Saturday, December 30, 2006

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire...

...Unless you don't have any, then you use pecans. My Sunday School class had a Christmas party a week ago. It was a really clever idea...A "souper" party. We had three different soups (chicken noodle, seafood bisque, and southwestern - all homemade) and grilled cheese. I was told if I wanted to, I could bring a sweet. Well, what kind of offer is that? I knew that the other girl would make a cake, so I decided to take pecan pie. However, I wanted to try one of Dorie Greenspan's recipes, so instead of my grandmother's recipe, I used hers.

I guess I'm just partial, because, even though this was a good pie I like my grandmother's better. This one has a really crisp top before you get to the inside. One thing I did REALLY like about this was the cinnamon. Even with only 1/2 teaspoon you can taste it in the pie and I think it really added to the flavor. I also experimented with the crust and used whole wheat flour. The flavor was nice, but if I do that again, the shortening amount will have to increase a tad. I got several complements from the people who ate it...for some strange reason most people at the chocolate cake. Go figure! :-) Side note: I won the "get to know you" game (with 9/18 correct - who knew 50% could win!) and came home with a jar of homemade muscedine jelly. It's good.
My Favorite Pecan Pie
by Dorie Greenspan, Baking from My Home to Yours

1 9-inch single crust (she says partially baked and cooled, I didn't notice this and baked mine with the filling - no harm done)
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional, didn't have so didn't use)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon groun cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (7 oz) pecan halved or pieces
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (optional, I didn't use)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bown, whisk the corn syrup and brown sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until you have a smooth, foamy mixture. Add the espresso powder, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Mix and rap the bowl against the counter to pot any bubbles that might have formed, then stir in the pecans and chocolate. Turn the filling into the crust.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Cover the crust with a pie shield or aluminum foil with filling still exposed. Bake the pie for another 15-20 minutes (total time 30-35) or until it has puffed (this middle and the edges should be fairly evenly puffed), is beautifully browned, and no longer jiggles when tapped. Transfer the pie plate to a rack, remove the shield and cool to room temperature.

Friday, December 29, 2006

A Trip to Memphis

Today we decided to take a little trip to Memphis. There were two main reasons: 1 - go to World Market (for me) and 2 - go to the Rondevous for ribs (for Philip).

The shopping area that has World Market is a really cute outdoor shopping center...the only problem was the curvy road that took us there! I was glad when we arrived...I'm not big on car rides, especially if I'm in the back seat! Anyway, after we ate our "snack" lunch at Barnes and Noble (yes, we ate in a bookstore but it was really good - Chicken and Wild Rice soup for Daddy, Turkey and Swiss panini for Philip, and Grilled Chicken with roaster Red Peppers panini for Mama and me) we went to World Market. Oh My Goodness!!! i could have stayed in there are really long time. They have everything from couches to plates to baking chips to curtains to hats! I ended up leaving with a cute brown beret, a green collander, some cappacino baking chips, Nutella, candied ginger, Digestives, and Roasted Chipolte Raspberry sauce. I've already used the chips for some cookies and they are SO good! There was a rug, blanket, and decorative shell hanging that I wanted but couldn't bring myself to buy as they weren't on sale. Oh, well...maybe online?

Then we went to downtown Memphis to check out the ribs at Rondevous. It took a while to find it on top of all the traffic and people in town for the Sugar Bowl. We went early and it turns out it is a good thing. By 5 o'clock, there was a small line...when we left at 6 there was an hour long wait! Anyway, Mama, Daddy, and Philip all got the ribs, while I got the Real Greek Salad.
They all said the ribs were good (as they were, I tasted them and really liked the seasoning but just don't care for the meat) and judging from the pictures, I think they really liked them. Nothing was left on the plate!
After dinner we went to the Peabody but the ducks were in bed for the night...oh, well! Tomorrow we're going on one last jaunt to check out a Thai restaurant in town...I'm excited!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Traditions

Well, I hope that everyone had a joy filled Christmas. Our family did. We got up leisurely, opened presents, had a leisurely breakfast, adn began making lunch. We ate lunch around 2ish and then just hung around the rest of the day. One of my presents was a (surprise for me!) new digital camera. So, hopefully I'll have some better pictures coming soon! Here is a peek at what we had for lunch and the recipe for our traditional Christmas breakfast.
Rib roast, squash casserole, potatoes au gratin, green beans, and rolls and fruit.

Breakfast Casserole
1 lb. sausage
6 slices bread, cubed
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
1 cup cheese
Brown sausage and drain. In a 13X9 casserole layer cubed bread, sausage, and cheese. Combine eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour over bread, sausage, and cheese. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 40 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Where is Thumbkin...

