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.

Park Avenue Bars

Park Avenue Squares

1 box yellow cake mix

1 stick of butter, softened

1 egg

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

8ozs. softened cream cheese

2 eggs

1 pound box of confectioner's sugar

1 stick of butter, softened

Preheat oven to 300F. Mix cake mix, butter, egg and nuts together.
Consistency will be similar to cookie dough. Pat into bottom of 13 x
9 inch pan.

In separate bowl, mix cream cheese, 2 eggs, butter and powdered sugar
until smooth. Pour mixture over top of dough. Bake for 1 hour until
golden brown and set.

Let cool before slicing into squares. These are very rich so cut
them small!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tried and True: Salad Dressings

Flashback post from Penny Ann Poundwise Newsletter.  August 2004

Dressing the Salad

I've always loved salads, but we've eaten more than our fair share
since we began following a low carb meal plan over a year ago. It's
easy enough to get variety in summertime when the price of fresh
salad vegetables are low, but in the winter the cost can be
staggering. Add to the salad makings the cost of store bought
dressings(many of which contain a goodly portion of sugar and salt,
not to mention additives and preservatives) and my budget could
easily be crippled before the month was over.

I've learned to make dressings over the past year, and find them so
tasty that I seldom will indulge in a bought dressing at all. When
I do, I often wish I'd saved myself the money and stuck to the
homemade! The flavor difference is truly that great. If you do
prefer your dressing a little less 'sharp' add a teaspoon at a time
of sugar or sugar substitute until it suits your families taste. I
seldom add sweetener to my dressings.

I use a cider vinegar when vinegar is called for. It adds a more
full bodied flavor than the white vinegar. You may also substitute
red wine, balsamic or raspberry vinegar to prepare any basic
vinaigrette recipe. If you'd like, substitute the herbal vinegar.
And if you want a fruity zing, use lemon or other citrus juice in
place of all or part of the vinegar.

One of the first dressings I prepared at home was Thousand Island.
I've tried variations of this recipe, but this is the absolute best
in my opinion.

Penny's Favorite Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise(I use Duke's which has no added sugars)
2 tbsp chili sauce(you can substitute ketchup)
2 tbsps finely minced onion
2 tbsps finely minced red bell pepper
2 tbsps finely minced celery
2 tbsps finely minced green bell pepper
1 tsp paprika

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and place in covered jar in fridge.
This is excellent on Reuben sandwiches as well as hamburgers, as a
condiment for fish and seafood or with any salad. Variations of
this recipe can include sweet pickle relish and/or chopped hard
boiled egg.

Once we'd made blue cheese dressing at home there was simply no
going back to the standard bottled dressing! We are fond of this
dressing with hot wings and celery sticks, as a dip for broccoli or
carrots and on salads when we're having a hearty steak or roast beef
dinner. This is a thick dressing. If you like a thinner dressing
add milk in 1/4 cup increments to the consistency you prefer.

Chance's Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp onion juice(or finely minced onion)
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight before serving for best
(If you're cutting down on fat and costs, substitute half cottage
cheese for the blue cheese, and no fat sour cream)

This is the newest addition to our homemade dressings. With a
little sugar or sweetener you'll have a taste similar to Catalina or
Russian dressing. Again, this one is good for Reuben sandwiches.
Brush this dressing on chicken and broil. And if you happen to like
liver, you can marinate the liver for a half hour in the dressing,
then flour and fry gently over medium heat. It's delicious!

By the way, if anyone has a good mayonnaise or cream based French
recipe I'd appreciate it. It's still hard to beat the bottled Kraft
French dressing!

Penny's Tomato French Dressing

1/4 cup vinegar
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup salad oil(I like to use a light olive oil)

Mix first six ingredients well and then slowly add oil, whisking as
you add. I keep mine on a dark shelf, as the olive oil has a
tendency to solidify when refrigerated. I try to use within 7 days
however. Shake well before each use. If you like the flavor of
garlic in your french dressing, add just one small clove that has
been crushed thoroughly.

