Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Israeli Couscous Salad

I have a 2 day per MONTH job. That definitely qualifies for "part-time"status! I test recipes for the Georgia Dept of Agriculture. The recipes are sent in by readers of the Farmer's and Consumer's Market Bulletin. After I test (or simply prepare) the recipes, I edit them and send them back to the Ag Dept for printing in the Market Bulletin. In some circles, it is quite "prestigous" to have your recipe printed in the MB!

Today, the recipes threw me a curve. It turned out to be a learning curve! One of the recipes called for Israeli couscous. I was quite familiar with African couscous - the tiny type found in boxes of couscous mixes in the grain aisle of the grocery store. But I had to dig some to learn about Israeli couscous. Here is what I found:
"Israeli Couscous is a small, round semolina pasta that should not be confused with the tiny, yellow North African couscous; it is a different animal altogether! Sometimes called pearl couscous or maftoul, it resembles barley, or very small, white peas.
After being shaped and rolled into small balls, these semolina pearls are toasted in an open-flame oven. This distinguishes the couscous from most pasta, which is dried but not toasted. Toasting lends the couscous a distinctive, nutty flavor and particularly satisfying mouth-feel, and it also seals in the starch and reinforces the exterior, allowing the pearls to absorb liquid without falling apart. This is why Israeli couscous is ideal for saucy preparations whatever the sauce or reduction, the couscous absorbs the flavor beautifully, and the sauce sticks well to every tiny pearl."

After learning what I was looking for, I set off to "town" in search of this new product. My first stop was Wal Mart where I found all the other ingredients for the 5 recipes I will test this month. Of course, there was no Israeli couscous there. But, wonder of all wonders, I stopped in at Ingles and found it! It was in the produce dept in a line of self serve dispensers along with nuts, grains, granola, etc. Eureka! Israeli couscous in Murphy, NC!!! I would have never bet on that!!

Here's the recipe I made tonite for dinner so my fellow taste tester/husband could pass judgement. The recipe was a BIG hit! You might want to try it yourself.

Israeli Couscous and Veggies
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped red or yellow pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
Extra virgin olive oil, optional

Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add couscous. Cover tightly and remove from heat. Let stand for 20 to 25 minutes (while you chop veggies). Stir in veggies. Drizzle olive oil over before serving, if desired.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry Bliss Bars

These are absolutley scrumptious! Similiar to Starbucks' bars. My dear cousin who gave me this recipe eats them for breakfast! They definitely NEED a good cup of coffee with them. Trust me on this one.. its a keeper, too.

Cranberry Bliss Bars
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cupsall-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
4 ounces white chocolate (chips or bar, chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and brown sugar in large bowl of electric mixer. Add eggs, ginger, and vanilla, beating well. Gradually mix in flour and dry ingredients. Stir in cranberries and white chocolate. Spread in greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely and frost.

4 ounces cream cheese, room temp.
3 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup dried cranberries, diced

Combine cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in small bowl. Beat with electric mixer until smooth. Spread on cooled cookie layer. Sprinkle with diced cranberries.
Optional: Drizzle with melted white chocolate or combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk and 2 teaspoons shortening and drizzle over cookie layer.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snickerdoodle Recipe

Snickerdoodles are buttery, cinnamon/sugar coated cookies that melt in your mouth! They are perfect with a cup of hot cider or tea, a cold glass of milk or hot cup of coffee. And they're a kid friendly recipe! Bake a batch today and make your house smell like heaven!

1 3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavor shortening
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, shortening and eggs in large bowl of electric mixer. Combine dry ingredients, except for cinnamon, in a large bowl and sift or whisk together. Slowly add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, stirring until well blended. ( I use my electric mixer on the lowest speed.) Combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon in a small bowl. Shape dough into balls and roll balls in cinnamon/sugar mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool on wire rack, then share with family and friends!

Helen's Notes: These cookies puff up then deflate.. don't worry, they're supposed to do that! While warm, they are chewy and buttery. When cool, they are crisp and crunchy. So, have a glass of milk standing by when they come out of the oven!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef

If your week is as busy as mine promises to be, you're looking for a few quick and easy meals OR something you can fix and forget. This slow cooker BBQ Beef will make life sooo much easier! Put it in the slow cooker in the am and dinner will be ready when you are!

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef
1 (3 1/2 lb) eye-of-round roast, cut in half vertically
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) can condensed beef broth
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons steak sauce ( I use A-1 or Heinz 57)
1 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce

Sprinkle beef with 1 teaspoon salt.
Stir together remaining 1 teaspoon salt and remaining ingredients. Pour half of mixture in bottom of a 5 1/2 qt slow cooker. Place beef in cooker, and pour remaining mixture over beef.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 7 hours. Shred beef in slow cooker using 2 forks.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Double Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies Recipe

These cookies are almost my favorite of all chocolate cookies! They appeared in the Dec 2010 issue of Bon Appetit magazine; I tried them for the first time today. WOW! This one is a KEEPER! I'll give you the recipe as printed, then tell you my substitions. Ok, my cookbook editor background is killing me.. I will rewrite some of the directions for clarity!

Double Chocolate-Peppermint Crunch Cookies
2 packages (Ghiradelli) 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (Ghiradelli) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon instant Expresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy (16 round peppermint candies or leftover candy canes)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking pans with parchment paper.

Place 2 cups chocolate chips in medium size metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until smooth and melted. Cool. Place 2/3 cup melted chocolate in a small bowl. Set aside to drizzle on top of baked and cooled cookies.

Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, instant expressso and salt in a large bowl; whisk to combine. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer, creaming until light and fluffy. Add extracts and beat until well combined. Add eggs; beat to blend. Stir in remaining melted chocolate. Add dry ingredients, mix until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Measure 1 level tablespoon dough; roll into a ball. Place on parchment paper lined baking sheet, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until tops are cracked all over.

Remove from oven and cool on pan for 5 minutes. Place parchment paper and cookies on wire rack to cool completely.

Rewarm reserved 2/3 cup melted chocolate. Drizzle over cooled cookies using a fork. Immediately sprinkle with chopped peppermint. Chill just until chocolate sets, about 20 minutes. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Helen's Tips: I only had 1 bag of chocolate chips, so I measured out 1/2 cup to add to the batter at the end, melted what was left in the bag, and stirred it into the batter. When the cookies were cooled, I melted another 1/2 cup white chocolate chips and drizzled that over the cookies. They were still perfect!!

