Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Slice and Bake Refrigerator Pecan Sandies

The Keebler elves have nothing on me! This recipe for Pecan Sandies is a favorite everywhere it goes. The great thing is that you can make it ahead, keep it in the refrigerator and slice off 2 cookies and bake them for after dinner or a snack. You won't have several dozen hanging around calling your name at all hours of the day and night! Our house is an open floor plan with the kitchen in the center of everything. It's too easy to slip by and grab a cookie if they're available. Of course, you CAN bake them all at once and store them out of sight (but definitely not out of mind!).

This is a very old recipe that our dear friend Mrs. Thigpen made as long back as I can remember. She owned Thigpen's Grocery in Marion, AL (where I grew up). I spent many afternoons after school at her store and was thrilled with a penny cookie and nickel coke! Yeah, I know, I'm an OLD person!! (By the way, in Alabama, they are pu-cons' not pee-cans!)
 I hope you love these as much as I do!

Pecan Sandies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans (lightly toasted, of course!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter, double the salt)

Cream shortening in a large mixing bowl; gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla, beat well. Stir in pecans.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to creamed mixture, stirring well. (I use the mixer on low speed.) Shape dough into 2 rolls, 2 -inches in diameter. Wrap in waxed paper; chill until firm. (If you freeze them, wrap in waxed paper then foil. Remove from freezer and thaw slightly before slicing.)

Preheat oven to 425 degres.
Remove waxed paper and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Bake 1-inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets for 5 mintues or until just beginning to brown around the edges. If you bake them too long, they will be hard. If you don't bake them long enough, they will be soggy. Timing is everything!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Riley Family Cookbook and Crusty Chicken Fingers

WHEW! This has been a busy week! I'm the first to admit to being a terrible procrastinator BUT also being pretty good in a lurch, so this week was my own fault! I "volunteered" to make a family cookbook for the Riley side of the family. It was penance for being "lost" for many years. OK,  I know you are just dying to hear the story....
My Dad was an only child, but his Dad was one of 13 children. All the cousins (first cousins to my Dad, something once removed to me?) live in Tennessee and Kentucky. Our little family had lost contact way off down in Alabama especially after my grandparents and parents all died. One day I was going through a box of my Grandmother's "stuff" and found a list of several cousins whose names I recognized as family who visited my grandparents when I was little (here I go again, little, not young). So, on a whim, I called one. Got no answer, so called the next on the list. When someone answered you can imagine what they were thinking as I said, "I believe we're related. I'm the granddaughter of Leo Riley." Thankfully, I have really nice cousins and she did NOT hang up on me! Instead she said they had been looking for me! I was the only "branch" (although a tiny one) of the family tree unaccounted for!

She also invited me to the family reunion held every other year in Glasgow, KY. Having been raised an only child, it blew me away the next summer when I walked into a room of over 100 people who are all cousins! And that was only the tip of the iceberg! There were more on the family list that were not there!! Somehow they knew that I had worked for Southern Living as a cookbook editor and brought up the idea of a family cookbook. The cousin who answered her phone and welcomed me so warmly back into the fold looked my way expectantly. What choice did I have? Bill nudged me and said, "You might as well volunteer before they draft you!" He was right and on the spot I inherited a project that had been once or twice begun but never completed.

It's been in my hands for 4 years and now is a few weeks away from the publisher's deadline in order to get it back for this year's family reunion! I spent a week sitting at the computer typing the handwritten recipes of older cousins. The editor in me wanted to "clean up" the recipes and shape them into a standard recipe format. Then it hit me that I was losing the "voices" of the cooks! I'm sure I don't need to tell you that our family is a bunch of talkers. And the recipes are as well! So, the cookbook will not have a huge number of recipes, but it will be a lot of pages of hints, tips, side notes and family history.
Cousin Ellen has done a phenomenal job of collecting family photographs, preserving, recording and displaying them each year so that we have a visual history of our family back to the early 1800's. Now, we will have one more piece to add - The Riley Family Cookbook! How exciting is that?

All THIS to say, by the time for supper rolled around, I was exhausted and in no mind to cook. One night I absolutely refused and announced that we were going OUT to eat Mexican! LOL! That was perhaps the first time I've done that  - ever! The next night, I found a really easy recipe that I wanted to try. I think you'll like it. It's easy, a no brainer and tastes really good!

If you'd like to make a family cookbook, I will be happy to give you pointers. But, I will NOT type the recipes for you!