Italian Dressing

1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsps water
1 tsp oregano
3 tbsp minced onion
3 tbsp minced red bell pepper
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

In covered jar, shake all ingredients until thoroughly blended. The
addition of grated Parmesan cheese is nice if you like. Great on
salads, or brushed over vegetables and meats you plan to grill or


1/2 cup salad oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 vinegar or citrus juice of choice
1 tsp sweetener(or to taste)
2 tbsp water

Shake all ingredients together until thoroughly blended. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Crock Pot Cranberry Chicken

I've had this recipe in my recipe files, pinned to Pinterest, etc.  For years.  Seriously years.  As I was going through my Pinterest file the other day I decided it was now or never time.  I have Cranberry sauce about to expire (though I expect, as acidic as it is, it will be good for a while yet) on my pantry shelf.  I had a bottle of Catalina type dressing in the fridge.  I had chicken.  I'd just purchased onion soup mix.  It was a "Go" on all points.

I admit I was slack this morning. I waited until 9:30 to start this dish.  My chicken breasts were frozen solid.  I forgot the cranberry sauce about to expire in the pantry and hunted all through the fridge for cranberry sauce I thought I had leftover.  In the end, I grabbed a container of homemade cranberry relish from the freezer to use and I'll explain why.  I wanted to make just enough for two.

Buttered Peaches and Ravioli

For August, I've challenged myself to try some of those recipes I've pulled or pinned.  This one, from Better Homes and Gardens Magazines was pulled just this summer.  I had the majority of the needed ingredients on hand and what I didn't I felt I had reasonable substitutes for.

This dish came together quickly.  The most time intensive part is waiting for the water for the ravioli to come to a boil.  The warm peach with the addition of the lemon zest becomes a savory sweet flavor which is perfectly balanced by the cheese ravioli with it's hint of garlic.

I made two substitutions: I used dried parsley and I used pistachios since I had no hazelnuts.   Hindsight says that perhaps toasted walnuts or even almonds might have been a better substitute.  

Buttered Peaches and Ravioli
9 ounce package refrigerated four-cheese ravioli
cup butter
cups fresh or frozen peeled peach slices, thawed and cut up
cup hazelnuts or almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
tablespoons snipped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

DirectionsCook ravioli according to package directions; drain, return to pot, and cover to keep warm. Finely shred peel from lemon (chill lemon for another use); set peel aside. Heat butter in a very large skillet over medium heat until browned (watch carefully so butter doesn't burn). Add peaches, nuts, Parmesan, parsley, and lemon peel; stir to combine. Add ravioli; toss to coat. Season with salt.

Final Verdict:  This came together quickly. It would be great for one of those necessary quick meal evenings especially in summer when peaches are usually at hand and I almost always have cheese ravioli in the pantry or freezer.

Tried and True Thursday Flashback 2009: Black Eyed Susans

Tried and True Thursday

Black-Eyed Susans
I didn't get to spend a lot of time with my dad's mom, whom we called "Grandmama".  I have very few memories of her, but one stands out vividly to me.  We're standing next to a concrete brick retaining wall which was probably 3-4 feet high and the day is sunny and bright.  I am watching Grandmama tend to her flowers on top of that retaining wall. They are beautiful, sunshine yellow with velvety soft black centers.  "Tell me their name," I beg her.  "Black-eyed Susans, " she replied.  I loved that they were named Susan, one of my favorite names among all.
When I came across this recipe first, it was in a Southern Living Eating Light cookbook.  Nearly every one has had these easy cookies in some form.  But in my Atkins days these were mainstays (made with Spelnda) when we had a sweet tooth.  These cookies are super easy, take few ingredients and make a pretty presentation on a platter for a tea party.
Black-Eyed Susans
2 cups peanut butter (1 15 ounce jar)
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips or 2 - 2 1/2 dozen Hershey kisses
Mix peanut butter, sugar, and eggs.  Chill.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Roll dough into 2 - 2 1/2 dozen balls and place on foil lined cookie sheet.  Gently depress thumb into center of cookie dough ball.  Place 3 chocolate chips in depression (5 if especially large) or one unwrapped Hershey kiss.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet.

