Sunday, December 30, 2012

A very late Merry Christmas!

You know what "they" say about good intentions? ( For those of you who don't... " The road to hell is paved with good intentions.") Well..... I had good intentions of getting back from our Christmas Market trip, going into baking mode at warp speed, posting inspiring recipes and having a jolly Christmas with family and friends. I'm sad to say not much on that list happened this year.

As those of you who traveled with us via email know, the trip was great, the Christmas Markets were beautiful, the food was interesting and we had snow! The return home was a nightmare. Loooooong story made short: our flight home was cancelled, we spent a miserable night in a fleabag hotel at the Paris airport, my suitcase was lost for a week and I've been sick ever since we got home. We had a 4 hour "Christmas quickie" with children and grands at my daughter's house on Christmas Day then back home to the very quiet and lonely mtns. No pitter patter of little feet, no Christmas cookies, no leftovers, no friends for was a pitiful holiday! And I did not post a single Christmas recipe! I apologize to you, my friends who have cooked with me for all seasons!

New Year's HAS to be better! I've already soaked the dried black eye peas, the kale is pre washed and the ham is but a single slice. We WILL have a traditional Southern New Year's Day meal... Sure to bring wealth, health and happiness. I wish the same for you!

Happy Cooking in 2013! I have 3 new cookbooks that we must work our way through....

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas and Fruitcake

I am soooo excited! We leave in a few days for a Danube River cruise in Germany and Austria to see the Christmas Markets! We fly into Nuremberg for 3 days then get on a Viking River Cruise from Nuremberg to Regensburg, Melk, Vienna and end in Budapest! Can you just imagine how beautiful it will be? We are hoping for snow! DH is keeping a close watch on the weather forecast and so far (fingers crossed) it looks probable! Yeahhhhh! And think of all the good food... street food at the outdoor markets... hot spiced wine, hot chocolate (is there anything better than European chocolate?), spiced cookies, gingerbread, sausages...... OH MY!

This trip has made forced me into high gear to get everything done for Christmas before we leave. We will be home for Christmas, but just barely! I've been checking off my list for weeks now. Christmas painting and cards finished, addressed and ready to mail. Presents bought online, shipped and wrapped (well.. most of them are wrapped!). Decorations... hmmm.... maybe we'll put up our pop up pre-lit tree one day this week? Baking.... one food gift finished and delivered!

Confession time: I LOVE fruitcake. It's one of those things that you either really love or really hate! I am sad to find that most of my young friends are in the latter category and thus I mourn the eminent demise of the Christmas fruitcake tradition. :(
Since I am in the minority in our family and since every fruitcake recipe makes SEVERAL cakes, I seldom bake fruitcake anymore but do love fruitcake cookies almost as much. I was thinking that this might be THE year to actually bake fruitcake... I could squeeze it in this week and let it steep in bourbon while we are gone to Germany.... hmmmm .... OH! NO! I still have NO OVEN!!!!!!!!!

I'm posting both recipes in case I have readers who also love fruitcake. This is a recipe I've made since the 1970's (OMG, am I REALLY that OLD?) and I'll post my favorite cookie recipe, too.
If you are a new reader, go back to the past couple of years to find LOTS of favorite Christmas cookies... Gingerbread Men, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, Roll and Decorate Sugar Cookies, Spritz Cookies ... etc....

I'll be e-mailing (hopefully) daily journals from our trip. If you'd like to travel with us to the Christmas Markets, let me know and I'll add you to the list. Meanwhile, I'll be back with more Christmas recipes in a couple of weeks.
Happy Baking!!!

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 lb light brown sugar
1 lb butter
9 eggs
3/4 teaspoon of each: Ground cloves, nutmeg, mace
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 box golden raisins
1/4 lb citron (I ususally omit this!)
1/4 lb candied orange peel
1 lb candied cherries
1 lb candied pineapple
1 lb candied mixed fruit
2 quarts pecans, chopped
1 pint fig preserves (or blackberry)
1/4 cup sweet wine

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line loaf pans or tube pan with greased wax paper or parchment paper.

Chop the fruits and nuts and dredge in 1/2 of the flour in a LARGE container. Combine remaining flour and spices. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add flour alternately with wine. Add creamed mixture to fruit mixture ( I mix with wet hands!).

Place a pan of water on the bottom rack of oven. Bake fruitcakes for 2 1/2 hours. Cool for 10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan . Store in airtight container wrapped in bourbon soaked cheese cloth. Every few days, sprinkle a little more bourbon over the cake.. keep in a cool, dark place.
Yield: 3 loaf pans or 1 tube pan and 1 loaf

Helen's notes: Start this cake early! It will get better, the longer it sits! IF I had an oven, I would make it this week for Christmas!

Rum Bars
These are almost as good as Fruitcake!

4 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups candied red cherries, chopped
1 1/2 cups candied pineapple, chopped
Light rum

Grease a 15x10-inch jellyroll pan. Spread 3 cups pecans in the greased pan. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar; add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add flour; stirring well. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
Combine cherries, pineapple and remaining pecans. Gently press mixture into batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hr 15 minutes. Cool slightly; cut into 2x1-inch bars. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle rum over each bar. Store in  airtight container to allow to mellow.. 2 to 3 weeks.
Yield: 6 dozen

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Leftovers

It's the day before Thanksgiving and here I sit with no oven! Thankfully, our original plan was to go to our daughter's for Thanksgiving, but I still feel frustrated and out of sorts by not having an oven! To make matters worse, the Sears call center is obviously NOT in the US. Have you ever tried to explain Thanksgiving dinner to an Indian (?) woman? In addition, she couldn't understand my Southern accent and, needless to say, I couldn't understand much of her accent either! Then she spent 10 minutes rattling on and on about an extended warranty that I should purchase on the spot ($300) if NOT, I would have to pay for the service call...well, DUH. Stay tuned for the rest of the story next week when the serviceman ( hopefully) gets here. Grrrrrrr!!!

On to more exciting things! By the time most of you have time to read this your turkey dinner will be history, but you will probably be blessed with plenty of leftovers. I'm posting our family's favorite leftover recipe. I hope you will like it as much as we do. It is super quick and easy and It also freezes well. So, make a double batch and freeze in meal size portions for later... like while you're decorating the Christmas tree!

Quick Turkey (or chicken) Tetrazzini
8 oz. thin spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 pkg sliced mushrooms, sautéed in butter or 1(8oz) can mushrooms, drained
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 cups diced turkey
2 cans cream of chicken soup
16 oz sour cream
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
1/4 cup Sherry or white wine, optional

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl ; spoon into a 3-quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake an additional 5 minutes.

To freeze: combine ingredients and spoon into freezer container. Thaw in refrigerator before baking. I line a baking dish with foil, spoon the mixture in, wrap in foil and freeze. When it's frozen, remove from dish. Then to serve, thaw, remove foil,place in same dish and bake!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving Extras

Last November I shared our family's favorite traditional recipes. (If you missed it, search the blog for November 2011.) Today I thought you might enjoy a couple of variations on the traditional. The recipe for Broccoli Rice Casserole is an old one, but low fat and a good alternative to high fat side dishes (and leaves room for rich desserts). Even the kids might be persuaded to eat veggies this way.
Don't faint when you see the ingredients.. I really DO occasionally make this, even with the nasty cheese product! Absolutely anyone can make this recipe - no cooking skills required.

