Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ham and Bean Soup

It doesn't get much simpler or Southern than this!  The key to GREAT bean soup is three fold.
#1 Beano (let's all be just a little bit honest here), #2 cornbread and #3 really good ham (the beans are just beans). 

2 cups chopped  ham
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sorghum molasses (in Tennessee, get Benton County, in Kentucky get Moonlite - they are the best in each state)
1 c water
1 large Reynolds Baking Bag with tie
1 pkg (large bag) dried northern beans
your largest crock pot
2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix (or make it from scratch if you prefer)
cooking spray

First things first, rinse those dry beans in your colander and get all the dust off them.  Then put them in a very large Tupperware box and cover with cool water to let them soak for at least 8 hours.  Pick out any discolored or "bad beans".  It takes a full day of soaking to have these ready to cook.  I start mine soaking in the morning then put them in the crock pot just before we go to sleep.  You'll wake up hungry I guarantee but it'll be oh so worth it when you don't have to cook tomorrow!

Second, take the sliced ham and place it in a baking bag.  Add the brown sugar, top with molasses then add water.  Make sure the sugar, molasses and water mix and then tie your baking bag closed  (poke a few holes in the bag to vent the steam) then bake in a baking dish @ 350* for one hour.  Remove ham from oven and open the bag (just cut a slit in the top) to allow ham to steam for 30 minutes in the juices.  Remove ham a few slices at a time.  Drain juices (those are precious and you'll need them) - chop the ham into very small pieces.  Place in a Tupperware bowl and then top with all those fabulous juices.  Seal and refrigerate overnight.  If you're in a pinch for time, buy the ham already to go - Kentuckiana makes a Brown Sugar Baked Ham.  Those are already sliced and super convenient.

Just before bedtime, place the soaked beans in your crock pot, cover with water (plenty of water) and set the heat on low cook.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  When you wake up (in the night or in the morning) check that water level as it cooks out quickly.  In the dawn of daylight (or when you are awake enough to function) add 2 cups of chopped ham and at least /2 cup of the juices from that ham.  This is the KEY to making GREAT Ham and Bean Soup.  Beans are beans, but great ham makes it famous with your friends and family!  You may want more ham it you like it meatier.  Add extra juices accordingly.

Let combination simmer all day (or at least 4 hours).  I know those beans just cooked all night but it's the addition of the ham, juices and extra soak time that make this so wonderful.

Prepare corn bread as directed....okay that's not exactly true.  I always add an extra egg (for luck according to my Mama) and (forgive me...) 2 good big pinches of white sugar.  I know that sounds awfully Yankee but Lord Love Me, I do like sweet cornbread.  You can make muffins, make it in a baking dish or bake it in an iron skillet - just be sure to spray your cooking outlet with spray before you begin.  Let cornberad cool completely or you'll eat it all warm with butter and have none to go with your soup!

Serve soup with Beano (revisit key #1) and warm cornbread.  Add a big glass of tea and you are all set for a low calorie high protein delicious dinner (the left overs are fabulous for lunches so this dish goes even farther)!!! 

This makes a really pretty delivery meal if you have a friend in need or under the weather.  I hope this warms your heart as much as it does mine.  Enjoy Ya'll!  xxooxx

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup

There is no better comfort food that potato soup. 

End of statement, it cannot be argued. 

I learned some new tricks with this today as my ingredient stash started to came out to the be the best pot of cheesy potato soup I've ever made!

5 lbs large russet potatoes
2 cans evaporated milk (low fat is fine)
1 1/2 cup milk (skim, 2% or whole milk - it all works, you may need a bit more depending on thickness)
1 large box Velveeta Cheese (2% is fine)
1/2 stick butter (real butter)
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of real bacon bits or 1/2 lb of bacon fried and crumbled
2 chopped scallions

Peel and dice potatoes, try to keep them a consistent size.  Put into a large pot of boiling water and cook until very tender and water begins to thicken.

Remove potatoes and drain 80% of the water (don't let any of your potatoes get way - use a colander).  I just eyeball this process - most of the water out...just a little left in the pot.  I use my potato masher (yes, the old fashioned kind with an handle - I have Mammy's) and lightly mash your potatoes.  You want it lumpy but thick. 