Tried and True: Pepper Coated Roast Beef

Tried and True Thursday

Pepper Coated Roast Beef
Something about Roast Beef just makes it seem a special dinner, for Sunday or to share with guests...Thankfully, many cuts are relatively inexpensive and may be purchased for under $3/pound.  I'm not partial to one cut over another.  I pretty much like them all.  I require two things from a roast: that it be within my budget limits and that it serve us more than one meal.
I remember watching an episode of Little Rascals an original Our Gang black and white film where Spanky's parents nearly broke up their marriage over Roast Beef...Well actually, it wasn't the roast beef on Sunday but the Hash on Monday.  Seems Father had a very real dislike of the hash Mother served on Mondays/Wash Days following Sunday dinner.  No such luck in our household!  My kids would beg me to make hash and skip the roast dinner!
This particular recipe isn't a homey pot roast.  It's easy as can be, but the presentation is a little more elegant, nice enough for Sunday dinner or a dinner party for special guests.  The original recipe appeared in a 2004 issue of Woman's Day magazine.  It was the simplicity of ingredients that led me to try this recipe, but my family's raves has made it a menu staple.  It's a lovely roast for a celebratory dinner, would be nice for a holiday meal, as well.
As I said, I'm not partial to one cut of roast over another.  The original recipe calls for Eye of Round, which I do sometimes find well priced, but more often I use a Round Shoulder or Rump Roast and they do just fine, too.  A sirloin could be used, but you'd want to have your butcher roll it, and I must say I prefer any of the three mentioned earlier over the sirloin for this particular recipe.
When I make this roast I use whatever mustard I have on hand.  It's great with dijon, yellow or any whole grain mustard.  To crush the peppercorns place in a zippered plastic bag and use a rolling pin or meat mallet to coarsely crush them.  And if you want still more flavor add minced garlic and/or chopped fresh rosemary to the mustard. 
Pepper Coated Roast Beef
4 pound beef roast (eye, round rump or shoulder round)
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
3 Tbsps coarsely ground peppercorns
Heat oven to 425F.  Rub roast with mustard, press peppercorns into surface and place on rack in pan.  Bake 45-55 minutes for rare, 50-60 minutes for medium rare.  Remove from oven and tent with foil.  Let rest for ten minutes. 
This is excellent served with a flavored herb butter, roasted red pepper butter, or my favorite, a creamy dijon sauce.  To make the dijon sauce:  Heat 2 tbsps dijon mustard in a small skillet.  Add 1/2 cup half and half to pan and heat through until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.   Add 1 tbsp butter and stir until well blended.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Leftover Makeover: Chicken Quesadillas

I'd planned to make a different meal from these components but this was what I decided to make today...and they were GOOD!   That's always a bonus in my book when you take leftover food that was good the first time around and you make it a different dish that is just as good or better for the second round.

Leftover Makeovers: Meatballs, Stuffed Peppers, Spanish Rice, Steak and Cheese Burrito, Italian Pepper Steak Sandwiches

I started this morning with a plan.  I had in the fridge, about 1 cup of leftover bread stuffing, tomato sauce, 1/2 of a large sirloin steak,  2 cups of frozen rice.  Here's what I made with all three items.

I thawed the rice and a  pound and half of ground beef.

Makeover #1:  Meatballs
1 pound of ground beef, 2/3 of a cup of tomato sauce (leftover from meatloaf two weeks ago), chopped onion and garlic, the bread stuffing crumbled, 1 egg.  I mixed up all this and made up into 27 meatballs which I flash froze in the freezer.  These will be good for sandwiches, pizza and soup later on.  I doubled my usual servings per pound of beef by stretching with the other items.

Makeover #2:  Stuffed Peppers
I mixed 1/2 pound ground beef with 1 cup of cooked rice, 3 tbsps  diced tomatoes, chopped onion, and garlic and stuffed five pepper halves that I'd blanched and frozen after grocery day.  Typically we eat 1 pepper half as a serving (the peppers were huge)

Makeover #3:  Spanish Rice
I sauteed chopped onion, garlic and green bell pepper in a saucepan and added 1 cup rice, juice from the diced tomatoes and about 2 tbsps of diced tomato, seasoned with salt/pepper/chili powder to make a side dish for dinner.

Makeover #4:  Steak and Cheese Burrito
Years ago I used to have a Del Taco near my home.  I really enjoyed their steak and cheese burrito.  No Del Tacos anywhere that I'm aware of these days.  I sliced my leftover sirloin into strips.  I cooked onions in a bit oil until browned.  Some of the steak strips and onions were layered on a flour tortilla, topped with shredded sharp cheddar and a couple of teaspoons of homemade Enchilada Sauce.  I rolled and heated the filled burritos in the microwave.  Yum!

Makeover #5:  Italian Pepper Steak Sandwiches
I felt we had plenty of sirloin steak for the burritos so put some aside with some of the cooked onions and poured over the tail end of a bottle of Italian dressing.  I'll cook some bell pepper strips  (frozen) and add those in, pile on Onion Rolls and top with Provolone Cheese. 

