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.