I have had this recipe tagged for a LONG time and decided to try it out for my Christmas tins...the last cookie of the bunch! It is an Emeril recipe. I enjoy watching him but have never tried his reipes. This one was pretty good, although I do wish that there was more lemon flavor. I know that part of the problem is that I didn't have any lemon zest to put in it. I guess that's the problem with lemon cookies..the lemon flavor usually cooks out. Overall, however, this was a very good cookie...had the perfect butter cookie texture with a slight chew from the jam.
Lemon Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
1/2 cup raspberry jam or jelly
1 tablespoon Chambord or kirsch (optional, I did not use)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I added an extra 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (I used store bought and used more than 1 T)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter 2 large baking sheets or use a baking stone.
In a small bowl, combine the jam and Chambord. Stir to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to blend.
In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Beat in the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 2 additions and beat just until moist clumps form. Gather the dough together into a ball. (I didn't do this as the dough was too sticky to gather in a ball.)
Pinch off the dough to form 1-inch balls. Place on the prepared baking sheets, spacing 1-inch apart. Use your floured index finger or 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to create depressions in the center of each ball. Fill each indentation with nearly 1/2 teaspoon of the jam mixture. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes (don't bake over this time or they will brown too much).
Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Berry, Berry, Berry, Berry Christmas

One of the things that I've discovered is biscotti. These are the perfect little snacks to go with coffee or tea. Some are really hard and must be dipped, others are softer and can be eaten without dipping. I've made biscotti before with a recipe that uses no oil or butter. Those end up being of the harder form. This recipe, from Allrecipes, uses olive oil. I thought this was a GREAT idea, since biscotti is an Italian treat and olive oil is often used in that region.
The only problem I had with these biscotti is that, because they are softer, they break easily when being transferred. I like the combination of cranberries and pistachios. I only had a cup of nuts but would definitely recommend using the full cup and a half. I also had to shell all my nuts, so if you want to decrease the preparation time, get pre-shelled nuts! Also, I didn't use any almont extract. I didn't have any but don't like the flavor it has. Most importantly, share some with you favorite Santa and enjoy with a mug of hot coffee, tea, chocolate, or even some chilled milk! Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
1/4 cup light olive oil
3/4 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1/2 cups pistachio nuts

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).
In a large bowl, mix together oil and sugar until well blended. Mix in the vanilla and almond extracts, then beat in the eggs. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder; gradually stir into egg mixture. Mix in cranberries and nuts by hand.
Divide dough in half. Form two logs (12x2 inches) on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Dough may be sticky; wet hands with cool water to handle dough more easily.
Bake for 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until logs are light brown. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees F (135 degrees C).
Cut logs on diagonal into 3/4 inch thick slices. Lay on sides on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake approximately 8 to 10 minutes, or until dry; cool.

Peanut Butter Balls

When I was trying to decide what to put in my Christmas treat tins, I wanted to do lots of different things. I also wanted to limit the chocolate. I think I succeeded. Only one thing had chocolate in it, the peanut butter balls. I've never made these but think I might do it more often. They are really easy and are so good.

I did several searches for recipes and couldn't find one that I liked. I think that I would have liked the ones with graham crackers in it, but I didn't have any graham crackers and didn't want to go to the store. So, I made some modifications and made my own recipe. I think I might add more peanut butter next time, but overall it was good. I think Sata liked them!

Peanut Butter Balls
1 cup peanut butter, crunchy or creamy (I used creamy), probably use more next time
2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup wheat germ
chocolate chips

Put peanut butter and margarine in a microwaveable bowl. Heat for 10 seconds to soften. Stir together until well blended. Add sugar and stir until combined. Add vanilla a wheat germ.* Dough will be stiff. Roll into balls and place on a plate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Melt chocolate chips until smooth. Dip balls in chocolate to cover. Place on wax paper and allow to set; if you want to set quicker, put in refrigerator.

*I did this by hand but it could easily be done with an electric mixer.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

You Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Man

Do you remember this story? I think it was a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. The old woman made a gingerbread man and he came to life. He ran away and kept getting into scrapes but always got out of them until someone ate him! I have a feeling this is the way most cookies feel...they want to run because they'll be eaten if they don't. Well, I don't have any gingerbread men, except for the pre-made one that came with my gingerbread house (remember Holly Cran Berry?), but I do have soft gingersnaps!

