Monday, October 31, 2011

Soft Ginger Cookies

Fall in my kitchen is all about cinnamon, spices, pumpkin, sweet potato, pecans .... baking with yummy smells floating throughout the house. This has to be one of my all time favorite cookie recipes!
A church friend, Eleanor Holford, shared this with me several years ago and never does a fall and winter pass without several batches being baked in our house. I love these with a cup of hot tea. They're great for dunking. If you prefer hard/crisp ginger cookies (more like ginger snaps) don't make these. These are soft and warm and perfect fall "comfort food"!

Soft Ginger Cookies
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup margarine or butter, softened
2 cups sugar, divided
1 egg
¼ cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, soda, spices and salt. Set aside.

Cream margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and molasses; stir well.

Add flour and spice mixture. Stir until well blended. Roll dough into 1 ½-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes or until light brown and puffy. Do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Yield: about 30 cookies.

Helen’s notes: I usually double the recipe. These keep well in an airtight container for weeks. They also freeze well. You can even freeze the dough before baking. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Loaded Baked Potato Soup Recipe

Last of the soup recipes( for now)! This one is amazingly easy! Just throw a couple of potatoes in to bake, come back later and stir up the soup in about 15 minutes. I doubled the recipes just because we LOVE soup and it's one of those foods that is better the next day and the next and the next....... If you want to make this ahead, make it on the stove and transfer to your slow cooker to keep warm until ready to enjoy!

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

2 large or 3 medium potatoes, baked
½ cup butter
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¾ cups chicken broth
1 (12-oz.) can evaporated milk
Sliced green onions, optional
Shredded Cheddar cheese, optional
Crumbled cooked bacon, optional
Sour Cream, optional

Melt butter in a Dutch oven. Add onion, cook for 2 to 3 minutes until tender. Stir in flour. Slowly add chicken broth and milk, stirring to combine. Scoop pulp from potatoes and add to broth mixture. Cook over medium heat just until mixture comes to a boil. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired. Yield: 4 cups.

Helen's note: If you prefer a chunky consistency, scoop pulp from one potato, add pulp to soup and reserve peel. Chop peel and remaining potato. Add to soup after it comes to a boil.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cheesy Veggie Chowder Recipe

I still have my 2 day a month job testing recipes for the Georgia Agriculture Dept's Market Bulletin.
Here is one of the 5 soup recipes I'm testing this month. It's colorful and loaded with veggies. And there is no fat in it (except for the cheese!). It looks good enough to eat.. now, if I could just bake some cornbread to go with it!! (Says the woman with the doorless oven!)

Cheesy Veggie Chowder

2 cups water
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups (6-oz.) Swiss cheese, shredded

Combine water, broth, carrots, onion, garlic and pepper in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add broccoli; cover and cook 1 minute. Combine flour and milk, stirring well. Add milk mixture to vegetable mixture. Cook over medium heat 10 minutes ( do not boil) until thickened and bubbly. Stir in cheese. Yield: 6 cups.

Helen's Notes: Substitute 2 cups frozen broccoli pieces for fresh.

If you like a smoother consistency, before adding cheese place ½ of the soup in a blender and process until smooth. Add back to soup pot and stir well.

Cheddar cheese may be substituted for Swiss cheese.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Caramel Corn Recipe

The King Arthur Flour company blog highly recommends this Caramel Corn recipe. One of my fondest memories of trick or treating was the homemade popcorn balls. This just might be a blast from the past!!!

Caramel Corn
15 cups popped corn (9 tablespoons kernels, popped)
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup salted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 Preheat your oven to 200°F and line a half-sheet pan (18" x 13" pan) with parchment paper. Pour the popped corn into a large bowl, at least 6 quarts, and set aside.

 In a large saucepan over medium-high heat bring the molasses, brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

 Remove the pan from the heat and add the baking soda. Stir well as the mixture turns foamy.

 Immediately (and carefully) pour the hot syrup over the popped corn and stir until the corn is well coated.

 Spread the hot caramel corn into the parchment-lined pan. Bake at 200°F for one hour. Stir the corn every 15 minutes during this time.

 Remove from the oven. This caramel corn is a warm, sticky, sweet and crunchy treat straight from the oven. It can also be cooled and stored airtight for several days. This recipe doubles and triples very well.

◦Want to add a bit of saltiness to your sweet caramel corn? Add 1 cup of roasted, salted peanuts to the bowl of popped corn before pouring on the syrup.