Add mixture into your crock pot or you can simply return it to the stove top and finish it on the spot.  Add evaporated milk and regular milk (the evaporated milk makes it creamier).  Cube the Velveeta and add to the soup mixture.  Add Salt and Pepper to taste.  Drop in the butter.  I have to admit, the butter was a rescue effort as my soup's sample taste was "too thin".  This did a GREAT job of improving the taste and consistency.  Wish I'd have done that years ago!

If your soup is too thick, thin it with more regular milk.  You can always thin it but you cannot thicken it well.  If you need to thicken, you can mash the potatoes more but it will only work so much.  Better thick than thin (that's what I say)!

Let cook on low until cheese melts.  Serve topped with bacon bits and a few scallions. 

Top with bacon and a few scallions.  I serve this with freshly baked bread...if it's a carb-comfort fest...why not go ALL the way!  Serve Honey Butter with your bread and it's even better :):)

If you refrigerate your left overs, you may need to add a touch of milk for re-heating.  It tends to thicken overnight.

An inexpensive and delicious way to end out a brisk and busy day!  Tater UP People!!!

Pumpkin Pie

Happy Fall Ya'll!  It has cooled off nicely and there is a nip in the air....and a PIE in the oven!

Pumpkin pie is one of the lowest calorie desserts you can make and yes (sadly) I'm back on the calorie counter so I'm trying to be a good girl this weekend (at least calorically :~)!

1 can Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix (make sure it is the MIX - not just the plain pumpkin)
2 eggs
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 frozen pie crusts
1 small container of Cool Whip
pumpkin pie spice (just to garnish)

Yep, it's THAT simple!  I am a busy woman and I don't have time to fret with a dozen ingredients.  The simpler, the better!

Mix the pumpkin pie mix with the eggs and evaporated milk.  Pour mix into pie shells.  I take aluminum foil and cover the edges of my pie crusts to keep it from over baking.  You may have those fancy pie crust covers from a kitchen shoppe but aluminum foil works exactly the same.

Bake in a 400* oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350* for another 40 or so minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I check mine at 30 minutes and remove the aluminum foil from the crusts.  They brown up nicely in those last few minutes.  Your total cooking will be close to an hour. This recipe makes a pie for you and one to share!

I top mine with a dollop of Cool Whip and if I've got my fancy pants on, I might even sprinkle it with a dash of pumpkin pie spice to impress my husband!  If it's just me...I can't wait that long and just dig right in! 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Captain Rodney's Cheese Bake

Now, this is not MY recipe but I had to share it with you.  I was introduced to this dish almost a year ago.  A friend at work brought this to a pot luck and we ate everything but the pot she brought it in!  This is RIDICULOUSLY Good Stuff.  I came across the glaze at a wonderful local gift shoppe today and it reminded me that I should make some to enjoy while we watch the football games with this weekend. 

1/2 cup mayonnaise (lite is fine)
One 8 oz pack cream cheese (room temperature - reduced fat is fine)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I don't skimp on the cheese is oily)
2 green onions (finely chopped)
10 Ritz crackers (crushed)
8 slices bacon (cooked and crumbled) or 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup of Captain Rodney's Boucan Glaze

The glaze must be shaken vigorously prior to pouring ( you need to get all the spices to mix).  It's easier if you flip the bottle upside down while you mix your gets a head start on those spices moving as this glaze is quite thick.

Mix mayonnaise, cream cheese, cheddar and onions in greased spring form pan. Top with crushed crackers and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Top with bacon then glaze.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes then remove the sides of the dish.  Serve warm with crackers (I like a buttery cracker like Ritz but use your favorite).  Also good dipped with apple slices and celery.  There will be NO leftovers. 

If you have an oven appropriate pretty baking dish, you can certainly use that as well.  I've even taken the wild hair and added chopped pecans instead of bacon.  That will suit any vegetarian that you may need to feed.  It is still wonderful.  The glaze is usually found in gourmet / gift / kitchen shops or at some grocery stores.  You can also purchase it from the Captain Rodney web site.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

This will make your house smell heavenly!