If you don't have instant expresso, leave it out! You could add 2 tablespoons STRONG brewed coffee in its place. Coffee intensifies the taste of this needs intensity!!

The better the cocoa, the better the cookies will be. I splurged for some REAL Dutch process cocoa from the Williams Sonoma Outlet. It was worth it! However, Ghiradelli will be almost as good. Same with the chocolate chips.. use the best you can get!

Shape these into small balls. Believe me, these are RICH cookies. And you'll make more servings.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Magic Reindeer Food

This recipe is for Grandma's and Mom's who have very special little ones... like my 4 grands and my friend, Reilly. I've made this for years now and it works EVERY time! I have even made it for children in the community. Since we are snowed in, I thought I might better post the recipe for all those little folks I can't get out to deliver to this year. Anyway, there are bound to be some folks who NEED this recipe anyway!!!

Mix this Magic Reindeer Food and sprinkle it on your lawn on Christmas Eve. Moon beams reflect off the sparkles in the food to guide Santa to your house and Santa's reindeer eat the oats. Of course, it only takes a little (about a tablespoonful) to make this happen!

Magic Reindeer Food
1 tablespoon oats
1/2 teaspoon glitter
Mix well and sprinkle on the lawn on Christmas Eve.

I package Magic Reindeer Food in small baggies with a label with this poem attached:
Sprinkle on the lawn at night,
The moon will make it sparkle bright.
When Santa's reindeer fly and roam,
This will guide them to your home.

I have the poem in a Word document complete with picture, and I will be happy to e-mail it to you for printing. Contact me at

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies Recipe

This is a great dough for making with children.. its almost indestructible! They can smash, squeeze, and roll to their heart's desire! Then shape with cookie cutters and bake.
If you're adding sprinkles, add them before baking. If you decorate with icing, do that when they are completely cool. The Decorator Icing with the Gingerbread Snowflake recipe is perfect to decorate these with. Now, get thee to the kitchen with the wee ones!!

Sugar Cookies
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar with electric mixer unti light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Combine dry ingredients and whisk lightly. Add to the butter mixture, beating until smooth. Form the dough into 2 patties. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll the dough, one patty at a time, on a floured surface. If you want crisp cookies, roll to 1/8-in. If you like soft, thicker cookies, roll to 1/2-inch thick. Cut into shapes. Decorate with sprinkles, etc. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully so that the edges don't brown. Remove to wire rack to cool. Decorate with frosting, if desired. Makes about 3 doz. 2 1/2 -inch cookies. Keeps for 3 wks in airtight container.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatballs

These meatballs melt in your mouth! The sauce is similar to some we had in Italy, not overly spiced as we Americans tend to do. The meatballs cook in the sauce, so no frying! Try this combination - I think you'll fall in love with it, we did at our house!

The recipe is from Bon Appetit magazine and Molly Wizenberg, author of A Homemade Life.


2 (28-oz.) cans whole peeled tomatoes in juice, drained, reserve juice and finely chop tomatoes
1 stick unsalted butter
2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half through root end
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (my addition, homage to my Southern roots!)

Combine tomatoes with juice, butter, onion,salt and sugar in a large wide pot. Bring to simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Using immersion blender, process sauce briefly to break up large pieces of tomatoes (texture should be even, but not completely smooth). Season sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Add a few flakes crushed red pepper, if you like it hot. Remove from heat and set aside.


1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk
8 ounces ground pork
8 ounces ground chuck or round
1 cup freshly ground (not grated) Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup Italian flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
2 eggs
2 large garlic cloves, pressed

Combine breadcrumbs and milk in small bowl; stir until breadcrumbs are evenly moistened. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Place beef and port in a large bowl and break up into small chunks. Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt,and pepper.

Whisk eggs to blend in a small bowl; stir in garlic. Add to meat mixture.

Using hands, squeeze milk from breadcrumbs, reserving milk. ( I had none!) Using hands, QUICKLY and GENTLY mix meat mixture just until all ingredients are evenly combined (do NOT over mix!!) Chill mixture at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Moisten hands with some of reserved milk from breadcrumbs (or cold water), then roll mixture between palms of hands into golf-ball size balls. Arrange meatballs in single layer in sauce. Bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, 15 or 20 minutes.

Cook 1 pound spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Using slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to platter. Add pasta to sauce in pot and toss to coat. Divide pasta among 6 plates. Top each serving with meatballs. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oven Beef Stew Recipe

Ohhhh the weather outside is frightful .... perfect time for warm "comfort food". Oven Beef Stew recipe..posted Jan 8, 2010.. fits the bill exactly! I made it this weekend for company.... along with Creme Brulee for dessert.. Viva la France!

Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

These are a tradition at our house. Kelley and I have made them every Christmas that I can remember her being old enough to stand at the kitchen counter with me. This year, instead of Gingerbread Men (and women and children) I decided to make snowflakes. I used the snowflake cookie cutter we gave as favors at Kelley and Zach's wedding 3 years ago this week. Use any cutter you like. This dough is VERY forgiving. You can roll it, re-roll and re-roll and its still wonderful!
Be sure to make the dough ahead and let it chill overnight. If you roll the dough thin (1/4-in.) the cookies will be crisp (good for dunking in hot tea or cider) and if you roll the dough thick (1/3-1/2-inch) the cookies will be soft. Its up to you!!

Gingerbread Men
1 cup shortening
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup molasses (spray the measuring cup with Pam and it will come out easier)
1 egg
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves (since cloves are strong, I used less when the kids were little)

Cream shortening and sugar in large mixer bowl. Add molasses and mix well. Beat in egg. Sift dry ingredients. Add to shortening mixture. Stir or mix slowly just until all ingredients are combined. Chill overnight (or minimum of 4 hrs). Roll out on a floured board. Cut into shapes and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool completely and decorate.

Note: I add raisin buttons before baking and sometimes "red hot" candy for heart or buttons. All of these need to be baked on. The rest of the decorating is done with Royal Icing when the cookies are completely cool. This is the FUN part!!

Royal Icing (or Decorator Frosting)
My Home Ec training tells me that I must warn you this icing is made with raw egg whites. If you are concerned about that, you can purchase meringue powder (powdered egg whites) at craft stores and some grocery stores. I've made this for 30 years and never gotten sick from it, however, I do NOT lick my fingers or eat it by the spoonful!! The cookies have a small amt on them.