My family has a molasses cookie recipe that we really like, but I decided to try a different one this year. I actually think I like this one better. It is from Allrecipes. Making these cookies I discovered a couple of helpful hints for cookie baking.

-First of all, if you use a baking stone to bake your cookies, put the stone in the oven while it is prebaking. This gets the stone warm so that it cooks the cookies more evenly. This will give you a smooth bottomed cookie.
-Secondly, if you have to roll your cookies but the dough is still sticky, wet your fingers before rolling. Somehow this keeps the dough from sticking to your hands.
-Thirdly, if you don't own a sifter, simply put the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir using a whisk. This gives the same aeration that sifting provides.

Using these tips, you should have wonderful Christmas cookies!

Grandma's Gingersnap Cookies
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/3 cup cinnamon sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (275 degrees C).
Mix and sift the first 5 ingredients. Sift a second time and place the mixture back into the sifter.
Beat the shortening until creamy. Add the 1 cup of sugar gradually and continue beating. Beat in the egg and the molasses.
Sift into this about 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring and blending well. Repeat until all is added. Roll the dough into tiny balls by hand, rolling each in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.
Place 2 inches apart on a ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes until the tops are rounded and slightly cracked. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Hark How the Bells...

Every time I see the red Christmas tin with the old country church, complete with bell tower, I am taken back to Christmases when I was little. That specific tin is the one we used to put one of my favorite Christmas snacks in. A few years ago when Mama was cleaning out her tin collection, I told her that she had to keep that tin. Who knew that asimple Christmas tin could bring on such memories, but for me it does! I wish I had a picture to show, but I don't!
The snack that we used to put in that tin was oyster crackers! Just a little cracker with salty goodness! I haven't had that snack in several years. We've turned to trash because that's what my dad likes (I prefer that now, too!). However, I decided to make this for a meeting I had yesterday because it's a LOT cheaper than trash and is faster. Well, the people at my meeting missed out! No one ate ANYTHING! I had oyster crackers and ginger cookies. Oh, well. Sarah, the girl I worked with this summer hung around after everyone else had left and had some.
It is a simple recipe, only three ingredients. My mom told me it took one cup of oil, but I decided that was WAY too much and halved it. That turned out to be plenty...probably could have even used less. Anyway, here is the recipe.

Christmas Oyster Crackers
1 bag oyster crackers
1 pack Zesty Italian dressing dry mix
1/2 cup oil

Whisk together the oil and dressing mix. Pour over oyster crackers and stir gently. Place in an air tight container with a napkin in the bottom.

Monday, December 18, 2006

For the past two years, I have done a gingerbread house for our kitchen. Now, I don't do the whole baking and cutting myself. I buy a pre-made house, assemble it, and decorate. However, this year I didn't know if I would do it because my parents moved. When I was shopping this Saturday, I decided to get a kit and make a house. At first I didn't see a gingerbread house. There were trees and trains but no houses. Then I started digging...there it was, all the way at the back. So, I present to you Fondren Cottage!
This is Holly Cran Berry! She designed the house herself. The cobblestones lining the path to her peppermint door are made of tangy candy. Her roof is dotted with gumballs and candies. To prevent leaks in her roof, she so artfully added colorful gumdrops! After New Years, she invites anyone that dares to eat her house...she likes to move around a lot!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Can Show You the World...

Friday night a friend and I went out to eat and to the ballet! The company that did the performance is a local Christian ballet company. They are fairly well known (worldwide) and have dancers from all over the world in their company. It is called Ballet Magnificat. The professional troupe is WONDERFUL and is headed up by Kathy Thibodeaux the only American to have won the International Ballet Competition silver medal. She's amazing...50 years old and still dancing beautifully! She is married to Keith Thibodeaux, who most of you will know as little Ricky on I Love Lucy! Anyway, the ballet was called A Christmas Dream and was set to the music of The Nutcracker. It was a beautiful presentation of our struggles with sin and how Jesus rescues us and welcomes us into His eternal kingdom. Beautiful! This picture is from a dance called Kingdom Kids. The girl in the green on the left is a little girl I used to take to ballet class...Go, Katie!!! NOW, on to the food.
Before the ballet we ate at a little Mediterranean restaurant called Aladdins. It was really good and gave me leftovers. If you're ever in the Jackson, MS area and want a local, "hold in the wall" restaurant, I recommend this place. They offer chicken, beef, lamb, and vegitarian fare. Vickie got the gyro plate. I haven't had lamb in forever and this was wonderful. Well flavored and tender.
I got the chicken lula. The waitress told me that it was ground chicken, with the spices ground into the meat, shaped into kabobs. Well, it wasn't exactly in a kabob shape. To me they looked like a fish filet. But the flavor was really good...nice spices. Both plates came with fresh hummus, salad, and rice. I'll definitely go back...I can even walk to it from my apartment!
Now, here's a meme that I picked up from Stacy at Hambones. It's not really food related but it's Christmas themed and is fun!

