes off the grill so having some left to serve with dinner is my biggest challenge. Cut the tips off fresh asparagus (I can't do frozen and it is too slimy) place in a baking dish or large zip lock bag, sprinkle with olive oil, just a tiny amount, then season with salt and pepper. Grill on low flame for about 15 - 20 minutes. They should be cooked but still have some crunch. You don't want to over cook these. You might as well make a double batch, that way you can eat some right off the grill and still have some to share with everyone else! If you want to get all fancy, wrap some asparagus with pancetta or even a slice of regular bacon for a smokey stalk of grilled goodness.

Potato Bundles

This is a timeless substitute for the old faithful baked potato. Wash and slice Idaho potatoes or half those little new potatoes, place them on a large sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Season with pepper and season salt (or salt substitute like Mrs. Dash), put in one pat of butter and seal the package. Grill over low heat for half an hour. Nothing to clean up and we never have leftovers! If you have a crinkle slicer - these come out really cute!


One plant makes enough squash for us AND our neighbors...that's why they like us so much :) I love to just wash and slice them (about 1/3 inch thick) then place the slices in a big Tupperware box or large baking sheet. Sprinkle very sparingly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Then slide the slices onto metal skewers and grill over low heat. I brush them with a little more olive oil and sprinkle with a little more seasonings and turn the skewers every 7 minutes. They will start to brown on the edges in about 15 - 20 minutes. Slide off the skewer and serve.

Mix and Match

A good set of metal skewers is a summer necessity. You can mix your veggies and the presentation is so pretty. I like to use squash, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. You can use green onions, potatoes or what ever you have ... just be careful and don't poke yourself with those sharp skewers! Brush with olive oil or with butter, season and grill!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Grilled Dessert

I always say, eat dessert first! Just think of all those ladies on the Titanic that were holding off ... now weren't they sorry :(

You can make some delicious desserts on the grill, just use your imagination!

I like using what ever is fresh in season and what ever is on hand in the house.

Peaches grill beautifully! Just wash them and pat them dry, remove the pit and put them on low heat on the grill, cut side down. Let them grill about 4 minutes, their juices will really come out and the natural sugars are just incredible!

I like to pair them (pun intended) with ice cream ... my husband likes this with vanilla bean ice cream but the choice of flavor is all yours.

You can kick it up a notch and serve it with grilled Angel Food cake too! Slice a deli bought Angel Food loaf (ya'll already know that I cheat when I can ... I like to eat and cook but why work harder than you have to?). Put the cake slices on the gill for just a minute on each side to bring out all it's sugary goodness, then pair it with whipped cream and fruit!

If you want to REALLY knock their socks off, try using a pound cake, and RUM! Yes, I am serious!

Sprinkle slices of pound cake with rum then spread lightly with butter. Grill for just a minute, then remove. Top with a creamy mixture of 1/2 cup sour cream blended with 2 tbl brown sugar! Yummy stuff and what's not to love about anything with Rum and Butter!

Grilled Pizzas

This is a family favorite and will suit every taste!  My sons have LOVED this since they were just little boys.  Everyone can top their pizza to suit exactly what they want and it's super easy to make.  I finally decided to share this on the radio so I had to "up my game" and I added a new twist or two and came to an whole new level of delicious!!!

Step #1 - CRUST!

Okay, I confess ... I cheat on this! Have you seen the frozen loaves of bread dough at the grocery store?   Grab a package and you're halfway finished with your crust! Spray a cooking sheet with cooking oil and let the dough thaw for about 3 to 4 hours. Don't let it rise - you just want it thawed.

Cut each loaf into 4 or 5 sections and flour your hands a bit. Stretch each section of dough into a fairly round shape. Each will be unique, some large, some small - something for everyone!

Step #2 - Grill the Crust!

Heat your grill to 300 degrees and spray with cooking spray. I don't mean spritz it ... spray that baby down right! You sure don't want the crusts to stick!

Put your crusts over low flame and never leave their side! It only takes a minute or two on each side or you'll burn those babies! Flip with tongs and remove them the instant they start to brown.

Step #3 - Top It!

Now I could make up a big elaborate recipe for marinara sauce but I am not a fan of reinventing the wheel and the Ragu company has already mastered this task - so why try to steal their thunder? You can use the sauce of your choice - just don't use too much of it. A tablespoon or two per pizza will be more than enough. Add shredded cheese. Not a ton - just a small hand full - I guess that's about a quarter cup ... I never measure anything! Mozzarella is a classic choice but feta is good too. Pepper cheese will zing up the flavor rating ... use what you like!

Top with your favorites - pepperoni is the most popular but you can use ground beef or sausage (left over from a casserole recipe or breakfast), cooked petite shrimp is very good too! Add what ever grilled veggies you can snag from the garden, fresh herbs are fun too ... and voila'! Tis' Pizza!