3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted ( 3 1/2 cups)
Combine egg whites and cream of tarter in large bowl of electric mixer. Beat at medium speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form (5-7 minutes). Yield: 2 cups frosting.

Note: This icing can also be used as the "glue" for building and assembling gingerbread houses.
Keep a wet dish towel draped over the bowl while you're working with icing in a decorating bag. When it dries out, it is as hard as glass!!! If it starts getting dry on you, add water by the teaspoon until it is soft again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins

I'm so impressed that my daughter and so many of my "young" friends already have Christmas trees and decorations up, packages wrapped and are ready for Christmas. I, on the other hand, am still in the Thanksgiving/Fall mode. I have dead mums on the porch along with a scarecrow and (fake) pumpkins! I've got to get with it - soon! Meanwhile, I had to have just one batch of my favorite Pumpkin Muffins before we move on to Christmas! Not sure why we can only have these in fall..... they're so good, I could eat them anytime!

Pumpkin Muffins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine dry ingredientsin a medium mixing bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine pumpkin and remaining ingredients. Add pumpkin mixture to dry mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into greased muffin pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool muffins in pans for 5 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins.

Confession time: I left out the egg and applesauce, increased the oil to 1/2 cup and they were still great! If you don't have ww flour, use all all-purpose. If you don't have buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to 1/2 cup milk and let stand for 5 minutes. If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, use cinnamon and nutmeg and a pinch of cloves. Where there's a will, there's a way!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Pot Pie Recipe

Here's a great way to use leftover turkey or chicken. Either way, this super quick and easy recipe uses ingredients you probably have on hand.

Impossible Turkey Pot Pie
1 2/3 cups frozen mixed veggies, cooked (steamers, mixed veggies, broccoli cuts, etc)
1 cup chopped cooked chicken or turkey
1 can cream of chicken soup (or your favorite cream soup)
1 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine veggies, chicken and soup. Pour into 9-inch pie pan (or 9-inch square pan) . Combine remaining ingredients and stir with a fork. Spread over chicken mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Variations: Use whatever veggies you have leftover or in your freezer. Add cheese to the topping. Add herbs (thyme, chicken seasoning, etc) to the filling mixture.

This recipe has been around for AGES! Go to the Bisquick website for more ideas and combinations... Taco Pie, Italian, Cheeseburger,etc..

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

May each of you have a day filled with lots of family and great food!
Take time to think about those things you are thankful for...
Here's part of my list:
Family (wonderful husband, grown up kids, amazing grands!)
and the fact that we will all be together this year
Reasonably good health (and good drs!)
Good friends, even those I only communicate with via internet
My art buddies, painting class and a wonderful teacher/mentor
The ability to travel to faraway places
and the list goes on and on.......
Now, its your turn!

Gobble 'til you Wobble!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Homemade Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Confession time.... I live for the Cranberry Sauce at Thanksgiving! Yes, the turkey is good, the dressing a must and the Sweet Potato Casserole like a dessert.... but the Cranberry Sauce makes the meal!! I've moved waaaayyyy past the canned jelly-like bland stuff that comes out of the can in a jiggly cannister shape. After having homemade cranberry sauce, I will settle for nothing else!
It is unbelievably easy to make, can be made ahead and will keep for weeks after the turkey is gone! Try it this year.... you might be a convert, too! I usually double the recipe... its THAT good!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Grated zest of 1 large orange (or more, if you like!)

Wash the cranberries and discard the bad ones (they'll sink to the bottom). Place in a large saucepan along with sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until the cranberries POP! Remove from heat and stir in orange zest. Refrigerate until serving time.
Keeps in the refrigerator 2 weeks or more. Yield: 2 1/2 cups.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe

Traditional, sweet, Southern... My Mama made this casserole EVERY Thanksgiving that I can remember... try it, you'll love it!

Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine ingredients and pour into a greased 3-quart baking dish. Set aside while you make the topping.

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup toasted chopped pecans
1/2 cup self-rising flour
Mix with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over potato mixture. Bake for 35 minutes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Homamade Marshmallow Recipe

See Feb 11, 2010 for recipe... You've gotta try it!!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mountain Apple Pie for Reilly

This recipe is super easy and ohhhh sooo good. Just right for my little friend, Reilly and Mom to make. You big folks will like it, too!

Mountain Apple Pie
2 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
2 cans crescent rolls
1 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
12 oz. ( 1 1/2 cups) Mountain Dew or Sprite

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Separate crescent rolls into triangles. Wrap each apple wedge in a crescent roll. Place in the greased pan. Mix butter, sugar and cinnamon. Pour over rolls. Pour soda over the mixture. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Top with ice cream , if desired.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


We haven't been faithful about getting to church for the past few months. There are plenty of excuses, but that's not the point of this post. Sunday morning as I began to get dressed, I started putting on winter clothes from last years (yes, YEARS... as in some of them need to be given away) and found that nothing fits! When a woman says she "has nothing to wear", sometimes she REALLY doesn't! This was definitely my case! To make matters worse, my dear husband stood in the closet as I tried on and off several things. Finally, in frustration, I asked him to PLEASE leave me alone to deal with my problem! He waited quietly while I struggled to find something that would do... finally, I found a jacket that I could wear unbuttoned and pretend that it almost fit. I felt sooo low.. and soooo fat! I was depressed, frustrated and disappointed in myself. I dreaded going to church for fear it might be communion and I would have to parade my fat body in front of the entire congregation.

As church began, a couple sat down in the pew in front of us that really shook me to my roots! Here I sat feeling fat and ugly yet in front of me sat a lovely couple who are dealing with a terrible disease. The husband is a local doctor, 49 years old and has Alzheimers. It's some rare type that is totally irreversible, untreatable and fast moving. His wife is a nurse and their only daughter has just gone to college for her freshman year. Suddenly, my lack of fashionable clothing seemed so insignificant. Isn't it amazing how sometimes God just yanks you back into your place and shows you what is REALLY important?

The service was one of music and as I watched and listened to the choirs, the Dr. was directly in my line of sight. There was no way to look away. I was painfully aware of all that they have lost and will lose and all that I have to be thankful for. The Dr was almost childlike as he swayed to some of the music, sat forward (almost leaning on the pew in front of them), and grinned boyishly at his wife. He was obviously "in the moment" and enjoying the music. Just last Christmas he played the trumpet beautifully at the Christmas Eve service.