Holiday: Christmas or New Years? Christmas for sure! I've never really done anything on New Years. Usually I babysit; most of my friends now are either married or dating, so hanging out with them wouldn't be much fun. Hopefully I can cook something up!

Cookies: Sugar or Gingerbread? Sugar - I love the simplicity of it!
Decorations: Santa or Snowmen? Snowmen, in fact I just bought some $1 snowmen glasses at Kroger today!

Decorations: Reindeer or Elves? I guess I'd pick reindeer, but really neither.
Colors: Red or Green? Hmmm...I like both, but I guess green.
Colors: Gold or Silver? I really don't know, probably silver but I'm starting to like gold a little more now.

Tree Topper: Star or Angel? An angel. It's on my parents' tree. Mine has a gaudy looking something we got in Kyrgyzstan.

Stocking Stuffer: Fruit or Candy? Well, I've never gotten fruit in my stocking and I don't know if I'd want to because I eat that ALL the time. So, I guess I'd go with candy.

Tree: Real or Artificial? Artificial.
Cartoons: Charlie Brown or Rudolph? I don't know if I've actually seen either all the way through.
Movie: It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol? I don't watch either of these but the preference would be It's a Wonderful Life.

Stocking Stuffer: Jewelry or Gift Card? If I was dating Alas, I am not, so I'll go with gift card.

Christmas List: Naughty or Nice? Niiiiice! Unless you start talking about microbiology.
Drink: Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Honestly, NEITHER
Holiday Ghost: Past, Present, or Future? I don't understand the question!
Vacation Spot: North Pole or Winter Wonderland? Winter Wonderland. I DREAM of a white Christmas.

Holiday Song: Jingle Bells or Silver Bells? Jingle Bells
Holiday Song: Silent Night or O’ Holy Night? O Holy Night!
More Fun: Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? Both are so different. Christmas Eve we usually go to Christmas Eve service, which I love. And it is fully of, hello! Christmas Day is fun, too! We spend it together just relaxing and celebrating the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, who came to be the sacrifice for us!

Lights: Clear or Multi-Colored? I like both! My tree has white but colored is more homey to me.
Ornaments: Bulbs or Bows? Bulbs
Tree Decor: Ribbon, Popcorn, or Garland? None of these.
Gifts: Wrapping Paper or Gift Bags? I prefer wrapping paper.
Better To: Give or Receive? Okay, honestly they are both mucho fun, but I like giving and seeing people love the gift!

Okay, if you'd like to do this, go ahead. I'm not tagging anyone specific because I know how busy it is. But if you do this, let me know so I can check your answers out!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Kissed by a Goat

I went to a Christmas party tonight with the girls in my prayer group from medical school. We had a lot of fun! It started at 7 and I didn't leave until 10:30. We played dirty Santa, which was TONS of fun! The girl who got the gift I brought loved it and tried to hide it from people so that they couldn't steal it! I got a really cute necklace from my FAVORITE store (Ann Taylor LOFT) and it went perfectly with the outfit I had on! YAY!
We had chicken and deer sausage gumbo. It was really good. For dessert there was a pecan pie cake. Decadent! There were also appetizers of stuffed mushrooms (Super yum), cheese dip, topped crackers, Martha Washington candies, and more.
I decided to take a new appetizer called Goat Cheese Kisses. It was on the back of a real estate postcard my mom had. The recipe is from Eating Well. In the middle of goat cheese you put apricots. This took me back to my time in Kyrgyzstan. We used to get dried apricots all the time...I must say that those apricots we better than these store bought ones, but you can't beat fresh!

Anyway, I thought these "kisses" were different and tasted pretty good. The combination of goat cheese and apricots was pleasing and the nuts added a nice texture. The only drawback was that they were a bit hard to put together. When I tried to spread the cheese around the apricot, it stuck to my fingers rather than moving around the apricot. I don't know if maybe I would have had more success if I wet my fingers (like you would if making biscotti) or not. All in all these were good but I don't know if I'd make them crown doesn't really have such "elegant" palates!
Goat Cheese Kisses
6 oz. goat cheese (I had 5 oz and this was plenty)
6 dried apricots, quartered (I used more than this)
3 Tablespoonts chopped pistachios or macadamia nuts

Scoop our a heaping 1/2 teaspoon* cheese. Form around a quarter of apricot. Roll in nuts.