Watermelon for Grown Ups

I've always been a purist where watermelon is concerned.  Just give me a cold slice and we'll call it good.  But this salad was AWESOME.  I'll post it here and at my recipe blog, too.  I've looked online for it with no result.  It was one of those minor recipes, tucked on the corner of a page of other items.  It's called Watermelon for Grown Ups.   Sorry to say I didn't take a photo of it but it was a pretty salad and the freshness was perfect with the spiciness of the tacos.

Watermelon for Grown Ups

4 cups melon cubes
1 6 ounce container plain Greek style yogurt (I used my homemade)
1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsps honey
juice of 1 lime
chopped pistachios for garnish

Mix yogurt, honey, ginger, lime.  Pour over watermelon just before serving, sprinkle with nuts..

Friday, July 22, 2016

Beef and Noodle Toss

Start to Finish: 25 minutes

Beef and Noodle Toss
  • 8 ounces lasagna noodles
  • 12 ounces boneless beef sirloin, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sliced crimini or button mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or (2 teaspoons)
  • 1 14-ounce can beef broth
directions1. Break noodles in half; cook according to package directions. Drain (do not rinse).
2. Meanwhile; season beef with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Toss with flour. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat, any remaining flour, and the tomatoes to skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until beef is well browned, stirring often. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook 5 minutes more. Add broth; cook 3 to 4 minutes more or until beef is done and liquid is slightly thickened.
3. Add cooked noodles to skillet; stir gently to coat. Heat through. Spoon into pasta bowls to serve. Makes 4 servings.
nutrition facts
  • Calories468
  • Total Fat (g)16
  • Saturated Fat (g)5,
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g)7,
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g)1,
  • Cholesterol (mg)40,
  • Sodium (mg)712,
  • Carbohydrate (g)52,
  • Total Sugar (g)5,
  • Fiber (g)3,
  • Protein (g)28,
  • Vitamin C (DV%)21,
  • Calcium (DV%)5,
  • Iron (DV%)21,
  • Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

***my notes:  I didn't buy a sirloin steak to cube.  I bought a sirloin tip roast at the very beginning of summer on sale and cut it into cubes then.  This recipe caught my interest because I almost always have half a box of lasagna noodles left in the pantry. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Granny's Fried Apple Pies


Fried Apple Pies

Granny was well known for her specialties: potato salad, pound cake, fried apple pies...
What, you may ask, is a fried apple pie?  Well if you're from the South you've likely tried them.  Traditionally they are made with dried fruit and are fried.  Not like McDonald's apple pies, either.  These are far more tender and delicate than that.

About this time of year, Granny's trees were full of green apples.  Green apples are not Granny Smith variety but immature apples, which are still green, as opposed to the ripened apples.  Green apples of all varieties  are tart and sweet and a little bit hard to bite into, but as children we haunted the trees when the apples got big enough to eat, even if they were green.  Granny was forever warning us we'd have a stomach ache from eating so many but we never did have.  And we knew they were good to eat because Granny would gather up big pans full to pare and slice.  Often too she'd make some into her wonderful  lattice topped deep dish Green Apple Pie, a dish I grow more and more nostalgic for year after year.  Alas, a dearth of green apples exists in my life. 

She would take all the rest of the apple slices  and lay them out on old window screens, covering with cheesecloth and another screen and let them dry in the hot August sun.  She'd gather up those dry apple slices to store in muslin bags and a little later, make Fried Apple Pies.  Typically we'd have them all through the winter months for Sunday desserts, when she wasn't making Pecan Pie or Pound cakes.

Now the 'recipe' that follows is a very loose one.  The measurements can be adjusted up or down to suit your family's needs.  The apple filling is merely one option.  Some folks like to make sweet potato pies (using mashed cooked sweet potatoes), some use dried peaches, and Mama's grandmother liked to make chocolate pies (she'd fill with cocoa and sugar and  a drizzle of cream over the dry ingredients).  You can make berry pies using preserves.  Suit yourself, but do try a fried pie at least once.

Granny began by taking about 2 cups of dried apple slices and poured over them apple juice to cover.  Then she put the apples on to cook, adding more apple juice as needed.  When the apple slices were plump and tender and most of the liquid had been cooked away, she'd make up a biscuit dough and roll it thin.  She'd cut into circles roughly as big as a saucer, plop 2-3  tablespoons of apples in the middle,  fold and pinch the edges shut.  Then she'd heat a cast iron skillet, add a couple tbsps of oil and butter mixed and when the oil was hot, she'd place those pies in the skillet to fry slowly.  When browned on one side, she'd turn to cook on the other side and then remove them to drain on a paper towel. 