Oh, Dear Lord, what a way you have of bringing us to our knees! What a way you have of opening our eyes to all the good things we have around us. What glorious plans you have for each of us. You never promised it would be easy, but you did promise to always be there with us.
And I'm certain it doesn't matter to you at all if my clothes fit or are "in style". Thank you for all that I have and all that I am because of your Son who died for me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Apple Crisp Recipe

Fall and apples go hand in hand.. both are going fast, so scurry into the kitchen and whip up a pan of Apple Crisp. Eat it warm with ice cream and think of me!

Apple Crisp
5 cups diced, peeled apples
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup water ( add a few tablespoons apple brandy - Calvados- if you have it)
3/4 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup self-rising flour
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine apples, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon flour, and cinnamon in a 9x9-inch baking pan. Pour water over mixture. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Stir with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over apples. Bake 45min. - 1hr. or until apples are tender and topping is light brown and crunchy. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Note: If your apples are really sweet, reduce the sugar on them.

If you don't have self-rising flour, use all-purpose and add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicken and Andouille Gumbo Recipe

The weather is getting cooler and its time for a big pot of soup! I made this for company a couple of weeks ago and it was a big hit. Tastes like you made a roux and worked on it all day.... fooled them, didn't I?
If you don't like /can't get andouille sausage (refrig or freezer section near Johnsville brats) substitute any smoked sausage (even turkey sausage). Chop it into pieces and saute for a few minutes until brown. Add it to the soup the last 20 minutes of cooking time.

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 link ( 3 1/2 oz.) andouille sausage, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2 -inch chunks
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
12 oz. fresh okra, trimmed, sliced 1/2-inch thick (or use frozen sliced okra)
8 cups low- sodium chicken broth
8 skinless chicken thighs (abouy 2 lbs)
1 (28-oz)can plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped with juice (add water to make 2 cups liquid)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning,optional
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, optional
Hot cooked rice, if desired

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Toast flour, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring until it reaches the color of peanut butter and has a toasted aroma, about 14 minutes. (Adjust heat to prevent burning). Sift through a fine sieve, pressing clumps. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook sausage for 1 minute. Raise heat to high. Add celery, onion, pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Add okra; cook for 3 miutes.

Meanwhile, gradually whisk stock into flour; add to pot. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, bay leaves and Creole Seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer for 1 hour.

Remove from heat; cover to keep warm. Transfer chicken to a plate; let cool for 5 minutes. Remove chicken from bones; shred, and return to soup pot. Discard bones and bay leaves. Stir in Worchestershire sauce. Serve over hot cooked rice, if desired. Yield: 10 cups/ 8 servings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Apple Loaf

Enjoy the taste of the fall season with warm apple bread for breakfast!

3 cups peeled, finely chopped apples

3 eggs

3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to mix well. Pour batter into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes to 1 hour. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in freezer zip top storage bag. Freezes well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Yippeeee! I've been asked to help test recipes for the food writer whose B&B we stayed in while in Tuscany! She's writing another cookbook (this makes about 15)! Can't wait to see what she sends.. hope I can find all the ingredients between here and ATL or maybe I'll have to run over to Italy to gather ingredients!! Sure!!!!

Stay tuned for more ... and maybe a sneak peek at a wonderful recipe.. did I mention that they are Italian recipes????????????

Once again, when I die, just say, "She new lots of people!" :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cookies for the Grandchildren

The grandchildren are coming tonite and I'm getting ready. Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Brown Eyed Baker are already made. Next is the following recipe for sugar cookies. Ohhh.. these are sooooo good!

Make your own "slice and bake" sugar cookies! Keep a roll in the freezer for "emergencies.Sprinkle the tops with sugar or sprinkles before baking or decorate baked cookies. OR leave them plain and dunk in a big glass of cold milk.... yuuummmmmm!

Grandma's Slice and Bake Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (use REAL butter, unsalted)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or substitute all-purpose flour and add 1 1/2 teasp baking powder and 1/2 teasp salt per cup of flour)
1 cup finely chopped pecans (I ALWAYS lightly toast mine. You can use other nuts or OMIT)

Combine butter and sugars in large bowl of electric mixer, beat well. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. Stir in flour. Add pecans, if desired.
Divide dough into 3 portions. Shape each portion into a 12x2-inch log and wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate several hours or overnight (or store in the freezer).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice dough 1/4-inch thick and place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from pans to cool. Yield: 8 dozen.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Menu

Summer Menu
Grilled Pork Chops with Melon Salsa
Creamy Cilantro Lime Slaw
Cornbread Pudding

Melon Salsa
1 cup chopped seedless watermelon
1 cup chopped honeydew melon
3 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno pepper (or more, if desired)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl, cover and refrigerate.
*Substitute peaches, pineapple or mango for the melon.

Grilled Pork Chops
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 (4-oz.) boneless center-cut pork chops, trimmed of fat

Combine oil, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub oil mixture over both sides of pork chops.
Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. (You can also cook immediately.) Grill pork chops over medium- high heat for 4 minutes on each side. Serve with Melon Salsa.

Creamy Cilantro Lime Slaw
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 ½ teaspoons grated lime zest
1 jalapeno chili, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, minced (about ¼ cup)
8 cups thinly sliced green cabbage

Whisk mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, zest, jalapeno, and garlic in a large bowl. Stir in cilantro. Add cabbage and green onions; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper; cover and chill 1 hour.
* Can be made 1 day in advance.

Cornbread Pudding
1 (8-oz.) box Jiffy corn muffin mix
1 (15-oz.) can whole kernel corn, undrained
1 (15-oz.) can cream style corn
1 stick butter
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until well blended; poour into a greased 2 ½ qt (or 9x13-inch) baking pan. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sooo Easy, Quick and YUMMMY!

Extra Easy Hummus

1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained, liquid reserved
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine ingredients in food processor or blender. Process until a paste forms, slowly adding reserved liquid from beans. Refrigerate. Flavors improve if allowed to sit for several hours or overnight.

Toasted Pita Chips
Cut whole wheat pita bread into 8ths. Spread on a cookie sheet, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool and store in zip loc bag.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blueberries are the perfect topping for this Lemon Tart!