The next recipe is Frozen Pumpkin Pie. I've had this one for ages and ages. I was even featured in the Florida Times-Union food section MANY moons ago with this recipe. I've kept it over the years because it's a nice change from Libby's Pumpkin Pie (straight off the pumpkin can!). And on those years when we have a really warm Thanksgiving, it is refreshing. This is also a great make-ahead.

Low Fat Broccoli Rice Casserole
1 (20-oz) bag frozen chopped broccoli (or 2 (10-oz) boxes), cooked
2 cups cooked rice
1 can low fat cream of chicken soup
1 (8-oz) container light Cheese Whiz
1/4 cup chopped onion, optional

Mix all ingredients. Pour into a 2-quart greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees until it bubbles.

Frozen Pumpkin Pie
1 1/2 cups crushed pre-sweetened cereal (Frosted Flakes)
1/3 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Mix together and press into 9-inch pie pan. Chill one hour.

1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 gallon vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream (or Butter Pecan and omit extra pecans)
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon grond nutmeg
1(8-oz) container Cool Whip, thawed

Combine ingredients in mixer. Mix until well combined. Spoon into pie crust. Freeze for 8 hours (or overnight). Top with Cool Whip before serving.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chocolate Comfort Cookies

My house smells like a chocolate shop! These cookies have just come out of the oven and although it is early in the day, they are very tempting! This has to be my very favorite cookie of all time. I really think I've shared this recipe in the past, but if I can't find it on the blog, I'm afraid you might not be able to either and I would really HATE for you to go through life without having eaten these triple chocolate cookies! The great thing about them is that they never dry out. You can keep them for weeks (ha! ha! NOT likely to happen!) and they will still be soft and chewy. SWOON!

The recipe calls for dried cranberries, toasted nuts (pecans) and chocolate chunks. You can omit the cranberries, but I have to tell you that they add a nice "bite" of tartness to the cookie. I use toasted, chopped pecans but you can use walnuts, macadamia or hazelnuts. I generally make them with Ghiradelli dark chocolate chunks. I do believe the dark chocolate makes them better, but use semi-sweet if you would like.

Today, I had 1/2 of an 8-oz block of cream cheese (leftover from another recipe) so I used the entire 4 ounces. I have a "thing" about wasting even 1 oz of cream cheese. If I did not have this leftover, I would have bought the 3-oz size as the recipe states. I can't tell any difference at all in the results!

If a recipe says "softened" butter, etc it sould be the consitency of playdough. Does that help?
Spray the measuring cup with Pam before measuring marshmallow creme.

Give this one a try and I think you'll agree.. the BEST chocolate cookie EVER! Let me know what you think!

Chocolate Comfort Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 (3-oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk ( I used 1/2 and 1/2)
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa ( I used Guittard from Wms Sonoma)
1 cup marshmallow creme
1 cup chopped, toasted nuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 pkg (2 cups) chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking pans with parchment paper.

Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar in large bowl of electric mixer. Add egg and beat until well combined. Beat in vanilla, milk and melted chocolate. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and unsweetened chocolate in large bowl; whisk until well combined. Add to creamed mixture and mix until the dry ingredients are no longer visible. Add marshmallow creme and mix until the white disappears! Stir in nuts, cranberries and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoons onto baking pans. Bake for 13 minutes. Cool on pans for 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Yield: 4 dozen.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

We must be getting closer to the (eating) holidays. I have a sudden urge to bake - more than ususal!I've become a big King Arthur flour fan and I must tell you about my baking experience with them.
You probably already guessed that I'm not a big fan of mixes. "From scratch" simply tastes better.
BUT, I have come to love the King Arthur scone mixes. In particular, the Cranberry Orange Scone mix. Late last summer I decided to branch out (After all, Cranberry Orange is somewhat of a fall flavor, right?) and ordered the Almond Cherry Scone mix. I was terribly disappointed! The flavor was -- well, there was NO flavor. Unfortunately, we had house guests when I made this awful discovery! They were good sports and ate the scones, but I was sorely disappointed! I stewed over it for weeks, then finally wrote an e-mail to the King Arthur Customer Service Dept. I just wanted them to know what a disappointment it was. I expected nor asked for anything in return/exchange.

The nicest e-mail from Mary Jane arrived with apologies, questions and offers of replacement products. I assured her that I was not just some crazy consumer who complained at the drop of a hat (and gave her my foods resume). She was most gracious, insisting on sending "goodies" and connecting me with their blog relationship manager (what a different business world we live in!).
End of story, I received a "goodie box" with my favorite Cranberry Orange Scone mix and a Cheesecake Bar mix to try. Then the media person asked if I would sample and report on their new self-rising flour. So, today, a 5 lb bag of flour arrived! How nice of them! Now I am REALLY a big fan. I will be trying out the flour and let you know how it bakes. I suspect it will be wonderful! But, I did warn them that I have a LONG term relationship with Martha White flour! Goodness Gracious, it's Good! (Tennessee Ernie Ford, ads on the Grand Ole Opry  - for you young kids!)

Meanwhile, in addition to the baking bug, I've also been thinking about pumpkin... canned pumpkin!
This muffin recipe sounded much better than a bowl of cold cereal. It was a winner in our house!
I made half of the muffins without cranberries. If you like chocolate chips and pumpkin, add them instead of cranberries. If you don't have all the spices, use Pumpkin Pie spice. Add nuts, raisins, etc.... this is an easy recipe to alter. And the best news - it's low fat! (Of course, SOMEONE in this house slathered his theirs in butter!)

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cup sugar ( I used half white sugar, half brown sugar)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup buttermilk (or plain yogurt or sour cream)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Make a well in center of the ingredients, add remaining ingredients except cranberries. Stir to combine, making sure all ingredients are wet. Fold in cranberries. Spoon batter into greased muffin pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.

Helen's Tips: Do NOT overmix muffin batter. It will make tunnels in the texture and mountain peaks on top of the muffins! Stir only until dry ingredients are wet. If you use cupcake papers in the pan, spray them with Pam.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sweet and Savory Kale

Fall and winter give us so many different vegetables that I am always finding something that I want  to try. Variety is nice and this week I chose to try a new kale recipe. I grew up in Alabama on turnip greens and occasionally mustard greens mixed in, but not collards! Mama said they smelled up the house! I agree. But, kale is relatively new to me. I worked with wedding caterers on weekends at one point in my single mom life and shudder to think of the bushels of kale that we threw away after a reception. We used it as a base for fruit and veggie displays. What a waste! I wish I had been more adventuresome then or had more time to experiment.

This was a no brainer especially since I had a half bag leftover from the Minestrone Soup. What else could I do with it? Well, as is so often the case, right on the bag was an interesting recipe. We had it last nite with Herbed Braised Chicken Thighs (recipe in past posts) that includes potatoes, onions and carrots. The kale was a nice change from green beans and we liked the taste combination. Thankfully, my DH is adventuresome when it comes to food!

Sweet and Savory Kale
 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon sugar (I added just a little more)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 (1-lb) bag chopped Kale
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds, optional ( I left these out)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add onion and garlic; saute until onion softens, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in mustard, sugar, vinegar and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add kale, cover and cook 5 minutes stirring often.

Add cranberries and continue to cook on medium heat, stirring often. The liquid should reduce to about half and the cranberries will plump in about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Autumn Minestrone Soup with Italian Bread

Today was Soup Sunday at our church with a soup "cook-off" ( votes = money contributed)  to benefit the Young Harris College scholarships given by our church. It was a good cause (says the former fundraiser) and who doesn't love a good bowl ( or 2 ) of soup on a fall day? The weather cooperated nicely and gave us a rainy, blustery, cool day - perfect soup weather!

