Sunday, May 20, 2018

Blue House Journal: Spicy Apple Cake - I FOUND IT!

Blue House Journal: Spicy Apple Cake - I FOUND IT!: While sorting though Mama's cookbooks the other day I came across a Family Circle magazine cookbook that looked familiar.  I brought...

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole

Tried and True Thursday

Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
Years ago, I went to supper at a friend's home.  I was newly divorced and new to going about all on my own and felt a little nervous over the seemingly long ride to her home.  She did her utmost to put me at ease that evening and to make the dinner as special as she could make it though their budget was extremely tight. 
There was a bouquet on the table (picked from the yard), candlelight, the good china, cloth napkins and tablecloth, quiet music playing in the background.  My hosts were good conversationalists and we laughed and talked all evening long.  The hours flew past and by the time I headed home, though it was nearly midnight, I left with such a warm glow inside that I wasn't the least nervous on my way home.
My friend had a particular talent for making you feel at home and always had something a little special when you visited.  Often her budget was tight to an extreme.  Just getting through the day to day expenses of living was tough, but somehow when you were with her, you didn't notice her lack, you saw only her knack of making her home a very pleasant place to visit.  Whether she offered you a cup of brewed coffee or a glass of iced tea, she added some little something extra to make it special. 
I remember one summer day  visit and being offered a seat on the porch swing on her wide porch.  She asked if I'd like a glass of iced tea and returned with a pitcher and two glasses on a tray.  She set them on a small table and poured out this nectar that was subtly flavored with raspberries.  Her secret?  She'd taken a single pinch of Koolaid from her kids packet and stirred it into the freshly brewed tea!  Just little things like that made each visit such a joy.
Back to that first dinner with her, the meal she served that evening was Chicken and Wild Rice casserole.  She gave me her recipe and I learned to make it for my family.  As said, it's truly a budget recipe.  You can decrease the chicken, increase the rice and the vegetables and feed a crowd a satisfying meal.  There are all sorts of variations for this casserole dish but I like it just the way Linda made it.
I took out chicken breasts to thaw on Tuesday but was at a complete loss as to what to make for supper.  I took a ten minute power nap and rose with a smile.  I'd dreamed of Linda who moved away long ago.  And of course, dreaming of her brought back the memory of my first 'dinner out'  and the wonderful meal she'd prepared. I prepared just half a recipe for us, but you can double or triple this recipe easily. 
Kay doesn't like wild rice, but you can't keep her away from this casserole.  She absolutely loves it!
Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
1 5 ounce box of wild rice mix (I like Rice A Roni)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely diced celery
1 8 oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained, diced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 10 oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 fully cooked large chicken breast, skin and bone removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup shredded cheese*
Cook rice according to package directions.  During last five-ten mins of cooking put onion and celery on top and cover to finish cooking rice.  Dump rice, chestnuts, soup, mayo and chicken into a deep bowl.  Mix well.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper to suit your family.    Pour into an 8 inch round pan and spread to evenly distribute in pan.  Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese and bake 5 minutes more.
*Linda used Swiss, I've used Cheddar and last night I used Mozzarella that was shredded the night before when I made another dish.  You can also skip the cheese and top with crushed crackers or potato chips but put these on before you begin to bake rather than in the last five minutes of baking. 

Chili Mac

Tried and True Thursday

Chili Mac
Ask a man what he wants for supper in my house and nine times out of eight the answer is "Chili Mac!".  (The other two times?  Cheeseburgers).  Chili Mac has been a long time favorite of the guys of this household and it is awfully good.  We had a funny sort of day the other day.  The lawn had gone to seed and was oh about waist high (seemed like it anyway) and Chance was determined it would get mown that day come what may.  Well everything that could possibly go wrong did.  The mower blades were on upside down or backwards or something, so he righted that.  And then off he went only to have a belt shred to pieces.  Then the tire needed pumping up.  New belt was put on and snapped in two right away.  Second belt bought (correct size this time) and was put on.  Then he ran out of gas at the bottom of the yard and had to hike up and down again to fill the thing up.  And finally it rained!  Would he quit?  Not at that point, No!  It had become a major quest of his to mow that lawn and mow it he did.
Well I had total sympathy for my guy.  And hamburger was thawing out anyway so what better meal to prepare than one of his most favorite?  So I started the chili mac while he was outside and it was worth seeing the look of pleased surprise on his face when he came in, soaked to the skin, coated in grass and dirt (how you can get so dirty when it was so very wet only a mowing man can tell you!) and tired to the bone.  While he showered, I made corn muffins and a green salad and sat him right down at the table when he was all cleaned up and fed him.  I even had some cherry turnovers thawing on the counter (one of those manager's markdowns from the bakery that I purchased ahead a couple of weeks ago and froze). 
The yard looked terrific, by the way.  But more pleasant to me was the look of contentment on his face.  I felt like I'd scored a big one for the home team.
Chili Mac
1 pound lean ground beef
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cans of water
1 15oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained well
3 tbsps chili powder
1 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp brown sugar if tomatoes are very tart
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 8 ounce package elbow macaroni, bowties or rigatoni pasta
Brown ground meat, breaking up as it cooks.  Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is just translucent.
Add tomatoes, water, beans,  chili powder, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.  Bring ingredients up to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2-3 hours.  During last hour, remove lid and allow some of liquid to evaporate.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding brown sugar if needed.  Add cocoa powder and uncooked pasta, then bring up to a boil, cover and reduce heat to medium and cook for 8-9 minutes (or per cooking length listed on pasta package.  Pasta should be just al dente.  Remove from heat and serve in deep bowls.
I like to top the chili mac with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of sliced green onions or chopped fresh cilantro.  Chance likes to add oyster crackers to his bowl but I prefer crumbled corn bread, being a proper SCG (Southern Country Girl). 