1 Box White Cake Mix
1 Package of Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (generic is fine)
2 Cans of Prepared White Cake Frosting
Foil Lined Cupcake Liners
4 Eggs
1/3 Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Water
Baker's Secret Baking Spray
Muffin Tin

You'll need to crush the cookies, I use a gallon zip lock bag and a small baseball bat.  It's cheaper than therapy and I hate cleaning up the food processor.  I'm pretty mighty with the bat so I double bag my cookies.  Squeeze all the air out, seal the bags - step out onto the patio, name those cookies after what frustrates you and whack away!  :)

Mix the white cake mix as directed.  I use whole eggs but you may choose to use the whites only if you prefer. When the batter is ready, add 1 cup of smashed cookies (I usually add twice that as I like a LOT of cookie in mine.)  Some add a whole cookie to the bottom then 1 cup of bits.  You do what suits you best.

Place the cupcake liners in the muffin tin.  I really prefer foil lined as they make your cupcakes come out so beautifully.  I spray each liner very lightly with a spritz of Baker's Secret Baking Spray. Fill cups 2/3 full of batter.  Bake at 350* for 15 - 17 minutes or until the centers are set.  Don't over bake, your cupcakes will be dry and crumbly.

Remove cupcakes form the baking tin and cool completely on a wire rack.  Whip the canned frosting to make it fluffier.  I whip mine right in the container, it makes one less thing to clean up.  Frost the cupcakes and garnish with remaining cookie bits.  These do not have to be refrigerated.  They are very pretty in presentation and are especially addictive!

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

This was a first attempt me last night as I've NEVER tried a filled cupcake.  A friend is becoming a groom this weekend and this was his wish - and you know I cannot turn a groom away so I set off into my own version of Cup Cake Wars - the Home Edition!

1 Box Yellow Butter Cake Mix
1 Small Box Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
12 oz.  Milk Chocolate Chips (Milk or Semi-Sweet)
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Cupcake Liners (foil lined only)
Baker's Secret Spray
4 eggs
1/3 cup Canola Oil
1 cup Water
1 1/2 cups Cold Milk (whole, reduced fat or skim)
1 Medium Pastry Bag with Small Round Tip
Muffin Tins

Prepare instant vanilla pudding mix as directed and place in the fridge for it to chill and thicken.

Prepare cake mix as directed on the package (I always add an extra egg to each box - it just makes it so much more moist). 

Line your muffin pan with any foil lined cupcake liner.  It's important not to use paper liners as they tend to stick to your cupcake and they cannot handle the chocolate ganache.  I like to lightly spray my foil liners with just a spot of Baker's Secret baking spray.  Your cupcakes will come out just beautifully!

Fill each liner 2/3 full of cake batter.  Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until the centers are set in a pre-heated 350* oven.  Remove cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.  Don't get ahead of yourself...these need to be completely cool before filling.

Place the tip into the pastry bag (I have to confess it has been so long since I've piped frosting, I'd forgotten how to secure mine - second try was MUCH more successful).  Use a pointed small round tip.  I place my pastry bag in a tea glass then flip the edges of the pouch over the top rim of the glass.  Fill the pastry bag with the pudding mix.  Twist the top tight and insert the tip into a cupcake.  Squeeze firmly to insert the filling into your cupcake.  You will notice a slight "puff" in the cupcake.  Do not overfill.

Place heavy whipping cream in a small sauce pan and heat it until small bubbles start to form on the edges.  Add chocolate chips and remove from heat.  Whisk constantly until all chips are melted.  Pour over the tops of the cupcakes or dip the tops into the ganache if you prefer.  Word to the wise, this can get messy so be prepared.

Chill in the fridge for at least an hour or even overnight.  I keep mine chilled until just before serving.  They were FABULOUS!  Not a single left over!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chicken Tenderloin

Best Chicken Tenderloin Ever and only 4 ingredients!
1 pound chicken breast tenders
1/2 cup Italian Dressing (drain and discard spices)
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 and 1/2 teaspoon honey
Mix dressing, lime juice and honey together. Pour over chicken tenders, making sure all tenders are covered; marinate for 1 hour. Braise tenders in a non-stick pan or grill to lightly golden in color but not dry.

Every bit as good as Cracker Barrel and those are my all time favorites!  Quick, easy and delicious!