Soup is not an exact art, so I set off in search of a good base from which to work. I thought minestrone sounded good and found an autumn minestrone that used fall squash along with greens.
I added, subtracted, adjusted and liked the final result! Of course  Mikey Bill loved it! It was a hit at the "contest" but not the winner. It was winner enough in my book to keep the recipe and make it again.

I also made bread to go with the soup. Bread machine Italian bread to which I added asiago cheese, chopped sun dried tomatoes and minced fresh rosemary. It was almost as good as the soup! I know there are many purists out there who would never use a bread machine but I have to admit that I think they are one of the top kitchen appliances! It was sooooo easy to put the ingredients in the machine, walk away for 3 hours and come back to a loaf of delicious warm bread! Besides, it makes your house smell scrumptious!

Use this recipe as a base, make the changes that your family likes and enjoy.  You can't go wrong!

Autumn Minestrone
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cup chopped onions ( 2 medium or 1 large)
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
3 cups peeled and cubed winter squash (butternut)
3 celery stalks, diced
2 cups peeled and diced carrots 
3 cups cubed potatoes (Klondike Gold)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cups chicken broth (or half broth and half water)
4 cups chopped kale (or spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, etc)
2 (15-oz) cans cannellini (or any white) beans,  rinsed and drained
3 cups cooked small tube pasta (ditalini or elbows)
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add squash, celery, carrots, potatoes, oregano, salt, pepper and chicken broth. Cook until veggies are almost fork tender, about 10 minutes. Add kale and beans; cook until kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in hot cooked pasta just before serving.
Helen's notes: Garnish with shredded asiago cheese and a drop of balsamic or red wine vinegar. If you have a rind of Parmesan cheese, add that with the broth and simmer until it thickens the soup and veggies are almost tender. Substitute frozen green beans for kale.
Bread Machine Italian Bread
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water, 80 degrees
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons dry milk powder
4 cups bread flour (King Arthur, unbleached)
1 pkg yeast
2 tablespoons chopped sun dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried, crumbled)
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
Place ingredients in bread machine in order listed. Set program to French course, 2 lb loaf, medium crust. Go away and let the machine make magic!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Apples, Apples and more Apples!

One of my absolute favorite fall foods is apples! I love them fresh, sweet and crunchy, in cakes, crisps, breads, muffins.... you get the picture? The best variety in my opinion is Pink Lady. They come in after the first frost and will last in the refrigerator for months. They are sweet yet tart, crunchy and hold up well when cooked. I'm sure that you have a favorite, too. Just remember that the ones with round bottoms are cooking apples and the ones with pointy bottoms (is that so very technical?) are eating apples and there is absolutely nothing wrong with switching their use! (The photo below says "organic" however, Pink Ladies are not all organic.)

 I am fully aware that I have shared several (OK, a LOT) of apple recipes over the years, but today I think we need a few more! (Use the search feature to find past posts and some really good recipes!)It's one of those sunny fall days that just needs the smell of cinnamon in the kitchen!

This one is an "oldie but goodie" and one mama made every fall that I can remember! Serve it warm with a dollop of cinnamon flavored whipped cream or ice cream... mmmmm

Fresh Apple Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups chopped peeled apples
1 cup chopped pecans (toasted in my kitchen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine sugar, oil and eggs in large bowl of electric mixer. Mix until well combined. Combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon; add to sugar mixture. Stir in vanilla, apples and pecans. Pour into greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and pour glaze over warm cake.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine ingredients except vanilla in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes; stir in vanilla. Pour over warm cake.

Helen's Notes: You can also bake this in a 9x13-inch pan. Double the glaze ingredients and pour over warm cake just as it comes from the oven.

The next recipe is a moist and yummy breakfast muffin or snack! Add raisins, dates or dried cranberries, if you like. Always remove muffins from the pan as soon as they come out of the oven to prevent soggy bottoms.

Apple Muffins
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or all-purpose plus 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and 3/4 teaspoon salt)
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped, peeled apple
1/2 cup raisins, cranberries or dates
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12 count muffin pan or line with cupcake papers.
Combine flour, oatmeal and sugar. Add egg, milk and melted butter. Stir to moisten ingredients. Stir in vanilla. Gently stir in apples, raisins and nuts. Spoon into muffin pan. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Helen's Notes: Substitute 1/2 whole wheat flour, if desired. Use firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark). Omit raisins and/or nuts. Sprinkle batter with cinnamon and sugar before baking.

And finally, one of my very favorite and easiest apple "recipes":
Cut 4 to 6 apples into eighths, remove core but leave peel on . Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add apples and 1/2 cup apple juice (water or apple cider). Cover and cook until apples begin to soften. Remove cover and cook until apples are desired consistency and liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, if desired. Serve with ham, pork, chicken or as breakfast side dish.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tuscan Pork Roast and White Beans

My girls are coming to the mountains for the weekend! Hurrraaaahhhhh! My daughter, Kelley, and her two year old daughter, Emmie,  will be here in a few hours and I've been stirring around in the kitchen all morning. I want to have as much done ahead as possible so that I can "play" with Miss Emmie! Emmie likes loves black eye peas, so I found this yummy sounding pork roast with white beans that I hope everyone will enjoy. The roast is sure to be tender and juicy and the beans creamy and tasty. The house smells scrumptious! I just tasted a spoonful of beans and a pinch of pork so that I could vouch for its flavors. Oh my! I want to sit down NOW with a spoon and a plate!

You can cook this in a slow cooker for 8 hours on high or in your oven for 4 hours on 275degrees. Either way, soak the beans ahead (cover with water and let stand overnight, drain and add to recipe) or cover them with water and boil for 20 minutes, pour off the water and proceed.

The recipe calls for a Boston Butt, boneless shoulder pork roast. They were $15. Pork loin end roast was $5. Guess which one I used??? The roast was done before the beans, so I removed it and covered it with foil. I'll shred it and add back to the beans.

Slow Cooked Tuscan Pork Roast with White Beans
2 cups dried navy beans
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage, divided
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork shoulder (Boston Butt)
4 cups water
2 bay leaves

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven and cover with water 2 inches above beans. Cover and let stand for 8 hours. (see note above) Drain beans.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
Combine 2 teaspoons sage, 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon salt and 3 cloves minced garlic. Rub mixture over pork roast. Place beans, remaining ingredients and pork roast in  large heavy pan (or slow cooker). Cover and bake until pork is very tender and beans are creamy. Discard bay leaves. Pull pork apart into chunks and serve with beans.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Sage

Pumpkins, cinnamon, cider, Indian corn, mums and apples! Fall is here! It's a welcome relief from summer and brings it's own special flavors and aromas. Butternut squash is plentiful in local markets along with sweet potatoes. Both taste so much better when fresh and local.

Waaaaayyy back in the dark ages, when I was in college, Mama would make special foods when I went home on the weekend. In fall, my favorites were sweet potatoes and turnip greens
( not cooked together!)  Those were the fall tastes that I craved. And I still enjoy both this time of year!