Step #4 - Cook It!

Sprinkle with just a touch more cheese and carefully slide your creation back on the grill. Turn off half the burners and cook your pizza away from the heat source. This just takes a couple of minutes, when the cheese starts to melt, remove and serve!

You can make all your crusts in advance and have a buffet of toppings so your guests can assemble their own pizza! We did this for a symphony cook out last summer and everyone loved it! This was also the feature of Thing #2's (my youngest son) graduation party. You can serve a herd without breaking the bank!

Now for the new twists.  Try these combinations:

Savory Chicken:     

Thinly sliced chicken breast (I grilled mine with Patti's sauce)
1 slice of Provolone Cheese
Baby Spinach Leaves
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Chopped Italian Parsley
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Use just a drizzle of Patti's sauce as your base, then add a pinch of Mozzarella, Spinach, Provolone, Sun Dried Tomatoes, another pinch of Mozzarella and Parmesan. 

Very Veggie:

Thinly roasted zucchini and yellow squash
Roasted Sweet Peppers - all colors
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Chopped Italian Parsley
Sliced Scallions
Provolone Cheese
Mozzarella Cheese
Parmesan Cheese
Ricotta Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Just a very light sprinkle of EVOO on your crust, then add provolone, zucchini and squash, sprinkle with Mozzarella, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Ricotta cheese, Scallions, a touch more Mozzarella and a pinch of Parmesan Cheese.

Mighty Meaty:

A light brush of spaghetti sauce, a pinch of Mozzarella, sausage, a slice of Provolone, pepperoni, sun dried tomatoes, more Mozzarella and then Parmesan, top with  few more tomatoes.  It's manly and mighty but a lady can use a knife and fork!!!

Peach Pie Pizza:

Grilled peaches - sliced (I did not peel mine)
2 Tbl Peach Preserves
2 Tbl Brown Sugar
Powdered Sugar to garnish
Combine the preserves and brown sugar, brush on your crust.  Top with sliced grilled peaches then bake.  Garnish with Powdered Sugar!   Would also be excellent with vanilla bean ice cream on the side - just sayin;!!!!!

Grilling Steaks

I am NOT a professional cook but let's just say... "There are no skinny people livin' at my house"!

Is there ANYTHING better than a really good steak dinner? I think not!

Here are some tips for making your next steak the best you've ever made!

1. Buy the best cut of meat you can! If you don't see a cut you like in the grocery, ask the butcher to cut one for you. They are happy to cut the selection you like and will trim it at no additional charge! You just have to ask!

2. Before you cook, bring the meat up to room temperature (30-45 minutes should do it). A cold steak will contract when it hits the hot grill...that makes the meat tough. Pat the steaks dry with a paper towel before you grill. If your steak is wet, you'll be steaming it instead of grilling it!

3. Salting Steak...2 schools of thought. Many abide by the rule of NEVER salt meat before you serve it. Salt will bring water out of the meat and you're back to the steaming theory! Your meat will cook to gray before it can brown on the outside. The opposite of the aisle is in favor of salting a steak with Sea Salt or Kosher Salt (never use fine ground table salt) and letting it sit for 45 minutes or so (while coming to room temperature). If this is your prefered method, you must rinse all the salt off and dry that beef before you grill it!

4. Marinate - I confess, I have a favorite marinade and I am proud to recommend you try it! Allegro Marinade, made in my home town, Paris, Tennessee! It is sold at most grocery stores and you can also order it from their web site. If you do marinate, be sure to pat your steak dry when it is at room temperature, then grill it!

5. No Forks, Tongs Only! If you pierce something, you'll need to put a ring in it and your food does not need jewelry! Tongs only! Piercing allows the juices to escape and your meat will be tougher that necessary.

6. Heat! I like to have my grill just over 300 degrees - makes a pretty carmely color (You just learned a new word ... 'carmely' ... it may not even BE a word, so we just invented it!) Be sure to spray your grill so it doesn't grab hold of your steak!

7. Flippin' - 2 rules - tongs only and just once!

8. Well or Rare - I like my food cooked, my husband likes it just off the hoof! A meat thermometer is the best way to control my impulse to cook his food they way I think it should be :) For a rare steak, stop at 120 degrees. Medium rare, 125 degrees and Medium at 130 degrees. For MY steak, I stop one step shy of a hockey puck -no pink at all!

9. After the fact -I know you can hardly control your urge to slice into that beautiful piece of meat - but control yourself! Let that baby rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Put a little aluminum foil tent over it to help fight temptation! The internal temperature will actually rise in that time and it gives you the chance to pour a glass of wine and get your side dishes in order!

10. Just a pat! - I know you won't believe this but I swear by it - while the steak is resting just off the grill, I put one small pat of butter on it! It adds to the juiciness of the steak. It's your choice but I pat it and add seasoning at that point.

ENJOY! Keep it simple and eat up!