You can do this whole recipe with canned biscuits and applesauce if you'd prefer. I have just baked them in the oven which suits us and our digestion admirably.  My family looks forward to this as a seasonal treat just before Autumn arrives and Summer ends

Sunday, July 10, 2016


Tried and True Thursday


I have always loved Gingerbread.  Years ago when I was in elementary school, Gingerbread days in the lunchroom were hailed as mighty fine ones.  That was truly years ago, when food in the schools was made from scratch, not this frozen processed stuff that is merely heated and served now in the schools.  School lunches in my youth were awesome things.

Anyway, back to Gingerbread:  spicy, warm, rich, moist and topped more often than not with a warm lemon sauce.  Awesome!  Granny made Gingerbread as well and served hers warm with chilled homemade applesauce on the side.  Yum!

When I grew up and had children of my own, Gingerbread was one of our frequent desserts, especially in those early days when money was so terribly tight.  It was fairly inexpensive to make and rich enough to satisfy the family sweet tooth and a smaller portion satisfied.   Then I lost my recipe...and I spent years looking for a good gingerbread recipe.  For once my favorite recipe book, The Culinary Arts Institute Encyclopedia Cookbook, utterly failed me.  Not one of the recipes was quite right.  Some were too light, all were too dry and none had that spicy richness I wanted.

Last year when I was visiting the Culloden Library Booth at the Peaches to Beaches Yard Sale, I found a 1970 issue of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, close enough to my long lost 1978 version to give me hope.  Flipping it open to cakes, I found my favorite recipe for Gingerbread.  I bought the book on the spot and made gingerbread that afternoon after returning home.

For me, Gingerbread is the quintessential Autumn dessert.  I love it best when the weather is rainy and cold and I can turn on the oven, whip up a panful and fill the house with warmth and spice.  That said, I do make it in occasionally in other seasons.  But I make it more often in the colder months. 

Sometimes I make it just as it is written below.  Other times I make it more like an upside down cake and if you haven't tried this you really should.  Proceed as you would for a pineapple upside down cake, melting butter in the bottom of your pan and adding brown sugar...then layer in thinly sliced pieces of apple or pear, pour over the Gingerbread batter and bake.  It's an interesting twist and a good way to use up those last two apples or pears.

To serve Gingerbread: Cut into squares and eat plain, out of hand, while warm with a tall cold glass of milk to wash it down.  For dessert, serve topped with lemon sauce (I don't have a recipe for this but it is essentially lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and water cooked until thickened.  It's a sweet tart sort of sauce), or applesauce or mix a spoonful or two of warm lemon curd into whipped cream and dollop on top. 

1/2 cup shortening (some recipes call for butter.  I use what I have on hand)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses (I like dark for the darkness it gives the bread...I have substituted cane syrup but I prefer molasses)
1 1/2 cups sifted self-rising flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup boiling water (you can use hot brewed coffee if you've leftovers)

Cream shortening and sugar until light.  Add egg and molasses, beating thoroughly.  Sift flour then add alternately with water, beating after each addition.  Bake in greased and lightly floured cake pan, 8 X 8, at 350F for 35-40 minutes, until pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

***Just a side note here...when I lived in an older home with plenty of holes for wintering mice to find their way indoors, I often baited mice traps with Gingerbread cubes.  The mice found the spicy goodness irresistible, too!


Tried and True Thursday


When I was growing up the Avocado was a pretty much exotic fruit.  We might see an occasional one at the bigger chain grocery stores, but seldom.  Things have changed dramatically.  Now even the tiny local grocery stores carry avocados (though not the one in my hometown). 

My first experience with avocado came in my early twenties.  My neighbor and friend was from California, Riverside to be exact, and she knew all about wonderful things like Hispanic cooking, avocados and wine, all exotic stuff to this rurally raised Southern gal.  I kid you not, the first macaroni salad I ever ate in my life was served at this woman's table, complete with the equally exotic black olives as garnish! lol   My California born friend was responsible for broadening my food horizons. 