Now that my taste buds have re-adjusted to American food, they are craving foods of fall. The sage plant in the edge of my herb garden is loaded with leaves, so this recipe seems a natural! It's simple and easy and can also be made with sweet potatoes and rosemary. Give it a try. I think it may become a favorite!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Fresh Sage

1 (3-pound) butternut squash-peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 sage leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the olive oil and sage and season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, until tender and lightly browned, tossing once half-way through. Transfer to a bowl and serve.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tex-Mex Pork

Many of you know that we just returned from a 2 week trip to France. We flew into Lyon, gastronomic capital of France (and, arguably, the world) then drove south to Provence. It was a wonderful trip for seeing exciting sites and eating LOTS of really good food! However, my taste buds are craving something spicy and my jet lag is begging for easy. This recipe satisfies both!

If pork tenderloin is out of the budget,  cut thick boneless pork chops into cubes for this recipe. Either way, it only takes 1 pound of pork.

Tex-Mex Pork
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups salsa
2 cups hot cooked rice
1/4 cup sour cream
1 avocado, peeled and cubed (toss with a squeeze of lemon to prevent browning)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork; sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Saute for 8 minutes or until lighlty browned. Add salsa and 1/4 cup water to the pan; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 mintues or until slightly thickened. Serve pork mixture over hot cooked rice; top with a dollop of sour cream and cubed avocado.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

My kitchen overflowed with cherry tomatoes last week as my 2 plants hanging halfway off the deck have finally decided to produce! The plants look like they are ready for the compost heap, but after inspecting the trailing vines, I found lots of bright red tomatoes that were sun ripened and ready for picking! What to do with all these little guys? You can only eat so many salads! Then I remembered something I read on Pinterest... here we go again...

The tomatoes were cut in half, placed on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet cut side up, drizzled with olive oil (just a tiny little bit!), sprinkled with sea salt and roasted at 200 degrees for about 4 hours. It was almost overnight, but thanks to DH, I turned them off before going to bed!
The next morning, I put them in a jar (Oh, dear! They shrunk up so much that they fit into a small jar!!) and covered them with olive oil (thanks to my son-in-law for Trader Giotto's). I added a large clove of garlic, sliced, and a few sprigs of rosemary. You can sprinkle them with herbs as they are baking, if you prefer. The little jar is still sitting on the counter, but I haved used them several times this week.

One night, I tossed them into olive oil, red pepper, parlsey, garlic, shrimp, lemon juice and a dash of white wine. Cooked this until the shrimp were done - about 3 minutes - and tossed with angel hair pasta. YUMMM!

Another day, I added the drained tomatoes to a turkey and mozzarella panini. And finally, I added them to stuffed tomatoes. Don't laugh, the roasted tomatoes added a new dimension to the baked stuffed tomatoes. The roasted tomatoes are sweet and almost caramelized. They make a great addition to many dishes... use your imagination and enjoy!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Pear Clafouti

Clafouti is a traditional French dish made by pouring pancake-like batter over fruit - easy to make!
Traditionally, it's made with cherries but pears are in season and beautiful this fall. It's a perfect time to try Ina Garten's recipe for Pear Clafouti.

Every time I type clafouti, I hear Julia Childs saying (in her unmistakable voice) cla-foo-tay'! And I smile! Did you see the movie Julie and Julia? We were in Paris after it came out and saw the movie poster on a circular "billboard" on the street. Of course, I saw the movie - several times! I'm not that crazy about Julia, but I do love Paris!!

So, here is Ina's recipe for Pear Clafouti. Bake it in a quiche pan, if you still have one. Or you can use a pie plate or any round casserole dish. It needs to be eaten warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar and DH would dollop it with whipped cream.

Pear Clafouti
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temp
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs, room temp
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (it IS French!)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 firm, but ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10x1 1/2-inch round baking dish and sprinkle bottom and sides with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Beat eggs and 1/3 cups sugar in the bowl of electric mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in flour, cream, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Arrange pear slices in a single layer in the prepared pan. Make them pretty.... pinwheel or spiral.
Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and custard is firm, 35 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Salted caramel. Have you notice that this is one of THE most popular flavors? I like sweet and salty and so does my daughter, Kelley. For her birthday at our house this weekend, I made these cupcakes. I found them on the blog "Sprinkle Bakes" via Pinterest. (I also "borrowed" her photo complete with caramel frou frou!) They are "from scratch" (unlike the box variety that most home cooks call "homemade" these days!) and improve with age. I'm not going to kid you, they are NOT quick and easy, but they ARE well worth the effort. I knew Kelley would love them too and appreciate the effort. After all, she is the cupcake Queen having her own baking business for several years. I was really nervous making them, especially when it was time to frost! Her decorating skills are on an entirely different level than mine thanks to instruction from master cake baker/decorator Eileen Carter. But, Mama always said I didn't have sense enough to think there was anything I couldn't do, so I spent a good part of the day Friday baking these beauties!

Wouldn't you do anything for your children? I would. I love my two better than anything you can name. They are such very different people, but both are dear to me in their own way. Kelley and I have been buddies since she was little. She's a fantastic mom, loving wife and dear daughter/friend. I am so proud of the young woman she has become, but I do wish she would stop having birthdays!!!

Here's the recipe, but as you would expect, I made a few changes! The original was Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes. I had already made 2 batches of caramel and was not about to make the 3rd just for decoration. If you want to go that far, go to the blog and get the entire recipe. I'm giving you the Double Salted Caramel version! Pay attention to where the recipes call for unsalted or salted butter. NO SUBSTITUTES! ( I also did NOT say this recipe is inexpensive to make!)

Confession: I burned the 2nd batch of caramel! PHEW!! If that happens, throw it out and start over.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon SEA SALT
1 stick UNSALTED butter, room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin pans with papers. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
Cream butter and brown sugar on medium- high speed of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour. Beat well after each addition.

Fill muffin pans 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Salted Caramel Filling
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons SALTED butter, cubed
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream, room temperature

Melt sugar in heavy bottom pan over medium high heat. Whisk the sugar as it melts and cook until it becomes a deep amber color (shiny new penny color for me). Add butter and stir until melted. Pour in the heavy cream (mixture will foam and pop!) and whisk until you get a smooth sauce. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Cut a small round piece (plug) from the top of each cupcake. Pour in 1 teaspoon caramel sauce and replace the cake piece. Set aside.

Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick SALTED butter
1 stick UNSALTED butter
1/2 teaspoon SEA SALT
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Combine sugar and water in heavy bottom saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook without stirring until mixture turns a deep amber color (shiny new penny, again). Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes or until it is just barely warm but still pourable.
Beat butters and salt in large bowl of electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined.  Add caramel; beat on medium- high speed until light and airy and completely mixed (about 2 minutes). Mixture should be ready to use immediately. If it is runny, refrigerate until creamy. (Your caramel was too hot!). Top caramel-filled cupcakes with frosting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Milky Way Ice Cream

Wow! Did I ever get a hard time over the Fish Tacos and Watermelon Salsa recipes! And from the same "friend" who complained that I was making all of us fat with the desserts. You know, some people are just never satisfied! JUST KIDDING, Betts!

 Meanwhile, I found this yummy looking ice cream recipe and thought it sounded like something the DH would love! We are real ice cream fans at our house -have I said that before?  Hardly a week goes by that there is not either commercial ice cream (Blue Belle is our absolute favorite) or homemade ice cream in our freezer. DH is one of "those people" who can eat dessert every nite and not gain an ounce. Don't you just hate them??? And since we both love chocolate... Get out the Cuisinart countertop ice cream maker. Oh, we probably should have never bought one of these... but it is sooooo easy and convenient! Maybe too convenient? I borrowed one from a friend, then bought a larger model for us! Why fool around with 1 quart of ice cream when you can make 1/2 gallon just as easy? Goes right along with my aversion to recipes for bar cookies made in a 9-inch square pan! If you're going to work, make it worth it!