Lemon Tart with Blueberries
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit the salt if you used salted butter)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 cups blueberries
1 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
Combine flour, butter, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. (Or use a pastry cutter as you would when preparing a pie crust.) Turn out into a 10-inch tart pan. Press evenly onto bottom and sides of pan to form a uniform crust. Bake until crust begins to appear dry, about 20 to 25 minutes. (If you don't have a tart pan, use a spring form pan with removable bottom.)

Meanwhile, whisk together sugar, eggs, lemon juice and lemon zest in a large bowl. Pour into warm, baked tart shell. Continue baking for 20 minutes, or until filling has set. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature.

Serve tart topped with blueberries and whipped cream.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cheesy Basil- Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Doesn't this sound yummy?? Think I'll make it for supper tonite...

Cheesy Basil-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
4 ounces whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (6-8 oz each)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 slice high quality sandwich bread, torn into quarters
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
toothpick or wooden skewer

Adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the cheese, 2 Tbls. basil, cream, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to taste in a medium bowl.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and cut off any fat. Cut a horizontal pocket in the thickest part of the chicken breast and gently work the knife back and forth until the pocket extends down into most of the breast.
Scoop one-quarter of the filling into each breast. Seal the opening by threading a toothpick or wooden skewer through the chicken about ¼- inch from the opening.

Transfer the stuffed breasts to a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and spread evenly with mayonnaise.

Pulse the bread in a food processor to coarse crumbs, about 8 pulses. Toss the breadcrumbs with 1 teaspoon garlic, 2 Tbls. basil, and 1 Tbls. EVOO. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the chicken, pressing lightly to adhere.

Toss the tomatoes with 1 Tbls. EVOO, 1/2 teaspoons salt, and pepper to taste. Arrange in the baking dish around the chicken. Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and the thickest part of the chicken registers 160 degrees, about 25 minutes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Green Bean and Tomato Salad

This is a great way to use fresh green beans.... when you get tired of eating them cooked! And this gets better as it sits in the refrigerator!

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds tomatoes, seeded and cut into wedges
OR 1 quart grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat ( I use my Dutch oven).
Add green beans and cook for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain the beans and rinse well with cold water. Place in a large bowl. Add tomatoes, onions and basil (if desired). Refrigerate while preparing dressing.

5 tablespoons vinegar (Balsamic, Rice Wine or white)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine the ingredients in a medium bowl, gradually add oil and stir with a wire wisk. Drizzle over bean mixture; toss gently to coat. Serve at room temperature or chilled. Yield: 8 servings. Refrigerate leftovers.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aunt Ruth's Squash Fritters

Riley, our 9yr old grandson, is with us for week 3 of 3. He's a growing boy and has had a wonderful time trying new foods (well, a few new foods!). This was one of his favorites - he rated it 11 out of 10! Pretty high compliment for a 9 yr old boy!

The recipe comes from "Aunt Ruth", a dear family friend from Marion, Al.

Aunt Ruth's Squash Fritters
2 cups finely chopped yellow squash ( I put it in the food processor)
1 cup finely chopped onion (Vidalia, if available)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Oil for frying

Combine ingredients, stirring until moistened. Heat oil in frying pan, drop mixture into hot oil by tablespoons. Fry until brown, drain on paper towels and serve hot!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Bacon News!

Has it REALLY been this long since I've blogged??? Have you missed my quick and easy recipes?? Well, guess what? I've not been cooking as much as usual! Now, don't faint, but we've traveled to Italy (as most of you already knew) and since returning have been on the go... retirement is busier than our working years! AND I've found I'd rather paint (water color) than cook some days!!! Notice, I didn't say I'd rather paint than EAT, just than cook!!! LOL!

Here is the latest quick and easy flash! Thanks to Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, I tried BAKING bacon in the oven and it works like a gem! Place bacon strips (preferably nice thick slices from our Corner Butcher in Hayesville, NC) on a cooling rack that is placed across a 9x13-inch baking pan lined with foil. Place the pan in a 400 degree oven and bake for 20 -30 minutes, depending on how crisp you like your bacon! Viola! You're done! The clean up is a snap - simply fold the foil and discard the greasy mess!!!! How much simpler could it be? This method even beats microwave bacon!!!! Doesn't matter how much you need to cook... just use a larger pan and add another cooling rack- the time is the same! Paula Deen would cover the bacon with a layer of brown sugar before baking... its up to you.... BUT you MUST try this!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Green Bean Bundles

'Dressed up' green beans for Easter dinner... easy AND make ahead! ( I did NOT say anything about healthy - just yummy!)

Green Bean Bundles

2 cans whole green beans

bacon, uncooked

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic

salt & pepper to taste

Wrap 8 to 10 green beans in a bundle with 1/3 strip of bacon. (Secure with toothpick, if necessary.) Place bundles in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over bundles. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. (Or cook immediately.) Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Easter Activity for Children

Teach your children the REAL meaning of Easter. What better way to explain the resurrection?

JESUS IN THE TOMB - SUNDAY: Jesus promised that He would rise from the dead on the third day. He rose on the third day, Easter Sunday.

Supplies: Crescent rolls, marshmallows, cinnamon, margarine

Directions: Take one marshmallow and dip it in melted butter or margarine. Then roll the marshmallow in cinnamon. Have the children place the marshmallow in the center of the triangle of dough. Have them fold the dough around the marshmallow, so that the Marshmallow is "buried" in its tomb. Bake the crescent roll according to the directions on the package. Have the children take the role of the guards at Jesus's tomb. Have them stand guard at the oven. Take the roll out of the tomb (oven) and let it cool. The marshmallow will be gone; just like Jesus's body was gone!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Strawberry Muffins

Quick, easy and YUMMY - What more could you ask for??? Try different fruit/yogurt combinations: Blueberries & lemon yogurt or blueberry yogurt or Bananas & strawberry/banana yogurt or Peaches & peach yogurt.... get the picture?

Strawberry Muffins
2 cups Bisquick
1/2 cup sugar
1 carton strawberry yogurt
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped strawberries
grated orange zest, optional

Combine ingredients; stir to mix. Spoon into greased muffin pans. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool in muffin pans 10 minutes. Yield: 12 muffins. (These are vey moist muffins!)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sweet and Sour Beef Stew

Don't let the name fool you.. this beef stew is different, but delicious! If you like BBQ, you'll like this. Give it a try.. its easy to make and will literally cook itself after you get it going.