*I stopped measuring and just used what I needed to cover the apricot. I'm sure it was MORE than 1/2 teaspoon!

Friday, December 15, 2006

I'm Done...It's Christmas Break

I finished my last exam at 2:30 today! Yay, I'm done! Now I only have 5 more months until I get to start actual hospital stuff...clinicals are coming! This means that the lack of cooking around here will stop. I am going to start my Christmas baking tomorrow and try a new appetizer for a get together a group of girls from my class is having. I'm not for sure about all my baking but I'm going to try Peanut Butter Balls, a new Molasses cookie recipe, a new Biscotti (cranberry and pistachio) recipe, and my mom's toffe. I'll probably do some chex mix or cheese sticks, too. The appetizer is a goat cheese bite with apricots in the middle. I'll let you know how it goes.

As for a recipe, I'm traveling back in time all the way to Thanksgiving! My grandmother is the pecan pie expert in the family and, as usual, made wonderful pies. By the end of the weekend, there were only two pieces from the two pies she made remaining. I'd say that's pretty good! I have made this pie once, and it turned out just great. So, I'd have to say it's pretty simple and can be done by anyone!
On a side note: the nut used in this pie is a pe-c-ah-n, not a pea can! :-) Now go enjoy!

Pecan Pie
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup karo
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons melted butter
pinch salt
1 cup pecans*

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Beat eggs. Add sugar and remaining ingredients. Pour all into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes. Decrease temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 20 minutes. Cover crust to prevent burning. Serve warm with ice cream.

*I like to coarsely chop the pecans.
Pie Crust
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 T water
1/3 cup shortening
Sift flour and salt into bowl. Remove 1/4 cup flour and blend to a paste. Cut shortening into remaining flour until pieces are size of small peas. Add paste to flour mixture. Mix with fork until dough comes together and can be shaped into a ball (this is best done by putting a piece of saran wrap over the bowl, dumping it, and pressing the dough together.) Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Roll out crust to 1/8 inch thick to cover 9-inch pie pan

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

School Cafeteria Food

I saw a post by Cookiecrumb at I'm Mad, I Eat about her memories from her school cafeteria and LOVED the thought of talking about that. So, I'm borrowing her idea and am talking about my memories from the school cafeteria. In high school I was definitely a brown bagger. I think I bought lunch ONCE my entire time in high school. That lunch...vegetable soup and grilled cheese or peanut butter and jelly! To me, that is the BEST public school lunch there is!

However, if we take a trip back to elementary school, the story changes. There is just something about an elementary school cafeteria that is comforting and nostalgic. The little tables with the round seats attached. The lines through the kitchen to get food. The smell...I don't exactly know what it is, but it brings back memories. In kindergarten and first grade the only specific memory I have is wanting to get the taco salad that had been put out first so that my chips would be soggy! Why? I DON'T KNOW!

I think most of my cafeteria memories come from 2-3 grades. There was just something about sitting at a table with my friends, dipping steak fingers in the mashed potatoes, and getting scared out of my mind by someone telling me about Bloody Mary (I slept on my back for YEARS because I thought I felt someone touch my shoulder one night after I had been told about "her."). Ice cream was best eaten by scraping the top with the plastic fork, pouring milk over it, drinking the milk (which was not much sweeter), and then eating the ice cream, which I guess was more like ice milk at that point. There is also something about cafeteria pizza. The pepperoni kind is GROSS! Those fake little red bits were always tough and too spicy for me. The sausage pizza was the kind I liked (NOW I would rather have a veggie pizza but would still choose sausage over pepperoni).
After sixth grade I started brown bagging it, but as mentioned earlier would give up my bag for a little tray with a bowl of veggie soup and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made like my grandmother made it, by mixing the PB and jelly together before spreading it on the bread! What fun memories from my public school the college cafeteria, that's another story! ICK!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mexican Style Chicken Soup

Last week we had some really cold weather for MS. The highs were in the mid-40's and the lows were near record teens! I know...we really suffer down here. I'd like to have some snow at some point. The last time we had snow was January 1st 2001. TOO LONG! Anyway, I decided it was perfect soup weather and whipped up a little something of my own. I think I might change it a TAD next time, but overall it was really good.