Since our ice cream maker is larger than the original recipe calls for, I made a few changes. I'll give you the 1 quart recipe and tell you what I added for our 1/2 gallon freezer. I find that simply doubling the recipes does not always work. I usually end up with an extra cup or so of liquid. One time I put it all in the freezer (even though it was over the fill line) and what a mess I had! It froze and oozed out the top! We HAD to get spoons and eat it as it came over the top! LOL!

Milky Way Ice Cream

5 Fun Size Milky Way candy bars, about 4 oz., unwrapped and chopped
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (I used the entire can- what do you do with 1/2 can ??)
1 cup whole milk (I used 2 cups of 2%)
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (I used 1 cup 1/2 and 1/2)
I added 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (because we like lots of chocolate!)
and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place candy bars and sweetened condensed milk in a large glass bowl over boiling water. Do not let water touch bottom of bowl. Stir until candy bars melt. Add chocolate chips and stir until melted.
Remove the bowl from the saucepan and add milk, 1/2 and 1/2 and vanilla. Stir to combine.
Chill until COLD. ( I set mine in a larger bowl filled with ice to speed it up.)

Churn mixture in ice cream maker until soft serve consistency. Transfer to airtight container and freeze for at least 2 hours. (Yea, like THAT happened in this house!)

You can make this in an electric churn or hand crank churn, if you wish.

NOTE: I did not add the milk to the hot mixture and had to reheat the cooled mixture in order to get the milk to combine with the melted candy! So, follow the instructions!!)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fish Tacos with Watermelon Salsa

Hot summer weather begs for lighter food and different combinations of ingredients. With fruit in abundance, it seems a shame not us find new ways to use it. Watermelon is a traditional summer fruit that is easy to find and relatively cheap (considering the amount of fruit from one melon). Of course, these days NOTHING is cheap. I sent my DH (dear husband) to the grocery store for 2 items and he came home declaring that there needs to be a checkout lane for those folks needing to apply for a loan to pay for their groceries. He doesn't go to the grocery store often, obviously! But, I digress....

Try combining a mild fish like Talipia with watermelon salsa in these Fish Tacos. It's a nice light taste and very colorful. Add slaw or oven roasted potatoes and you've got a meal. I like to have the salsa leftover to serve with chips, so sometimes I double the salsa recipe. Cook the fish on a grill or in a skillet. Either way, a good rule of thumb for cooking fish is 10 minutes cooking time per 1-inch of thickness. Easy way to chop cilantro or parsley: wash and place in a small glass (I use a small juice glass). Use kitchen scissors and hold them perpendicular to the countertop. Cut down into the glass and you will chop without making a mess! You'll be surprised at how easy this recipe is to prepare and your family just might find a new favorite!

Fish Tacos with Watermelon Salsa
4 cups diced watermelon, remove seeds!
1/2 cup chopped red onion (or Vidalia when in season)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced (or as much as you like!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

1 pound skinless fillet of sea bass, talipia or other mild fish
1 teaspoon chipolte chile powder
1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced (or substitute iceberg lettuce)
8 corn tortillas
1 avocado, sliced, optional
Lime wedges

Preheat large skillet . Sprinkle both side of fish with chile powder, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with oil. Brush the skillet with oil and add fish. Cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side depending on thickness of fish. Transfer to a platter, cool slightly and break into bite size pieces.

Warm the tortillas in the skillet. Fill with fish, watermelon salsa, avocado (if desired) and lettuce. Serve with lime wedges.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Blueberry Coffee Cake

The latest copy of Bon Appetit arrived in my mailbox a few days ago and this recipe looked sooo yummy! I happened to have some blueberries in the refrig that "needed" to be eaten and since they were a little tart, this coffee cake looked perfect! I've been painting a lot lately (watercolor, not walls) and felt guilty that I haven't cooked much, so this was my peace offering. OH, wait! I made brownies for the roofers Monday. Does that count?? Anyway, I've rearranged the recipe a little (very poorly written ingredient list and directions!). Make this the day before you plan to serve it (Unless you get up hours before breakfast!). And be prepared to wash some dishes. But, it is worth it - it is sooooo good! I haven't tried this, but I think you could make muffins from the batter... assemble the same way as the coffee cake using muffin pans.. maybe Texas sized?

Yes, I said roofers.  We had hail damage and thanks to our neighbors having theirs appraised by the same insurance co. we are getting a new roof also. This is week 2. What was the old TV show with Darrell, Darrell and their other brother, Darrell?? Well.. I know where they are now. They're in the mtns of North Georgia/Western NC working on our roof!! They are a hoot! I gave them Banana Bread last week and on Monday one said, "That Banana Bread you made us was mighty good....(grin, hint, hint)". So, yesterday, I baked Double Chocolate Brownies.We may never get rid of them!!! Darrell took one bite and said, "Them ain't out'a no box!"  Bingo! They're good guys, lots of fun and doing a good job. We have a contractor who has been working on this house every year for the 8 yrs we've lived here who deals with them. We don't have to worry about anything except keeping them happy and full!!!

Here are a few tips for this recipe before you get started:
Substitute for 1 cup buttermilk: 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar in measuring cup then fill with milk. Set aside for 5 minutes. Works like a dream!

I didn't use pecans in my topping. Personal preference. But it worked fine without them. Substitute other nuts of your choice. The original recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt in the topping. IF you like sweet/salty taste, add it. If not, leave it out.

Panko crumbs were tossed with the blueberries. If you have them, fine. Don't go out and buy them just for this recipe. Leave them out and move on!

I baked mine in an 8x8-inch metal pan (as the recipe directed) but think it would be much nicer in a glass baking dish. The recipe said to line the pan with parchment paper. Not sure why. Now I have to cut squares and lift it off the paper... ???? Leave off the parchment paper and grease the pan well. If you use a glass dish, lower the oven temp by 25 degrees. And if your metal dish is dark, lower the oven temp 25 degrees.

Old-fashioned Blueberry Coffee Cake
Crumb Topping
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon Panko

Make the crumb topping (Can be made up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated.)
Combine flour and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Add butter; using your fingers to work butter into the flour mixture until large, moist crumbs begin to form. Stir in pecans. Set aside.

Make the cake layer
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine butter and sugar in the large bowl of electric mixer. Beat until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat well. Beat mixture an additional 3-4 minutes.

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Sift (or use a whisk to combine) dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Pour half of mixture into a greased 8x8-inch baking pan. Combine 3 tablespoons sugar and 3 tablespoons cinnamon. Sprinkle over first layer of batter. Spoon on remaining batter. Toss blueberries with Panko, if desired. Scatter evenly over batter. Sprinkle crumb mixture over blueberries.

Bake 45 minutes or until top is golden brown and wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool completely in pan. Cut into squares and serve. (Recipe says 8-12 servings. NOT at our house!)
Photo from Bon Appetite.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

It always makes me smile when people ask for recipes or ask for advice on recipes they've tried. I think back to my County Extension Agent days when we answered cooking questions over the telephone. We spent a LOT of time trouble shooting recipes and suggesting substitutions. It was a consumer service and one we provided with pleasure. It was almost like teaching a class with no classroom!