Sweet and Sour Beef Stew
1 pound beef stew meat, browned in 1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup sliced onion
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Hot cooked egg noodles

Brown stew meat in oil in large Dutch oven. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch and noodles. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer and simmer for 2 hours. (Or put in crock pot on LOW for 8 hours.) Add cornstarch and cook until mixture thickens. Serve over hot cooked egg noodles.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Food Blog and Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe looks amazing for all you fellow chocoholics!!!

Oh My Goodness! You MUST visit this blog and see the recipes this gal has!
I made the Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies this afternoon - they are scrumptious! Move over Otis Spunkmeyer - these are better!!

For those of you spoiled by me.. here's the recipe from her blog.... but, you really should look at the blog yourself.... :)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Source: Baking Illustrated, page 434)
Makes about 18 large cookies.
These oversized cookies are chewy and thick, like many of the chocolate chip cookies sold in gourmet shops and cookie stores. They rely on melted butter and an extra egg yolk to keep their texture soft. These cookies are best served warm from the oven but will retain their texture even when cooled. To ensure the proper texture, cool the cookies on the baking sheet. Oversized baking sheets allow you to get all the dough into the oven at one time. If you’re using smaller baking sheets, put fewer cookies on each sheet and bake them in batches.

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (10 5/8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (Ghiradelli)

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Stir in the chips to taste.
4. Roll a scant 1/4 cup of the dough into a ball. Hold the dough ball with the fingertips of both hands and pull into 2 equal halves. Rotate the halves 90 degrees and, with jagged surfaces facing up, join the halves together at their base, again forming a single ball, being careful not to smooth the dough’s uneven surface. Place the formed dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, jagged surface up, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart.
5. Bake until the cookies are light golden grown and the outer edges start to harden yet the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the sheets. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets with a side metal spatula.

Note: I tried the rolling method described, but finally just made very large rough balls of dough. They baked fine!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oat and Fruit Muffins

Warm muffins on a cold winter day.... makes my tummy cozy!

Oat and Fruit Muffins
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oatmeal (NOT instant!)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark - no matter which)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried fruit ( I used SunMaid Fruit Bits)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. If you have convection, this is a great time to use it - same temp.
Grease 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal and brown sugar; mix well.
In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add milk and vanilla; blend well. Add to flour mixture; stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be lumpy! Gently fold in dried fruit and nuts. Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (10 -12 in convection) or until golden brown. Serve hot!

* If you don't have self-rising flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to each cup of all-purpose flour.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuscany and a Quick Recipe

We're getting ready for our next BIG adventure. We're going to Tuscany for 10 days at the end of April. So far, we've booked our flights, booked a B&B in Tuscany where the owners are formerly from CA and are a cookbook author and and artist. They have an organic olive grove and press their own oil (for sale, of course). Then we will go north to Lucca, Florence and Siena.

Plans are still coming together for that part of the trip - stay tuned! Meanwhile, here is one of our favorite "Guilty Pleasures"... very Italian!

From an Italian Foodie Blog........

I don’t think Nutella needs any introduction, but what you might not know is that this famous worldwide chocolate spread passed through a series of transformations before becoming the nutella you know now. Originally it had a loaf shape and had to be sliced to be placed on bread. It then transformed to a spread and was named “pasta gianduja”. Pasta meaning paste, in this case, and gianduja was referring to the famous carnival mask from the Piedmont region. Its origins date back to 1940, just at the beginning of War World II. At that time chocolate was hard to find, so Mr. Pietro Ferrero added hazelnuts which were, and still are, abundant in Piedmont and created an affordable snack for everyone. In 1964 Nutella® became the creamy chocolate hazelnut flavor we all know. I’m amazed that after so many products disappeared over the years that nutella has remained and has become part of our Italian culture.
I have a special affection to nutella because it reminds me of my childhood. I used to eat it spread on a soft slice of white bread just like in the picture on the label, but my favorite way was, and still is, to eat it directly from the jar. I know I Know I shouldn’t but it’s such a delight. I’m not able to resist nutella, when I see a jar of nutella my hand reaches out for the spoon and there’s nothing that can stop it from dipping into the chocolate. That’s exactly what happened when I prepared these mini croissants. I finished the rest of the jar slowly a little bit at the time and at the end of the day, to my surprise, it was magically gone as well as all the croissants.
These croissants are fast to prepare and can be an energetic breakfast or a mid afternoon snack for your kids. They’re easily ready in 20 minutes and they can also be eaten at room temperature if you’re able to resist. Mine were gone before they could cool off.

Mini croissants with Nutella®
1 round or rectangular puff pastry sheet or 1 can crescent roll dough
Powdered sugar (optional)

Yields: 12 croissants

Heat up the oven to 350°Cut the puff pastry sheet in 12 wedges if round. Or cut crescent rolls in half, making 16 triangles from a can. Place a heaping teaspoon of nutella on the wider end of the wedge and roll it until you form a croissant. Pinch the ends of it and give it a crescent shape.Place all the croissants on a baking sheet covered by parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes.Let them cool for 5 minutes, if you’re able to wait. Before serving them you can sprinkle them with powdered sugar, too.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Days!

Ok, I'm officially tired of snow and have redesigned my blog to eliminate all snow pics, etc. in hopes of discouraging snow from coming our way! HA!

Bring on spring... warm days, bulbs popping up with spring flowers not far behind, robins singing and grilled food!

It CAN'T be far........

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Steps in Marshmallow making.....

It's a sticky mess, but the good news is hot water takes care of it all..... think about how marshmallows dissolve in hot chocolate!

Smooth the sticky mess into a foil lined 9x12-inch pan with a wet knife.
Then wait....... 4 hrs!
Finally, dump it out onto a surface covered in powdered sugar and cut into shapes.
Dust with powdered sugar on all sides.
(My hands were covered with sugar and marshmallow cream - couldn't get pics of that step!! )
Store in air tight container for up to 2 weeks. Place parchment paper or wax paper between layers. I'm betting they don't stay around here for 2 weeks!

Homemade Marshmallows

IF you have kids, or are a kid at heart, you've got to try these.  These are so easy to make and soooo good! You'll never want a Kraft marshmallow again. I even dipped some in melted chocolate and crushed peppermint.... like eating a cloud!

Homemade Marshmallows

These can be layered between sheets of parchment and stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray - PAM
1 cup cold water, divided
3 (1/4-ounce) envelopes unflavored Knox gelatin
2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup (Karo)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Line a 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil. Coat foil lightly with nonstick spray.