Marble Spice Cake

Tried and True Thursday

Marble Spice Cake
Come autumn months there's a certain aroma that arises from the earth.  It's a combination of decaying leaves and damp earth and wood smoke.  It always makes me think of spices, the warming spices as I refer to them: cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and nutmeg.  Warm rich colors and flavors that just seem to be best suited to the time of year. 
I find myself reaching for these spices often when I'm in the kitchen in these months.  Ground Allspice lends a wonderful richness to pot roast or cubed steaks.  Whole cloves and allspice are wonderful in pot roast and chicken stew.  A sprinkling of cinnamon goes into the flour for oven fried chicken or is added to sugar to make toast or sprinkled over doughnuts.  Nutmeg is grated fresh (this truly is the best!) into sugar to top banana muffins or sprinkled over oatmeal. 
It's no wonder that my mind drifts into the wonderful spicy sweetness of desserts is it?  Apple pie with a deep streusel topping dark with cinnamon, sugar cookies with nutmeg or cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top.  Gingerbread with freshly made applesauce, or tart warm lemon sauce to temper the ginger.  Or spice cake. 
There's the wonderful plum cake made with strained plums (from the baby food aisle) and topped with a tart lemon glaze.  Granny's holiday cake that surpasses all: Japanese fruit cake, redolent with spices and topped with a cooked coconut, lemon and pineapple topping.  And then there's this cake.  A wonderful marble cake with a mixture of beautiful swirls of deep dark spice batter and white all mixed beautifully together.
Marble Spice Cake
2 cups sifted cake flour (or 2 cups minus 4 tbsps of regular flour)
2 tsps. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 tbsps. molasses
Grease and flour 8 x 8 pan
Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift flour with baking powder and salt.  Crem shortening and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs and beat thoroughly.  Add sifted dry ingredients and milk alternately in small amounts, beating after each addition.  Divide batter into 2 parts.  To one part add spices and molasses.  Drop batter by tablespoons into pan, alternating light and dark batters.  Bake 40 - 50 minutes or until cake tests done. (I start checking mine about 35 minutes into baking).
Frost with a simple vanilla butter frosting. 

Quaker Oatmeal Cookies

Tried and True Thursday

Oatmeal Cookies
You might ask why, of all things, I want to share a recipe for oatmeal cookies.  Doesn't every single cookbook known have at least one recipe for an oatmeal cookie?  Well yes, they do.  But I love oatmeal cookies.  Given a choice between brownies and chocolate chip cookies and any other and I'll pick the oatmeal cookie hands down every single time. 
Oatmeal cookies must have been one of mama's favorites as well. We had those about as much as we had homemade chocolate chip cookies.  These two were basics in our household.  Other cookies got made on occasion or for Christmas when we had a huge marathon of baking cookies for gift boxes.  But oatmeal and chocolate chip were everyday cookies.  We'd make those just any time.
The very best cookie in my opinion is the one right off the box of Quaker Oatmeal.  I've used other brands of oatmeal and tried the recipes that are inevitably on their boxes, but I come back to the Quaker Oats cookie time and again.  And so rather than share a written out recipe this week, I'm sharing a link instead.
I must also share my variations on the basic oatmeal cookie.  While in physical rehab there was a donut shop around the corner from the hospital.  As a special treat and to ward off the hospital food blues, Mama sometimes stopped in there and brought me one of their oatmeal cookies.  There was something rich and exotic about that particular cookie that wowed me every single time I had one.  I finally figured out the 'secret' ingredient...dates.  Chopped dates were added in addition to raisins.  The dates add  an extra moistness to the cookie and as I said it's also a bit exotic.
However, I don't always have dates on hand.  Nor raisins either, since the children are grown.  So I have experimented with other variations on the theme.  I've added chocolate chips and coconut.  Chocolate chips and pecans.  Diced fresh apple and craisins. Butterscotch chips and walnuts.  When I run low on oatmeal I add in cornflakes or bran flakes to make up the difference.  And just in case all that isn't enough, you can dip them in chocolate or drizzle with white chocolate.   Oh. My. Goodness.  I don't think there's a thing you can add to this basic recipe that would take away from it.  And if all inspiration fails the plain old cookie is just as good as it can be.
I have my printed recipe set up on the counter right now.  Because this week I plan to make Oatmeal cookies.  Mine will have raisins and dates and walnuts.  And I can't wait to bite into the first warm cookie that comes from the oven.  Don't let diet guilt stop you.  Just keep telling yourself you're eating a whole grain...