At first I was going for a tortilla soup, but I didn't like any of the recipes I found. However, they did give me good ideas for ingredients. The chicken for this turned out perfectly. Unfortunately, because I was stuyding when I made this, I don't know how long I cooked it. I just boiled it but somehow it was just right. When I cut it, I cut along the grain so that it kind of shred on its own. This was perfect for the soup. Black beans add to the nutrition of the soup by giving some fiber and antioxidants. SO, this is my submission for Sweetnicks ARF-Five-A-Day Tuesday. Stop by and check out the other entries. I just finished the leftovers tonight and they are so good!

Mexican Stype Chicken Soup
2 chicken breast (boneless, skinless), cooked and chopped/shredded
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup (or more) mushrooms
2 cans chicken broth (I might add one more next time to make the "soup" feel last longer)
1 can corn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can rotel tomatoes
1 tomato, chopped

Cook chicken, shred, and set aside. In a dutch oven, saute onion, pepper, and mushrooms until tender. Season with Tony's seasoning. Dump in all remaining ingredients, including chicken. Stir and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips or cornbread. (I used hint of lime tortilla chips...oh YUM!) ENJOY!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Corn Muffins...perfect to go with Soup

This is the perfect soup weather. In fact, I think that I could eat soup everyday. BUT, you've got to have something to go WITH the soup, right? I usually make either toast or my garndmother's cornbread. HOwever, over Thanksgiving I decided to try a new recipe from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking From my home to Yours. I knew that one recipe of cornbread wouldn't be enough. The recipe I picked is called Corniest Corn Muffins. They turned out GREAT. This is a sweet corn muffin, which my cousin and brother loved. Natalie had two and wanted more but they were all gone! It's pretty easy to put together and Dorie even gives substitube information if you don't have buttermilk. I had used all of ours in the first cornbread recipe, so I used 2/3 cup yogurt and 1/3 cup milk, as she suggested. What a great sub! Worked great! So, try these out with your soup, gumbo, or just alone for breakfast or a snack. If you've never tried honey or jam on cornbread, it is great!

Corniest Corn Muffins
1 cup AP flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or the substitution mentioned)
3 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T corn oil (I used canola)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (I didn't use this)
1 cup corn kernels - fresh, frozen, or canned (drained and dried)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray muffin pan (regular size). IN a large bown, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, b powder, bsoda, salt, and pinch of nutmeg if using. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, oil, egg until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Batter may be lumpy. Stir in corn kernels. Divide the better evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden adn a thin knife inserted in center of muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins and enjoy!

Monday, December 04, 2006

In honor of National Cookie Day

I didn't plan to do this post today but Anna at Cookie Madness alerted me (us) to the fact that today is National Cookie day. SO, in honor of the celebration here is a good, slightly healthier cookie recipe. It is from a summer edition of Cooking LIght. When I finally found dried blueberries I pulled it out and tried it. Let me say YUMMY! This was nice and light with the perfect tartness added by the blueberries but lacking the overwhelming (if you ask me) taste of chocolate. Once again, because blueberries are full of anioxidants (go ahead, eat them everyday!!!), this is my submission for Sweetnicks ARF Tuesday. Stop by and check out the other recipes.

Triple Fruit Cookies
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened (I probably used margarine, don't remember)
1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
2 T fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups AP flour (6 3/4 oz)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice (I omitted)
1/4 cup dried blueberries *
1/4 cup dried cranberries*
1/4 cup dried cherries* (did not use, yuk!)
1/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream sugar and butter (about 3 minutes). Add corn syrup, orange juice, vanilla, and egg. Beat until well combined. Combine dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Stir until just combined. Add fruit and coconut, stir gently. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on pan for 1 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Yield: 4 dozen (serving size - 2 cookies)

Calories: 108, Fat 3.1 g, protein 1.2 g, carb 19g, fiber 0.7g, chol 16 mg, sodium 90 mg, calc 17 mg, iron 0.6 mg.

*I don't like cherries unless fresh, so I added more cranberries and blueberries. It could probably handle a little more coconut as well.

Coming up: Chicken Mexican Soup, oh so good on a cold night like tonight!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Louisiana Gumbo

My week has been full of studying. This means that my cooking has consisted of warming up leftover gumbo, making oatmeal, microwave spinach and grilled catfish, and spinach omlette. Nothing exciting. However, making the gumbo WAS exciting. This is SUCH a good recipe. It comes straight from a Louisiana kitchen but is low fat. Don't worry, taste doesn't suffer ANY. I've had a native Louisianan tell me that it is great and my family raved over Thanksgiving.