Pour 1/2 cup cold water into bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let stand until gelatin softens and absorbs water, at least 15 minutes.

Combine 2 cups sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water in heavy bottom medium -size saucepan. Stir over medium low heat until sugar dissolves, brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat and bring syrup to boil. Boil, without stirring, until syrup reaches 240°F, about 8 minutes. ( see tip below)

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour hot syrup into gelatin mixture in thin stream down side of bowl (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk, as it may splash). Gradually increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to blend, about 30 seconds longer. (Gather the kids around. This is the amazing part - watching this bowl of wet goo, turn into white creamy fluff!)

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan. Smooth top with wet spatula. Let stand uncovered at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours. (Don't stress over the mess, it cleans up easily with hot water and is well worth it!)

Sift generous dusting of powdered sugar onto work surface, forming rectangle slightly larger than 13x9 inches. Turn marshmallow slab out onto starch-sugar mixture; peel off foil. Sift more powdered sugar over marshmallow slab. Coat pizza wheel or large sharp knife (or cookie cutters) with water or nonstick spray. Cut marshmallows into squares or other shapes. Toss each in remaining powdered sugar to coat. Transfer marshmallows to rack, shaking off excess mixture.

Tips: If you don't have a candy thermometer, after boiling for 6 minutes, drop a very small amount of the hot mixture into a cup of cold water. If you can pick it up between your fingers and it forms a soft ball, it is done!

You'll get better results using a stand mixer. The mixture is very sticky and stiff. If you're using a heavy duty mixer (Kitchenaid) don't over mix. Its ready when it looks like marshmallow cream.

For really thick marshmallows, pour into a foil lined 9-inch square pan.

The hardest part is waiting 4 hrs to cut and eat the marshmallows!! The pan can sit overnight, too.

Add flavorings of your choice. I made one batch with 1 teaspoon almond extract and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract along with pink food color.

Use cookie cutters to make cute shapes. Stick them on a craft stick and dip in melted chocolate... the options are endless!!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Deep Dense Chocolate Cake - easy, too!

Mississippi Mud Cake
16 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon whiskey
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream, for serving
1 sprig mint, for decoration (optional)

Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the whiskey, sugar, chocolate and water. Stir over low heat until the chocolate is just melted and the mixture is smooth. Sift the flour and cocoa powder together and gradually beat into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out to cool.
Serve warm or cold with whipped cream and decorated with a sprig of mint, if desired.

The Most Delicious Chicken!!

If you like rotisserrie chicken , grocery store style, you'll LOVE this recipe. I made it last nite for dinner and wished I had cooked 2 chickens instead of one!

The Most Delicious Chicken
1 whole chicken
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 large lemon, cut into 4 pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons butter, melted
Fresh rosemary sprigs, if desired ( or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Wash chicken and remove giblets. Pat dry with a paper towel. Place sliced onion and olive oil in a large baking dish, tossing the onion in the oil. Place the chicken on top of the onion. Generously salt and pepper the cavity of the chicken. Place lemon wedges in the cavity along with 1/2 of the garlic and a few sprigs rosemary, if desired. Lift skin of chicken breast and slide remaining garlic under the skin. Brush entire chicken with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake at 425 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. ( If chicken is large, add 15 minutes to cooking time.)
Remove from oven and tent with foil (or cover with pan lid), let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve with juices from pan. YUUMMMM!

Note: I remove the lemon wedges after baking and squeeze the juice over the chicken before serving.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Snowy Days

The wooly worm was very black and very fuzzy. The "old folks" say that means a cold winter.
The wool worm was absolutely right! We're having more snow and cold weather than any of the 6 winters we've lived here.
The snow sits in the forest and outlines our property. We can see to the top of the mountain that shelters us and to the bottom of the mountain on which we live. It is a straight drop down to the road below. Something which I tend to forget about when the leaves are on the trees. Even in winter, its hard to see all the way up or down. The snow paints a clear picture of our property lines.

This is the snow that I love. It's pretty as it falls and blankets the world, then it goes away in a day or two! Must be the "Southerner" in me.

Mr and Mrs Charlie Cardinal seem to be adjusting to this bout of cold. They've puffed up their down feathers and attacked the feeder with a vengance. And they haven't attacked the windows - at least not today!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marshmallow update

Marshmallow recipe is still on my "to do" list... first I couldn't locate one of the ingredients (potato starch - I'm guessing corn starch might do). Now the weather is too humid.. ahhh... one day... I will get them made!!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Homemade Marshmallows

Cold weather and many cups of hot chocolate have inspired me to try making homemade marshmallows. I saw Emeril make them a while back and was intrigued. The weather must cooperate... as with candy, they won't turn out right with high humidity. Today might be just the day... or night... stay tuned for a report, recipe and maybe pics. I understand that once you taste homemade, Kraft will never taste the same, even if they are jet-puffed!!

Simple Recipe

Here's a simple yet yummy recipe that takes about 5 minutes to put together. It doubles easily and you can add cubed ham or crumbled bacon for a richer taste. Enjoy!
Corn Fritter Casserole

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream (1 cup)
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 (15-oz.) can cream-style corn
1 (15-oz.) can whole kernel corn
1 (8.5-oz) package Jiffy corn muffin mix
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in onion, pepper, and corn. Mix well.

Add muffin mix and black pepper, stirring until combined. Pour into a 7x11-inch baking dish coated with Pam. Bake for 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Yield: 9 servings.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Charlie, the Crazy Cardinal

For those of you who read about Charlie, our crazy cardinal, here's his picture taken today.
Look closely, Charlie is sitting on the birdfeeder, Mrs. Charlie (Charlotte?) is sitting on the cold ground!! What's wrong with this picture??????
They both flew onto the porch yesterday in the snow and looked soooo sad and cold.... I hung out the snowman birdhouse so that they had a place to sleep.

Baked Beef Stew

Perfect dish to warm your kitchen while cooking, and warm your tummy with delicious flavors!
Baking the stew brings out the flavors and gives a rich broth. Serve in a bowl with mashed potatoes. If you don't want to bake it in the oven, you can cook it on top of the stove, but the taste will not be the same!