I love avocado now.  I like it on burgers, in salads, and made into guacamole.  There are all sorts of recipes out there for guacamole.  It's kind of like eating Brunswick Stew or Barbeque or Clam Chowder...every region has it's particular version.  I can't recall just where I got my recipe from, but it is fairly straightforward, it tastes wonderfully fresh and when I do make it I fight to get a tablespoonful before it's all gone.  While one might traditionally eat guacamole with tortilla chips, it's wonderful spread on a burger, dolloped in the midst of a green salad and topped with grilled chicken, or even eaten with crackers.

2 ripe avocados (about 1 cup flesh total)
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 small jalapeno, seeded
2 green onions, whites and green tops
salt to taste

Cut avocados in half, remove pit and scoop out flesh.  Mash with a fork.  Add seasonings and stir well.  Serve immediately.  If you plan to keep in fridge for a few hours, put one of the avocado pits in the bowl with the guacamole and cover tightly.

Lemonade Stand Pie

Tried and True Thursday *Flashback to July 2009

1920 kitchen

Lemonade Stand Pie
This was one of the very first desserts I made as a brand new homemaker.  I loved the tart rich flavor of the pie filling and because it was a frozen pie it was perfect for a summer dessert.  I'll never forget the first time I served it.  Granny and her mother, Big Mama, came to lunch at my house.  I made sure the table was pretty with a tablecloth and my wedding china and because I had no flowers my bouquet was bunches  of  branches with green leaves of various trees from the yard.  I served potato salad and dusted the top of the salad with paprika for additional color.  I can't for the life of me remember what else was on our menu, except for the pie.

This recipe is versatile and easy to make.  A graham crust is the traditional crust, but you could use gingersnaps, vanilla wafers, pecan shortbread cookies or cornflakes, etc.   While the recipe calls for lemonade concentrate, I have used lime and you could use pineapple or orange juice concentrates as well.  I can tell you for sure that this is an easy recipe.  It's less than five ingredients if you have a pre-made crust. 

Lemonade Stand Pie
1 6-ounce can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 12-ounce container whipped topping
1 prepared crust, graham or your choice

Allow lemonade concentrate to thaw.  While still cold, pour into mixing bowl.  Add condensed milk and stir until thick and creamy.  Gently fold in all but 1/2 cup of the whipped topping.  Pour into pie shell and freeze. To serve, allow to sit at room temp for 15 minutes.  Slice and serve.  Use remaining whipped topping to dollop on slices

Fried Green Tomatoes

Tried and True Thursday  *Flashback to July 2009

1920 kitchen
Fried Green Tomatoes
Growing up in the South and in a gardening family, we had plenty of vegetables to eat fresh all summer long.  Often lunches were vegetable plates only, no meat.  And it wasn't uncommon to have cucumber sandwiches, tomato sandwiches or vegetable garden sandwiches (whatever was fresh and ripe and ready to eat along with a lettuce leaf between two slices of white bread!).

Occasionally we'd have green tomatoes on the vine come end of season and at that time Mama and Granny and Big Mama went into a frenzy of making up huge batches of green tomato relish.  Boy was that stuff good, especially on a mess of black eyed peas mid-winter.  (A mess of anything  is a potful).  During the relish making it was inevitable that we'd want lunch.  And with all those green tomatoes on the counter it seemed only fitting that we'd eat them for lunch. 

In later years, we often didn't wait for relish days to make fried green tomatoes.  When tomatoes were plentiful and in various stages of ripeness they were brought indoors and put on the windowsill.  Just let Mama think for one minute she didn't have a green vegetable to go on the table.  Why right there was a green tomato on the windowsill.  She'd take two, slice them and fry them right up.

Then Fannie Flagg wrote a book, which was made into a movie, both titled Fried Green Tomatoes.  Suddenly, everybody wanted to try those fried green tomatoes.  Nowadays many  groceries carry green tomatoes as well as ripe ones, so I can buy them.  And do you know they charge more for green tomatoes?  Well they are worth it.

Several years ago a friend from up North happened to drop by as I started to prepare supper, which happened to have Fried Green Tomatoes in the menu.  He was fascinated by the whole concept of eating a green tomato.  My kitchen was very small and as I took up the tomatoes from the pan, I put them on a plate on the counter behind me.  I urged him to "Try one..."  Well I should have known better!  The man not only tried one, he tried every single tomato slice that came out of the pan.  Imagine my surprise when I turned to pick up what was supposed to be a platter full of tomato slices and found just three lonely little slices on the plate!  He looked at me sheepishly and apologized...for not eating them all!  "I got full," he said.  Needless to say, he was a convert to eating green tomatoes!