 ◦To make popcorn balls on a stick, omit the baking soda from the recipe. As soon as you can handle the corn without burning yourself, form it into 1-cup balls, inserting a lollipop stick or skewer at one end of each.

Mushroom Bolognese Recipe

From “The Italian Dish” blog, this recipe is a great meat alternative. Another fall comfort food!  What could be better on a cold day than (homemade) pasta with a delicious sauce???

Mushroom Bolognese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 medium sized celery ribs, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 garlic cloves, grated or minced
3/4 cup red wine
1 pound mushrooms (a mix of mostly baby bellas and some shiitake or your choice), chopped
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
11/2 cups beef (or vegetable, if you want this to be vegetarian) broth
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce or puree
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Soak dried porcini mushrooms in 1 cup of very warm water and let sit for 20 minutes.  Strain through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter and keep the liquid.  Do not use a metal mesh strainer for this step - it is not fine enough.  Chop the mushrooms. 
Sauté onion, carrot and celery in a large pot in the olive oil with a big pinch of kosher or sea salt and a few grindings of pepper.  Let the vegetables cook for about 8 minutes on low heat.  Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Increase heat and add the wine.  Cook for 5 minutes, making sure the wine is simmering. Add the mushrooms.

 Add the rest of the ingredients, including the reserved porcini mushroom liquid. Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour to an hour and a half, until the sauce has reduced down and a lot of the liquid has cooked off - cook until you like the thickness of the sauce.  Taste for salt and adjust seasoning.

 This recipe will be more than enough to coat a pound of pasta.  If you don't use all the sauce, it's great the next day or you can freeze it.

Helen’s Note: If you can’t get/don’t want porcini mushrooms, use more fresh mushrooms and add 1 cup liquid (water, broth, wine, etc.) You can use all button mushrooms, baby bellas or your choice.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Oldies Worth Cooking Again and Again!

Some of you are new readers and might have missed a couple of my very favorite recipes for fall and winter... go back and check these out. They are definitely worth a look!
Baked Beef Stew 12/5/2010 serve with a side of mashed potatoes
Spaghetti and Meatballs 12/7/2010 with homemade tomato sauce that is mild and delicious

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

White Bean Chicken Chili

Cold blustery days bring thoughts of warm bowls of soup or chili. Try this version of White Bean Chicken Chili for a lighter but flavorful substitute for tomato based beef chili. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, sour cream, shredded cheese or sliced avocado. Guaranteed to warm you to your toes!

White Bean Chicken Chili

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves, cut into bite-size pieces
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini or great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) package frozen shoepeg white corn
2 (4.5-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
3 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh cilantro sprigs, optional 

Sauté chopped onion in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 7 minutes; add garlic, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes.
 Stir in chicken pieces, and cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is lightly browned. Stir in 3 cups water and next 5 ingredients; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
 Place 1 can of beans in a blender; add broth, and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.
 Stir bean pureé, remaining beans, corn, and chiles into chicken mixture in Dutch oven; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in lime juice just before serving. Garnish, if desired.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sweet and Sour Beef Stew

Cool days bring thoughts of warm comfort foods! This beef stew fits the bill. Serve with mashed potatoes or rice or noodles and you have a complete dinner. Great for a crock pot, too. I would still brown the stew meat in a skillet before adding it to the crock pot. That gives it a richer flavor.

Sweet and Sour Beef Stew
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound lean beef stew meat
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup tomato sauce (16-oz. can)
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Egg noodles, cooked

Brown stew meat in vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven. Add remaining ingredients except for cornstarch and noodles. Simmer for 2 hours (or cook for 6 hours in a slow cooker). Add cornstarch and cook until thickened. Serve over hot cooked noodles.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cream Cheese Poundcake

When we first moved to the mountains, I badly wanted a B&B and/or an antique shop. I'm OVER both of those, but I DO love having company! (When I tell you to come to the mtns, I really MEAN it!) Next weekend one of our dearest "couple friends" are coming! I'm sooo excited! There are lots of festivals in the area, leaf color should be at its peak (They live in Florida, so this is really important!) and Ginger and I will paint together. I have no intention of spending the weekend in the kitchen, so, I'm cooking ahead. That way, we can heat and eat! Bill calls leftovers "grab and growl". But, these are not technically leftovers. I started this afternoon by baking a Cream Cheese Poundcake.