Famous Oatmeal Cookies

  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4  cup trans-fat free vegetable shortening
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 1  egg
  • 1/4  cup water
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla
  • 3  cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
  • 1  cup all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda


Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening and granulated sugar on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add egg, water and vanilla; beat well. Add combined oats, flour, salt and baking soda; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.
  • Prep Time: 20 min
  • Cook Time Time: 09 min

Cook’s Notes

HIGH ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT: Increase flour to 1-1/4 cups and bake as directed.


Add 1 cup of any one or a combination of any of the following ingredients to basic cookie dough: raisins, chopped nuts, chocolate chips or shredded coconut. LARGE COOKIES:Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 15 to 17 minutes. ABOUT 2-1/2 DOZEN BAR COOKIES: Press dough onto bottom of ungreased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered. Makes 24 BARS

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1 cookie (Ha!  I'll bet we all eat at least 2!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sour Dough Bread

Kelly's Sourdough Starter and Bread


3/4 cup sugar

3 tbsps. instant potatoes

1 cup warm water

Take a quart jar with a metal lid and punch holes in the lid so the
starter can breathe. Mix all the above ingredients in the jar,
stirring gently and let sit on counter 8-12 hours. Then store in
refrigerator. In 3-5 days add the above ingredients to the jar
again. Do not make bread from the starter until you've fed it three

After you've fed it three times you may make bread. If for some
reason you don't want to make bread then discard one cup of starter
before feeding. About every fourth time of bread making you'll find
you need to toss (or give away) a cup of starter or make a double
batch of bread.

Sourdough bread

6 cups Pillsbury Bread flour

1/4 cup sugar (I've decreased to 3 tbsps and am experimenting with
further reductions)

1 tbsp salt

1 cup sourdough starter

1/2 cup corn oil

1 1/2 cups warm water

Mix all ingredients in large bowl (I use my Kitchenaid mixer with the
dough hook attachment). Pat top of dough with oil, cover with waxed
paper or plastic wrap very lightly. (Kelly recommends spraying your
paper with nonstick spray. I use corn oil that I rub on with my
hands). Let dough rise for 8-12 hours. Punch down then knead
lightly on floured surface, about 12-15 times. Divide into 3 parts
and place in three well greased loaf pans. Brush tops of loaves with
oil, again cover with lightly with waxed paper or plastic wrap that
has been sprayed or brushed with corn oil. Lightly drape with two
dishtowels. Let rise for 8-12 hours. Remove coverings and place in
350F oven for 30 minutes.

I've just read Kelly's note to put bread on lowest shelf. I've
always baked mine on the top shelf and the bread has turned out
perfectly every single time. I plan to do further experiments with
the ingredients. I'm longing to try it with half whole wheat bread
flour, using olive oil for the corn oil, etc. I'll let you know when
I do try my experiments and what the results are. The recipe is very
specific as well about brands and such, but I'm going to try other
bread flours to see if the results work out as well. I can always go
right back to tried and true if it fails.

One thing I've discovered: 5 pounds of bread flour will make two
batches of bread. In my area, Pillsbury bread flour costs about
$2.59. I'll get six loaves and have two cups of flour leftover for
that cost. I've been buying bread for about $2.79-$4 per loaf,
depending on if I bought mass produced or artisan whole grain
breads. The savings to me has been well worth the small amount of
effort this bread requires.

This bread is excellent for eating fresh with butter, but it makes
awesome French toast. I find freezing it makes it much easier to
slice. And I've kept it up to two weeks in the freezer with no loss
of flavor. The biggest problem for me seems to be to get a piece
before it's all gone!

Apple Yummy Bars

Apple Yummies

2 cups chopped unpared apples

2 cups sugar (sprinkle over apples while preparing batter)

2 cups self-rising flour

1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon

2 eggs

1-2 cups chopped pecans

Stir together batter ingredients, then add apple/sugar mixture. Pour
into greased baking pan, 9 X 13. Bake @ 350F for 45-50 minutes.
Let cool then cut in squares. Freezes well.

These are very tasty and fat free. The last batch Mrs. Harris made
was prepared with the Splenda baking sugar, or equal parts of
sweetener and sugar.