Oven Beef Stew
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 1/2 cups halved fresh mushrooms (about 8 0z.)
2 cups diagonally cut carrot
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon (kosher) salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28-0z.) can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1(2 1/4-oz can) sliced black olives, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or balsamic)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, optional
Hot mashed potatoes

Heat oil in large oven-proof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef ; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery and garlic to pan, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to pan. Stir in broth, wine, thyme, salt, pepper, tomatoes and bay leaves, bring to a boil. Cover and place in a 350 degree oven. Bake for 3 hours, or until beef is tender. Add olives and cook, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes.
Discard bay leaves. Stir in red wine vinegar and parsley. Serve in a bowl with hot mashed potatoes on the side. Yield: 6 servings. Leftovers freeze beautifully!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Purple Coat

It was Valentine's weekend and I flew into DC to spend it with Bill who was on a long term assignment. When I left ATL the temperature was a balmy 55 degrees. I flew on a buddy pass (Apparently my buddy was high ranking; I was bumped to first class!) so I dressed up for the trip. I was also going to visit the Dept of Interior in DC and meet Bill's National Park Service buddies. So, I arrived in DC in 50 degree temperature under a bright sunny sky dressed in my nice wool blazer, dress slacks and a big smile. It was a great afternoon. I walked around the area, popped into the Corceran Gallery and enjoyed a few hours on my own in DC while Bill finshed his workday.

Late Friday afternoon a weather front came through. It rained (I was prepared with my wool-lined "all-weather" coat.) and the wind blew (all of a sudden wind-proof took on new meaning.) and it got COLD. On Saturday morning we set off to see the sights. We rode the Metro to Union Station and proceeded to walk down the National Mall. Then it happened. My nose ran, my eyes watered, I shivered and then I shook; I was freezing! The wind whipped right through my Atl weight "all-weather coat" and the cold of DC confirmed that I am truly a Southern girl!

Finally, we sought refuge from the cold in an Eddie Bauer store in Georgetown. Hanging on a display near the entrance was a down filled REAL "all weather" coat. It would resist wind, rain, snow and cold temps. I eyed it about the same time as Bill saw it. We both almost ran to it. I hugged it to me, slipping my arms into the warm comfort of the soft down filling. I coveted it. I fell in love with it. I NEEDED that coat! I wanted that coat! BUT, I didn't love it in PURPLE! Being all about function, not fashion, Bill bought it for me anyway.

The purple coat has become the official measure of REALLY cold weather. When it comes out of the downstairs closet, winter is at its worst. The purple coat went to the artic circle with my dear friend, Anna. It has come out for all snow events in the mountains and today, it came out for the cold early morning walk with the dog. Yes, its "purple coat weather" in the mountains of NC! And for this Southern "girl", the purple coat can't go back into the closet fast enough!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting ready for snow!!!

Tuscan Chicken Stew

8 skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 large fresh oregano sprig, chopped
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
4 sprigs oregano (optional)

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet until hot, not smoking. Sauté the chicken in the oil until brown. Remove chicken from the pan and reserve. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook 3 to 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Add minced garlic.
Carefully drain tomatoes reserving liquid in a cup or bowl. Mash the tomatoes into a thick paste – more concentrated than tomato sauce but not as thick as tomato paste.
Add chicken, tomatoes, wine and oregano to the onions and peppers. Simmer 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. If the pan becomes dry, add a little of the reserved tomato liquid. Do so sparingly.
Add cannelloni beans to the pan, and simmer another 5 minutes until hot.
Garnish with sprigs of oregano (optional).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Greek Lasagna - Pastitsio

If you're feeding a crowd during the holidays, here is the recipe for you! Everyone loves it and it makes a lot, but freezes well before adding the bechamel sauce. This can also be made ahead and assembled just before baking. Store the meat sauce, cooked pasta and béchamel sauce separately then assemble as the recipe instructs.

I you don't like lamb ( I don't!), use all ground round. This was a big hit with my entire family a couple of years ago. Looks like I'll be making it again this year during the Christmas holidays.

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Tomato Meat Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground lamb
½ cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Pinch red pepper
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes in puree
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add beef and lamb; cook until no longer pink, stirring to break apart. Drain off any excess liquid, add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and red pepper and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Béchamel or Crema Sauce
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon salt ( or less to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese
2/3 cup Greek yogurt

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until simmering (do not boil!).
Melt butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warm milk mixture into butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and thick. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in ¾ cup Parmesan cheese and ½ cup Tomato Meat Sauce. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in yogurt and set aside again.

Cook 12 ounces small pasta shells as directed on package. (Cook al dente as they will cook more when combined with the sauce and baked.) Drain and stir in 1 stick butter until melted.

To assemble the Pastitsio: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a large baking pan (at least 12x14x2-inches) with olive oil.

Combine cooked pasta with Tomato and Meat Sauce; stir in 2 beaten eggs. Pour mixture into the baking dish.
Spread the Béchamel Sauce evenly over the pasta mixture.
Sprinkle with remaining ¾ cup Parmesan cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Resolution

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)

"... with all your heart." That says it all. Seek Him with all your heart and everything will be OK.
He has plans for us. He knows those plans, we have to trust him to reveal them to us. If we don't talk to him, we'll never know the plans. So, talk to HIM and listen with all my heart. That's my New Year's resolution.

Lighten Up with Mediterranean Chicken

Kalamata-Lemon Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup uncooked orzo
½ cup drained, pitted kalamata olives
1 (14-oz.) can chicken broth or 2 cups broth
½ lemon, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Hot chicken broth, if desired
Fresh snipped oregano, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown chicken thighs in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turning once. Stir in orzo, olives, chicken broth, lemon wedges, lemon juice, Greek seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cover, bake for 35 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Serve in shallow bowls with additional broth, if desired. Top with snipped oregano.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Comfort Food for a Cold Night

There is nothing healthy about this, but when you want REAL "comfort food" Mac 'n Cheese, only this version will do! Kelley makes this for special occasions at Bill's request.

Over-the-Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe created by Patti LaBelle

Patti LaBelle says that the sure sign of a good cook is if their macaroni and cheese will make you cry! Patti's version just might bring tears to your eyes.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Muenster cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup (8 ounces) Velveeta , cut into small cubes
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart casserole. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the oil, then the elbow macaroni, and cook until the macaroni is just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well. Return to the cooking pot. In a small saucepan, melt eight tablespoons of the butter. Stir into the macaroni.

In a large bowl, mix Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cubed Velveeta, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the buttered casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and dot with the remaining one tablespoon of butter. Bake until it's bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.