I do things a bit differently.  Number One, I don't garden.  I know it's a darned shame, but Chance was city born and bred and truly did believe for many years that gardens were for those who couldn't get to the grocery store!  He's changing his thinking though and perhaps next year, he says, we shall plant a small garden of our own.  Being limited to the grocery store, meant I didn't have access to green tomatoes for a long time, unless someone with a garden blessed us.  (2016 and he's still saying, "Maybe next year..." or more often, "When I retire...")

Number Two, I have perfected my own method of making Fried Green Tomatoes.  Mama's method was straightforward, dip the sliced tomato in flour, drop in a skillet of hot oil, brown, flip and brown and eat.  They are perfectly edible prepared this way.  A neighbor of ours used to dip them in corn meal, which was pretty darned good, too. 

Here's my way of making them:
Fried Green Tomatoes
2 or 3 large green tomatoes (some red streaks are okay but all green are even better)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup corn meal
1/2 cup flour

Slice tomatoes thin (I know in the movie they sliced them thick, but honestly no one I know ever cut them that thick to fry.  Thin is best.  The tomatoes will crisp up a little).  Pour buttermilk over tomato slices.

Mix the dry ingredients in a pie plate.  Heat oil in skillet (you don't need to deep fry, just cover the bottom of the frying pan with oil.  You'll be adding more as you go).

Take a tomato slice that is fairly wet with buttermilk, dredge in dry mixture, drop into hot pan and repeat until pan is filled but not overfull.  They will fry fairly quickly and about the time you drop in the last that will fit in the pan you'll be turning the first one over.  By the time all the slices in the pan are turned over, it's time to take up the first one. 

The slices are best put on a rack over paper towels to cool slightly, rather than right on a plate, if you want them to remain crispy.  Otherwise, as you layer them on a plate they will get soft, but believe me they are still wonderful.  Repeat process until all slices are cooked.

Homemade Cream Style Corn

Tried and True Thursday (flashback to July 2009)

1920 kitchen

Homemade Cream Style Corn
I grew up in a family of gardeners.  We ate fresh vegetables all summer long and canned and froze and preserved everything we could for eating the other nine months of the year.  Fresh foods are soooooo much better than the stuff we get today in the grocery.

I've made the most of corn on the cob thus far this summer.  But I was homesick for some of the foods I grew up homemade cream style corn, which has absolutely no relationship to the canned stuff on the grocery shelves, nor the frozen stuff that comes in tubes either.  Twenty years ago, when Mackenzie Foods was still a small independent produce plant in the small town I lived in, they offered up packages of frozen cream style corn that was like homemade.  Alas, that business bit the dust after the union came in and took over the plant.
So this past week, while I was with Granny I asked: How do you make cream style corn?  I well remember the shucking and silking of ears each year.  But the part that came after we weren't allowed to participate in.  So Granny told me how to do it with a knife and as an afterthought she told me I could also use my box grater and use the long slicing side.

I bought corn on Big Shop day and yesterday I set to work.  First I cut off the tassels and the stem.  Then I shucked the corn and silked it and washed the ears well.  Then I put the box grater in a big deep bowl.  I did recall this part correctly.  Grating corn is a messy splattery sort of job.  I ran the ears of corn over the box grater until I saw nothing but cob on them.  And then I began the cooking of the corn. 

It was delicious!  We had fried green tomatoes with the dish (I'll try and remember to share that recipe with you next week) and cold ham slices and freshly buttered homemade bread.  While Katie declares me a gourmet cook, this was pure country cooking, good food, and boy was it worth every bit of my time and effort!

Homemade Cream Style Corn
6 ears of corn, trimmed, shucked, silked and washed
Place box grater in deep dish pan, or pot.  Grate corn on box grater (use the cheese slicer side) until nothing but cob remains.
Put corn in frying pan.  Add just enough water to cover slightly, then bring to boil over medium heat.  Stir and scrape pan often (I found about every ten minutes was just about right).  Add more water as needed.  Corn will need to simmer over medium to medium low heat for about 40 minutes.  Taste to determine 'doneness'.  It will taste sweet and not have the 'raw' milky taste of fresh uncooked corn.
When done, slowly stir in 3 tbsps cream, and 1 generous tbsp of butter.  Salt and pepper to taste and cook a few minutes longer until corn is thick and creamy.