Then there were my days teaching in a Home Ec classroom...oh, dear me! What an experience! If the students had a successful cooking lab, I let them have a "free" lab day on Fridays. They could bring food from home to prepare in the lab. Food plus teenagers equals a good day. So, the 2 kitchens of boys (4 in each group) pooled their resources and brought several rolls of refrigerator sugar cookie dough. They went about their business getting the dough ready to go into the oven amid a lot of giggles and laughter. I thought they were having waayy too much fun, but let it go.. it was Friday and they were 9th grade kids. They had cookies in the oven in both kitchens and when the timer on both went off at the same time, I walked over to one oven and started to open the oven door. Their faces went white. They became silent. They looked horrified. I was stumped until I opened the oven door and saw the cookies. The boys had shaped their dough into male body parts - sugar cookie penis!!!! I calmly removed the cookie sheet from the oven, set it on the stove top and walked into the large walk-in pantry and laughed until I cried! I had 2 choices: report them to the office and send them all to ISS (in school suspension) or ignore it . I chose the latter. I never saw the cookies again and never had a moment's trouble from those boys the entire year!

This week, I'm baking cookies for our church to give to incoming students at Young Harris College. I clued the girls sitting behind us in church Sunday in to the generosity of the ladies of our congregation. I assured them to stick with us because we would feed them well! I'm sure they will love homemade cookies!

One of my favorite cookie recipes is a chewy oatmeal cookie (especially for my friend, Mary M.). You can add whatever you like to the basic dough. I'm adding M&M's, nuts and chocolate chips this week. If I were making it for me, I'd add dried cranberries and dark chocolate chips. Or you can add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the flour mixture, leave out the chocolate and add raisins. Make the dough ahead and refrigerate it for the best shaped cookies. When the dough is  refrigerated, the cookies tend to spread less. No suspicious shapes here!

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavored Crisco
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar (or half brown and half white sugar)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups uncooked regular oats (NOT instant!)
1 (12-oz) pkg chocolate chunks
1 cup chopped  nuts

Cream butter, Crisco and sugar at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl, stirring to blend. Add oats; stir well. Add dry mixture to creamed mixture, mixing at low speed just until dry ingredients are no longer visible. Stir in chocolate chunks and nuts. Refrigerate  OR drop by rounded tablespoons 2-inches apart on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until brown around the edges. Cool on pan for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.
Yield: 30 to 36 cookies.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Cheese Stuffed Baked Tomatoes

More bounty from the garden! Our tomatoes have not had much taste this summer, but with this recipe, they are sure to be delicious. The original recipe called for Gruyere cheese (which I find to be terribly expensive);  I substituted Swiss. I think the tastes are similar and with all of the other good flavors in the tomatoes, I hardly think you'll notice the switch. Of course, you could use any cheese that you prefer.... mozzarella and/or Parmesan plus a little basil,  Monterrey Jack and some cilantro.... go wherever your taste buds take you with this basic recipe. I found "day old" cibatta for 1/2 price and used that for the stuffing. Any firm (AKA stale) bread will do.  From my deep Southern roots, I sprinkled the tomatoes with a tiny bit of sugar before filling them.... Mama always said it "kills the acid taste".  Have fun and enjoy the last tomatoes of the season!

We have a cute little local Farmer's Market on Wednesday mornings with nice local products and a precious English lady who bakes. I'm going to buy a large basket of Roma tomatoes this week to make (and freeze) Marinara Sauce. It's our favorite with fresh homemade pasta. And I'll buy some baked treats from Miss Ann... I need to help our local economy and besides, it's nice to eat someone else's cooking once in a while! I'm not sure how to link you back to the Marinara Sauce recipe (maybe one day I'll get that sophisticated- maybe not!) but it was posted long ago.. search for it and if you need it and can't find it, just e-mail me and I'll share it. It is YUMMMY!

Cheese Stuffed Baked Tomatoes

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
6 large, firm tomatoes, halved crosswise
4 to 6 ounces rustic white bread (such as ciabatta), torn into large pieces (about 1 quart)
1 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese, divided
2 Tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion 
2 cloves garlic, chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 teaspoon lemon zest 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush an 11- by 13-inch glass baking dish with one tablespoon of olive oil. Using a small, sharp paring knife, cut around the inside wall of the tomato to loosen the seeds and jelly. Then, working over a large, deep bowl, use a tablespoon to gently scrape out the seeds and flesh, taking care to leave the tomato intact. Make sure each tomato half sits flat. If it doesn't, use the paring knife to shave a small slice off the bottom of the tomato, which will ensure that it sits level in the dish. Place tomato halves in baking dish.  Place bread pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to create breadcrumbs. You should have two cups. Add 1/2 cup cheese, onion , parsley, thyme, red pepper, lemon zest, and salt and black pepper to taste, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle 1/2 cup of olive in through the spout in the lid. Blend until mixture clumps together slightly.

Divide filling evenly between 12 tomato halves, pressing down slightly on the filling. Sprinkle remaining cheese over tomatoes. Drizzle tomatoes with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and bake until filling puffs and browns and tomatoes just start to split, about 40 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baked Ziti and Summer Veggies

If you have a garden this summer you probably have an abundance of zucchini and yellow summer squash. I've been looking for different squash recipes and came across this one on Pinterest. I thought it sounded good and might be one you could actually get kids to try! What's not to like about lots of cheese, pasta and veggies? Of course, I would double it and bake it in a 9x13-inch baking pan. We love leftovers at our house!

Have you tried Aunt Ruth's Squash Fritters? They are delicious made with yellow squash or zucchini.

In the past week, I've picked 2 - 5 gallon buckets of green beans (thanks to my dear friends, Anna & Fred for growing the garden and letting me pick!), snapped (thanks to Helen J. for helping snap - or break beans as they say in NC) and canned 31 quarts (thanks to my sweet neighbor, Mary, who loaned me her pressure canner and patiently answered 100 questions while I re-learned how to can!). It truly takes a village sometimes! I am very blessed to live in a "village" filled with loving and generous folks! And, next winter, we will have plenty of beans!!!

Don't you love summer veggies??? I do!! I could easily be a vegetarian in summer.


Baked Ziti and Summer Veggies

4 ounces uncooked ziti
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow squash
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups chopped tomato
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup (2 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.
 Preheat oven to 400°.

 Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini, and onion; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper.

Combine ricotta, remaining salt, and egg. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Brownie Sundae Dessert

Hello Friends! I've missed you but I hope you've had a fun summer! I certainly have had a busy one with my oldest grandson here for his entire summer vacation. Riley is 11 yrs old and a growing boy, so you can imagine that I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. My friend, Anna, says feeding grandchildren is not about quality, it's about quantity! And so, I began to veer away from homemade and into "fast food" that would fill that growing boy quickly! He's gone home now and will start school Aug 2, so the house is quiet and the kitchen in need of a good cleaning and restocking. I sent a bag of food home with him of half finished cereal, mixes, Nutella and other kid favorites!

Today at our church, Sharp Memorial United Methodist Church in Young Harris, GA, we had Camp Meeting service and dinner on the grounds. Now, if you have never been to Camp Meeting and dinner on the grounds, you have not LIVED! The service was all music (well, that and some praying and a lot of praising!) and all from my childhood. It was a million times better than any "oldies concert" you can imagine. We sang everything from "Victory in Jesus" to "Do Lord". It took me back to my camp days riding the bus to Blue Lake Methodist Camp in south Alabama with my best friend, Pam Blair. What glorious memories!! And I cried like a baby from sheer joy. Then the choir sang "I'll Fly Away"! As my Daddy used to say, that was real toe tapping music! We are blessed with the most talented pianist, organist, music director and choir members imaginable! Cody, the young pianist, has a way with those ivories that make you wonder how he can possible move his fingers that fast. Well, you get the picture? What a glorious day! I'm sure Pam was singing along with a heavenly choir!