Fortunately, this is one of those foods that actually gets better after a couple of days! So, make this ahead and let it sit (wrapped tightly) until guests arrive.
Today, I baked it in 4 medium-size loaf pans. That makes it easier to slice (and toast for breakfast) and I can freeze some of it for later. Usually, I bake it in a plain tube pan. It makes a tall and beautiful cake. I wish we had "smell-a-vision" because our house smells scrumptious! Bake one yourself and see what I mean!
By the way, at age 10 Mama handed me a poundcake recipe and said "Go in the kitchen and bake this while I sew for you." And that, my friends was the beginning......

Cream Cheese Poundcake
Any true Southerner KNOWS that poundcake is one word!

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup margarine, softened (not diet margarine, it has too much water)
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanill extract (I add 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan or 4 (4x8-inch) loaf pans.

Cream butter, margarine and cream cheese in large bowl of electric mixer. Gradually add sugar; beat until light and fluffy (very light yellow color)about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition. Add flour to creamed mixture, beat just until flour is no longer visable. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hr and 30 minutes (tube pan) or 1 hr and 10 minutes (small loaf pans). Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack. Store in airtight container or wrap with foil.

Ya'll come to see us!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cheesy Italian Meatball Casserole

Some days quick and easy is as good as it gets. Fall brings festivals, fairs and fun things to do outdoors, placing cooking "complicated" recipes on the "back burner" (pun intended!). Bring out the commercial pasta sauce, frozen meatballs and whip up this warm and cozy casserole in a flash! Three steps and you're done!
Cheesy Italian Meatball Casserole
16 ounces dried ziti or penne pasta
1 (26-ounce) jar tomato pasta sauce
1 (16-ounce) package Italian-style frozen cooked meatballs (32), thawed
1 (15-ounce) can Italian-style tomato sauce
15-ounce carton ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Return to pan. Stir in pasta sauce, meatballs, and tomato sauce. Transfer to an ungreased 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish or 3-quart rectangular casserole. Bake, covered, in a 350 degrees F oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese. Uncover pasta mixture and spoon ricotta mixture in mounds over pasta mixture. Cover loosely; bake about 10 minutes more or until heated through. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes more. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Out of this World Waffles!

Sometimes I like to have breakfast food for supper. This was one of those nights. We ate out for lunch and had a much larger meal than we have when eating at home, so this was waffle night! As the weather gets cooler, I like this even more. Growing up, Mama made breakfast often on Friday nights. She usually made eggs, grits, biscuits and bacon or sausage. Waffles were (and still are) a special treat for me.
This is my favorite waffle recipe because they are light but crisp. I'm giving you the proportions I use for the 2 of us. You can easily double the ingredients for a larger family. I have a really low -tech (translation: cheap!) waffle maker. It has a light that signals when the waffle is done and no adjustments. I like crisp waffles, so sometimes I leave mine in a for a minute after the light signals done.

Out of this World Waffles
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat waffle maker.
Stir flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a medium bowl. Mix milk, egg and oil in a large measuring cup (I use my 4 cupper). Combine mixtures. Stir with a whisk until all ingredients are moistened. Don't over mix! Pour into waffle baker (mine uses about 1/4 cup per waffle). Yield: 8 (4-inch) square waffles or 4 batches in the waffle baker. (The recipe says it makes 11 waffles,but I've never gotten that many out of it!)

How easy is this??????

Monday, October 3, 2011

When you have a taste for ham and don't want to purchase a large piece (you can even buy small packages of chopped ham) or if you have leftovers this recipe is perfect. Substitute broccoli for asparagus (using veggies in season) and light cream cheese for flavored. Cheddar or Swiss cheese will substitute for Parmesan.

Potato-Ham Bake
1 lb. Yukon gold or red potatoes, sliced
1( 8-oz.) tub light cream cheese spread with chive and onion
¾ cup milk
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. snipped fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
8 oz. cooked boneless ham, cut in bite-sized slices
1 lb. fresh asparagus spears, trimmed, cut in 2 to 3-inch pieces or broccoli spears
Tarragon sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In medium saucepan cook potatoes, covered, in small amount of lightly salted boiling water 5 to 7 minutes, just until tender. Drain; transfer to bowl and set aside.

For sauce, in same saucepan combine cream cheese, milk, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Heat and whisk until smooth and cheese is melted. Remove from heat; stir in tarragon.

Combine all ingredients. Spread in a 1 quart baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top.