It takes lots of chopping but really doesn't take that much time. You can even prep the night before and cook the next day. The recipe says that okra is optional; I don't understand this because, to me, gumbo isn't gumbo without okra! Also, this was the first time we've used liquid crab boil. If you don't have this and already have dry crab boil, you can use it. I think I used 2 Tablespoons of dry but just put some in and taste. I think the liquid form was spicier. This can be served with rice. We usually put the gumbo is a bowl and put a scoop of rice on top. That way you can get as much rice in your bite as you want. I think that cornbread is required for this, as well. The recipe for the corn muffin in the picture is up's from Baking from My Home to Yours!
We made this gumbo at the beginning of November but stopped after adding the chicken and sausage. Then we cooled it and put it in large ziplock bags and froze it. When we pulled it out to serve, we thawed it, added the shrimp, okra, and green onions and cooked for the remaining 20 minutes. This is great served right away or after freezing. SO, even thought it makes a LOT, it does freeze VERY WELL! FYI, we use one of those REALLY BIG (I don't know what size but it's probably 1.5 feet tall!) stock pots to make this. That's how much it makes. Now for the gumbo...
I've entered this in the Soup Challenge over at Running with Tweezers. Check out all the other recipes after December 8th.

Louisiana low fat Gumbo
1 1/2 cups flour
4 cups chopped onion
3 cups chopped bell pepper (about 1 is a cup if not too big)
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped green onions (really kind of optional)
3 T minced garlic (we used pre-minced and it was great but I usually use fresh)
2 cans rotel tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 gallon well seasoned chicken stock (Cook your chicken in 1 gallon of water and you have FRESH chicken stock; don't go buy it unless you just want to)
~6 chicken breasts
2 lb sausage, chopped (we use turkey kielbasa)
2 lb raw shrimp (we use frozen)
8 bay leaves
1 teapoon thyme
1 T. liquid crab boil
Tony's Chachere's
1 T parsley flakes
1 cup (that's all???) okra (I use a whole bag of frozen, I think about 12 oz)

Place flour in baking pan and put in 400 degree oven. Stir occasionally with wooden spoon until pecan brown color is obtained ( probably could have gone further here). Season chicken well with Tony's and boil in gallon of water until done. Chop. Boil sausage (if uncooked) in water until done, drain.
Saute veggies except green onions in 1 cup chicken stock. Add roux (cooked flour) to beggies followed by hot stock. Add tomates, tomato sauce, W. sauce, bay leaves, and thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add chicken, sausage, and crab boil. Cook for 30 minutes. Add shrimp, green onion, parsley, okra, and Tony's to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes. Serve hot with rice an cornbread and a green salad!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Apple wait! Blueberry Cobbler

This summer we had a peach pie at my grandmother's house. My brother asked if it was apple. I told him it was peach but would he eat apple. He said, "Yeah, I like that." Sister remembers these things! Fast forward to November. I asked Philip if he still liked apple pie because I wanted to make it for Thanksgiving dessert. Surprise, surprise! He said what he really wanted was that "blueberry pineapple stuff with the cake on top...Yum!" If you knew my brother, you would know that this is rare. SO, being the doting sister that I am, I informed my mom that blueberry cobbler would be one of the desserts on the table.
During the summer we use those delicious fresh blueberries that are available. However, as it is November, we used frozen. This still works perfectly. This is a pretty sweet dessert. In fact, I had several people comment on its sweetness and I had already cut down on the sugar that it called for! You could probably get away with using only 1/4 cup of the 3/4 it calls for! Philip doesn't like nuts, so I always put nuts on half and leave the other side plain. This dessert is pretty simple. I didn't even realize it until I was typing, but it is fairly dump-and-bake. Only one dish to wash! Even though this is a sweet dessert, it contains LOTS of antioxidant rich blueberries, so it is my submission for Sweetnicks ARF Tuesday. Stop by her place for other delicious recipes.
Blueberry Cobbler
1 12-14 oz. (whatever the large size is) crushed pineapple
3 cups (I use more than this, about 1.5 bags frozen) fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup sugar (probably use less unless you REALLY like it sweet or are afraid your berries are sour)
1 box yellow or butter cake mix
1 stick margarine, melted
1/4 cup sugar (This gives the top a little crunch, but you don't have to use it)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Pour undrained pineapple into 13 X 9 pan. Put berries on top of the pineapple. Sprinkle with sugar. Open cake mix and sprinkle over the berries. Pour melted margarine over the cake mix. Top with chopped nuts and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes. Open oven and use a spoon to poke holes in the top of the cake mix so that the juices from the fruit come through. Return to oven for 10-15 more minutes (a TOTAL time of 35-40 minutes) or until browned and bubbling. Serve warm with ice cream.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Green Beans Take 2 - Mushrooms