Then, on to the food and "dinner on the grounds" (except we opted for the air conditioning)! OH, MY! Can those Sharp ladies cook! There were 2 serving lines of 3 or 4 tables each. I've never seen so much food! And it was all sooooo good! Of course, we ate ourselves into a stupor and none of this is probably making any sense (except to those of you who know me well!).

Several folks asked for my dessert recipe. Bill sat in the corner eyeing the servings people took, afraid there would be none to take home for him for later! I would say it was a hit. It is so simple  that I was almost embarrassed when asked for the recipe, but I will share happily with them and you. Give it a try when you need a BIG dessert to serve a crowd. Or make the entire recipe and freeze part of it for later.

The hit recipe is Brownie Sundae Dessert. Basically, it's a brownie base (use a mix or make my recipe from scratch), a layer of cream cheese, powdered sugar and cool whip, a layer of 2 kinds of instant pudding, another layer of cool whip and garnished with chocolate syrup and chocolate shavings. See... how easy!

Brownie Sundae Dessert

9x13" pan of your favorite brownies, cooled and broken into bite size pieces
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz. container Cool Whip
 3 oz pkg vanilla instant pudding
3 oz pkg chocolate instant pudding
3 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee , optional
8 oz Cool Whip
Chocolate syrup or sauce
Chopped chocolate or chocolate curls for garnish

Place brownie bites in botttom of 9x13" serving dish. Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar; mix until well blended. Fold in 8 oz. Cool Whip. Spread over brownie layer. Set aside in refrigerator.
Combine both packages instant pudding with milk and instant coffee in a large bowl. Mix until pudding begins to thicken. Spread over cream cheese layer. Cover with 8 oz. cool whip and garnish with chocolate. Refrigerate until serving time.

Helen's Notes: You can make this in the same pan the brownies are baked in and cut it into squares. I broke up the brownies for easier serving. Following is my easy homemade brownie recipe. I don't know why anyone would mess with a mix when this is so easy!

Double Chocolate Brownies
4 (1-oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Microwave chocolate and butter in a large bowl on HIGH for 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate melts and set aside to cool. Stir in sugar. Add eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir by hand. Stir in flour and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Bake for 25 to 30 miutes. Cool in pan.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Foodie Pen Pals - Round 2

What fun! Month 2 of Foodie Pen Pals and look what I got!! Sarah, sent me this AMAZING box of goodies! She was sooo thoughtful and even shared some Japanese snacks her sister brought her from Japan. We had a ball trying to guess what was in the bag, then tasting them! Sarah visited one of my absolute favorite stores (right up there with Publix!), Trader Joe's! There is nothing you could send from there that I wouldn't love and appreciate! Sarah sent dark chocolate covered pomegranite seeds, capers (I had about a tablespoon left in a jar and was rationing them out!), lemon pepper pasta, sun dried tomatoes, a dark chocolate truffle bar (not sharing!) AND she spent a fortune shipping them! Oh, Sarah, what a dear you are! Many, Many, Many thanks!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BBQ Sauce Recipe

Since next week is July 4th, I just HAD to share my recipe for BBQ Sauce. A friend asked for the recipe and I promised. So, here it is.

 I make 4 times the recipe, put it in ketchup bottles and refrigerate. It will keep for 6 months or more. In my son's house, the kids call it "Daddy's Ketchup" because he uses it on everything! Make it as hot as you like by adding more red pepper. It's great on ribs, chicken or pork roast (or French fries....etc.....) It's an Alabama BBQ sauce, red and spicy sweet.

Alabama BBQ Sauce

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce

Simmer first 8 ingredients in a small pan for 20 minutes. Add ketchup and Worshestershire; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cool. Store in refrigerator or use immediately.

Foodie PenPals

When I was a little girl, I loved having a pen pal. When my best friend moved away, we became pen pals of a different sort. When I went to college, my roommate and I wrote back and forth all summer (no cell phones back then!). Recently, I came across a post announcing Foodie Penpals! I'm sure you can guess the rest of this story!

I signed up and recieved a box from my new Foodie Penpal, Diane in Pennsylvania. It was a box filled with goodies that make a "Foodie" squeal with delight... dark chocolate, chocolate coated wafers/cookies, pita chips, dip mixes, garlic hot sauce, Italian grissinati (tiny crusty breadsticks)..... frankly, I was too excited to take a photo, but I promise to next month! WHAT FUN! I love a package and I love a surprise and I love pen pals and (obviously!) I love food! A match made in heaven!

Every month this inventive young lady, Lindsey, at The Lean Green Bean, puts together a mailing list. I don't envy her figuring all this out, but she does an awesome job! You get a box from one person but send a box to someone else. There is a $15 spending limit. Here's the link if you'd like to participate. Boxes have to be mailed by the 15th of the month. And you commit for 1 month at a time.
Have fun!!

I'll bet you're wondering what I sent my penpal...... OF course, it contained Southern items... sweet potato chips, Creole seasoning, Martha White mixes, homemade apple butter with a recipe in which to use it, seasoning mixes etc.....

Here's the link... (sorry, I'm not savvy enough to add her button, but you still get the idea....)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tme Flies When You're Having Fun!

Has it really been a month since I've blogged? Those of you who are Facebook friends know exactly where I've been and it has not been in the kitchen! Summer is for grandchildren, especially our oldest who is spending his entire summer vacation with us is this year.

We have been on a cruise to Alaska, he has attended Vacation Bible School, day camp at John C. Campbell Folkschool ( will go to overnight camp before going home. He's 11 yrs old and going into middle school this fall. I suspect after this summer, he will outgrow us. I guess that is even more motivation for trying to make this one special!

That being said, I am taking the month of July off from blogging. I hope to see each of you again in August! Enjoy cold meals, cookouts, picnics and homemade ice cream while you think of me!

Happy summer vacation!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Old Fashion Blackberry Cobbler

One of my dear high school friends from Alabama asked for a recipe for Blackberry Cobbler. I wish I could say, "Yes, I have my grandmother's recipe that I learned at her knee." But, truth is, I don't! Oh, what I wouldn't give to turn back time and write down the recipe. Grandmother lived to be 102 and I sat her down at about age 94 and recorded her telling about my Daddy when he was a little boy and how she and my grandaddy met. But, I did not ask about cooking. WHAT was I thinking????

This recipe is very similiar to hers and a little different from THE one everyone else makes. Everyone has the "old fashion Dump Pie" recipe ... a cup of fruit, one of self-rising flour, one of sugar, one of milk and a stick of melted butter. But, not everyone has this recipe! When you bake it, be assured that my grandmother is watching over you.  (And remember, this is NOT meant to be pretty, just good!)

Old Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler

 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
 2 tablespoons sugar
 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
 ½ teaspoon salt
 5 tablespoons very cold butter, cut in small pieces
 1/2 cup milk

 Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into mixture with two knives or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add milk and mix only until dough sticks together. Gently knead a few times to bring dough together. Dust with flour. Roll or pat out dough to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into strips for lattice, or roll into small, slightly flattened balls to be placed on top of fruit.

 6 cups fresh blackberries (or blueberries)
 1/2 to 1 cup sugar
 2 tablespoons cornstarch
 1 teaspoon grated lime zest, optional
Wash berries and pat dry. Combine sugar, cornstarch and lime zest; mix with berries.