This is one of my favorite ways to have mushrooms. I decided to do these last Thanksgiving becuase I don't like having ONLY casseroles as the vegetable choices...this is how my family works! After the meal, my cousin said that they were the best green beans he had ever had...WOW, what a complement for such a simple dish! Since then I've taken them to prayer group and been asked multiple times how to make them. I have come to the conclusion that the simpler a dish is, the more impressive! I cook these a little longer than some people might. In the South we like our veggies tender. If you like more crunch to your beans, you could probably cook them according to package directions! :-)
If you use Kroger, use their normal sized bag of beans for these instruction (2) and the mushrooms in the bag. Also, this can easily be halved for a smaller family.
Green Beans with Mushrooms
2 packages frozen green beans (or one LARGE bag)
one bag/carton mushrooms

Put a large pot of water to boil. When boiling, put beans in and cook until tender (or the texture you desire). Drain green beans. Saute mushrooms using PAM/cooking spray for oil. When tender, add green beans and season with garlic powder, Nature's Seasoning, etc. Eat up!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Christmas Meme

This isn't really a food post but it's a fun meme and includes food questions! I got this meme from Stacy at Hambones. Back early next week with recipes!!!

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Neither really...spiced tea
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? He puts them on the couch in piles for the right person. Sometimes little presents are wrapped. Every once in a while Rudolph gives presents, too!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? Well, we have two trees. The one with the colored ornaments has colored lights. It is in our den. The other tree is a pencil tree with a gold, white, and silver theme. It has white lights.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Maybe that's my problem, ;-), we have no mistletoe!

5. When do you put your decorations up? We put them up today at home and I"ll put them up tomorrow at my apartment. So, the weekend after Thanksgiving is when we do it traditionally.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Hmmm...I think cornbread dressing or squash casserole.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: I think one of my favorites is trying to stay awake with my cousin one night to see Santa. We were on the fold out couch in the den, next to the living room where Santa would come. She said she alread "knew" about Santa, but played along. I fell asleep VERY quickly! However, I think one of the best Christmases was when we livied in Kyrgyzstan. That was the first year that I bought my mom a present on my own; I was in fifth grade. It was just a little crystal swan, but I guess I realized how much joy GIVING can bring!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I honestly have NO IDEA!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Nope! We wait until Chrstmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? The tree in the den has more "homey" ornaments. They are ornaments that my mom's preschool students gave her, our childhood ornaments (although, I have now claimed mine for my own apartment tree), "tacky" ornaments, anything with color. The tree in the front foyer is a pencil tree with crystal, white, and gold ornaments. It's a little fancier. A lot of the ornaments are balls and angels.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love it! However, we haven't had snow since New Year's Eve 2000! I think it's time for some more! Anyone want to send me one good snow for the year?!

12. Can you ice skate? Yep! In fact, that sounds like a good idea. Maybe I'll round up someone to do that with me the week before I go home for Christmas.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I don't really know what my favorite gift was from Christmas but last year the whole time was good because just about everything was a surprise. My mom has me figured out! Last year, I wanted a Nativity Scene to put out. Mama said that after Thanksgiving she had a surprise for me. We went shopping that Saturday and I saw a nativity scene that I really like and couldn't decide if I should buy it. Mama told me to hold out until we checked another store. That night she gave the the was the EXACT SAME nativity scene that I had picked out at that store. She had bought it 2 weeks earlier at Mistletoe Marketplace! That was SO MUCH FUN!

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family, friends, and celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, a precious gift from God sent to redeem us for Himself...the only way to eternal salvation.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Hmm...this one really is hard. I guess I just like traditional Chrstmas cookies and candies. I don't really have a favorite Christmas cake or pie.

16. What tops your tree? The den tree has a crocheted angel and the living room tree has a white pointy thing with gold sparkly on it.

17. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving...especially when I know it's a surprise for the person receiving.

18. What is your favorite Christmas Song? I just LOVE all Christmas music...I don't think I have a favorite.
19. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum?? Yum.

20. What do you serve for Christmas dinner? We usually have (edit, I have been corrected) rib roast and Thanksgiving type sides. However, this year, I think it's just going to be the four of us, so I don't know what we'll do.

Once again, I'll tag some of y'all but if you don't get to do it, don't worry about it!
1. Alicat of Something So Clever
2. VeuveClicquot of Sugar Delirium
4. Paula of Cookbook Junkie
5. Jennifer of Weekly Dish
6. Erika of Tummy Treasure