Preheat oven to 375. Spread fruit mixture evenly in baking dish. Cover with biscuit mixture. Sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake until the top is golden brown and the fruit juices are slightly thickened, about 45-50 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Serve with whipped cream, chilled heavy cream or ice cream.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Riley Family Cookbook and Hash Brown Casserole

Today was THE day! The Riley Family Cookbook arrived! It's been a "labor of love" and I'm so happy to have it printed and in my hands for the family reunion in KY next week. The 240 recipes are from cousins and their mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers... etc. Some are really old. Some are not so old. There is great variety in the book; recipes range from Chocolate Gravy (seriously!) to Red Eye Gravy. Our family loves Banana Pudding (more on that in the intro to the book), homemade rolls, pies (of all kinds), lasagna and more! You have to know that I left the recipe instructions just as they were submitted. At first, I went along "cleaning them up" and putting them into a certain format. But, I realized that I was losing the "voice" of the cooks. So, some of them may sound odd and some of the instructions ramble (we are talkers!) but you can still figure them out without a problem.

Following is the introduction to the book and a sample recipe. If you're truly interested and would like a copy, I have extras. The cost is $10 plus shipping. Just send me an e-mail to order

Introduction to The Riley Family Cookbook: Recipes and Remembrances

As a little girl, my summers were spent standing in a ladder back chair at my grandmother’s side. We rolled dough across her large wooden biscuit board that was stretched across the wooden chest-like “flour stand”. In the depths below I could just barely reach the big bags of flour and the tall can of lard. When the dinner rolls were in the pan and set aside to rise, I got to “play” with the remaining dough rolling it and shaping it until it was dirty! We picked blackberries in the morning sun until we both had purple stains on our faces and hands. Then grandmother (Aunt Lizzie to many of you.) worked her magic and made them into a deep dish cobbler with layers of dumplings and sweetened juices that bubbled over the sides of the enamel pan. The top crust was sprinkled with sugar and as brown as my summer tan.

When company came (family from Bowling Green and other faraway places) a spread was laid out with fresh vegetables from the garden, Granddaddy’s (Uncle Leo to many of you.) smoked ham, pans of rolls the size of small footballs and always Banana Pudding. After dinner (never lunch, always midday dinner) a white tablecloth was spread over the food on the table in case anyone needed a snack later. The adults sat in chairs under the spread of the big oak tree and I sat under the dining room table stuffing myself with more Banana Pudding! When we made trips to visit family, it was always the same (except for me sitting under the table!).

 And so, it stands to reason that this collection of recipes came to be. Most of our grandmothers did not cook from recipes but simply went into the kitchen and baked by instinct. Grandmother put a mound of flour on the biscuit board, scooped up some lard and worked it with the tips of her fingers until it felt right then added buttermilk until it was sticky enough but not too wet to roll out. Some of us watched and wrote down how family favorites were made. Some of us just have wonderful memories of the feel, smell, and taste of our grandmother’s cooking. Whichever the case, the recipes in this collection are from family.

Some are old recipes, some are “new” and some are in between. But they are all shared with the love of good food and family in mind.

Hash Brown Casserole                                                 Teresa Garmon

1 (2-lb) bag frozen hash browns
1/2 c. chopped onions
1 (10-oz.) bag shredded cheddar cheese
1 lrg carton sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1 stick margarine, melted

Mix all together. Put in a 3-quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 10 mintues.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Creamy Fruit Dip

Have you tried Pinterest? I am addicted! At least 3 times a week, I search for new recipes, gardening hints (did you know vinegar kills weeds?), travel ideas, things for the grands and beautiful ideas for the house.This is one of things I found on Pinterest and I just have to share it quickly. You're going to LOVE it;I promise. It is addictive! Don't forget the fruit - no eating this with a spoon!!

Creamy Fruit Dip
1( 8oz)  pkg cream cheese, softened
1 (7oz) jar marshmallow creme
1 cup powdered sugar,optional

Mix all ingredients until combined. Serve with fruit!!!

Note: try it with strawberry cream cheese

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Orignal Toll House (Chocolate Chip) Cookies

I had a craving yesterday for really good, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Toll House cookies are my favorite! Do you know the story of how they came to be? This is really interesting....

In 1709 , a toll house was built midway between Boston and New Bedford at Whitman, Mass. Coaches stopped to have refreshment, to change horses and to pay a toll. In 1930, Mrs. Ruth Wakefield and her husband (Mr. Wakefield) converted the house into an inn; it became famous for its food. One day, Mrs. Wakefield chopped up a chocolate bar and added it to a colonial cookie recipe, assuming it would melt. It didn't. Her customers loved the cookies. Nestle introduced chocolate chips in 1939 and, with Mrs. Wakefield's permission, put her recipe on the package.

 NOW you know the story.... and of course, I'm going to share the Toll House Cookie recipe!

I usually double the recipe (I have a Kitchen Aid mixer that will handle all the dough easily!). Make the dough in time to refrigerate it at least a few hours (overnight is best) especially if you like soft, chewy cookies. Since I double the recipe, I use one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and one of Ghiradelli 60% chocolate (dark and dense). Add nuts, if you wish. Either chopped pecans (lightly toasted) or walnuts. You can bake all the dough, or refrigerate the dough and bake cookies over several days (especially if you like soft, warm, gooey cookies), or shape the dough into balls and freeze. Then you can thaw out a few (or just one - seriously?) and bake only that amount. I usually shape the dough with a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon!

Original Toll House Cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup butter flavor Crisco
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12-oz.) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter and Crisco in large bowl of electric mixer; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
Combine flour, soda and salt in a small mixing bowl. Gradually add to creamed mixture, stirring well.
Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. CHILL.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. (If you like really chewy, gooey cookies, slightly underbake.) Cool slightly on cookie sheets; remove to wire racks and cool completely.  Yield: 8 dozen, depending on size!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce

This recipe is "adapted" or borrowed (or stolen) from a couple of sources, which tells me it must be good! I love the flavor combinations, so I believe this is definitely a keeper.You could serve it with pasta tossed with olive oil and lemon juice and roasted or steamed broccoli (as pictured). I'll bet leftovers would make a great panini.

It dawned on me today that I need to get to the garden center for basil and other herbs to grow in pots on my porch/deck. Last summer, I placed a huge pot of basil and one of cilantro in the "flower bed" (I use that term lightly!) by the front door. Either is just a step away from my kitchen. The sage is blooming and growing this year already. I have a HUGE rosemary bush that began as a 4-inch pot several years ago. Even if I don't cook with them, I love the aroma of fresh herbs in the yard and in the kitchen. Sometimes I cut them and put them in a vase on the kitchen counter just to smell them. And usually, that inspires me to cook with them sooner or later!

Chicken in Basil Cream Sauce

Adapted from Allrecipes and The Girl Who Ate Everything blog

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic (1/2 teaspoon minced)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Place milk and bread crumbs in separate, shallow bowls. Make sure the chicken breasts are thin. Either slice each breast in half horizontally or pound them with a meat mallet to ¼-inch thickness.

Heat butter in a large skillet. Dip chicken in milk, then coat with crumbs. Cook chicken in butter, turning once, until juices run clear (about 10 minutes). Remove and keep warm.

Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds over medium heat. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat; stir to loosen browned bits.Stir in cream and sun-dried tomatoes; boil and stir for 1 minute. Reduce heat.  Add Parmesan cheese, basil and pepper. Stir sauce and cook until heated through. For a thicker sauce cook it longer. Serve chicken topped with sauce.