Crusty Chicken Fingers
 1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 - 3 tablespoons sour cream
1 stack Ritz crackers, finely crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried parsley
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenders

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lighly grease a baking dish.
Combine garlic, butter and sour cream in a shallow dish (pie plate) . Combine crushed crackers, Parmesan cheese and parsley in another shallow dish (pie plate). If using chicken breasts, pound between 2 sheets of plastic wrap to 1/4-inch thickness. Dip chicken in butter mixture then roll in cracker mixture. Arrange on greased baking pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until golden brown.

Note: I think you could use crushed tortilla chips and chili with Monteray Jack cheese for a different taste. Or use Panko instead of Ritz. Lots of possibilities with this recipe... This does not need salt added since the crackers and the Parmesan cheese are both salty!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Snickerdoodle Muffins

When I was little, Mama made cinnamon toast for me on special mornings. It was buttery, crusty with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and warm from the oven. When my children were little, I made cinnamon toast for them and Snickerdoodle Cookies. They were (and are) a favorite in our house. Snickerdoodles warm  from the oven with a crusty layer of cinnamon and sugar..... what's not to love? I saw a recipe for Snickerdoodle Muffins and knew I had to try it! YUUUMMM! Saturday morning breakfast reached a new level today!

Just a few adjustments to the original recipe and my kitchen smelled like Mama's did when I was little. (In the South, we were little, not young!) Recently, I ordered some baking items from King Arthur Flour's website. One of my friends, Barb, touted the virtues of their Cinnamon Chips (just like mini chocolate chips), so that was added to my order. Boy, am I glad I listened to Barb! They are tiny bits of magic! I added them to the Snickerdoodle Muffins and what a wonderful surprise when you bite into one! If you don't have the Cinnamon Chips, add 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the flour mixture.
Either way, if you love Snickerdoodle Cookies, you'll love these muffins!

Snickerdoodle Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or 1/2 cup cinnamon chips
1 cup oatmeal (regular, not instant!)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, oatmeal and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. Set aside.
Combine 4 tablespoons melted butter, egg, milk and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients. Stir until the dry ingredients are barely moistened. (Stirring too much will make tough muffins!) Spoon batter into greased muffin pans. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until tops spring back when gently touched. Remove from pans.  Cool slightly.
Dip muffin tops in melted butter, then in sugar and cinnamon mixed together.

Helen's Tips: Take muffins from the oven and immediately turn them on their sides (bottoms almost up) to keep them from becoming soggy on the bottom!

If you use self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lemon Chicken Soup (aka "Sick Soup")

There's something unplesant going around. We both have a "bug" at our house and when that happens, nothing is better than chicken soup. I made a pot of this today and thought I had shared the recipe with you. If I have, pardon the repeat. If not, you have to know this is quick and easy and will change your life forever. You'll never want Campbell's again. (Ok, maybe Campbell's in an emergency -  if you're so sick that you can't stand up and need to use a can opener in order to have supper period.)
The lemon juice gives it a lightness that is refreshing. I use whatever pasta I have available. Tonite it's orzo. If you use spaghetti, break it into 2-inch pieces.

Lemon Chicken Soup
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 dried bay leaf
1 (2-inch) piece Parmesan cheese rind, optional
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup (about 2 1/2 ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces
2 cups diced cooked rotisserie chicken, preferably breast meat
1 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt

In a large stockpot, bring chicken broth, lemon juice, bay leaf and Parmesan rind to a boil over medium-high heat. Add carrots and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Add broken pasta and cook until the pasta is tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and heat through. Remove bay leaf and cheese rind. Stir in 1/2 of the cheese and parsley. Season to taste with salt.

Fudge Pie

Did you see the movie/read the book The Help? Remember Minny's famous Chocolate Pie? I was testing recipes this week for the GA Ag Dept and this one was in the stack. When it came out of the oven, I knew it looked familiar! Lo and behold, it IS Minny's pie! Well.... minus her "special" ingredient, of course! I laughed out loud! Bill had no idea and there was no way I could explain it adequately, so, I just let it go. He LOVES the pie loaded with whipped cream. Seeing him digging in made it even funnier!

Fudge Pie
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 stick melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees .
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, melted butter, vanilla and pecans.
Pour into crust. Bake for 30 minutes. When done, the center will shake slightly. Remove from the oven
and cool on a wire rack. It will firm up as it cools. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Molten Chocolate Cakes

Happy Valentine's Day! This day screams chocolate perhaps more than any other holiday. Here's a quick and easy solution. Dark chocolate will make this especially good. My dear husband, a certified chocoholic, nearly blew up the Dish DVR on our TV backing up an episode of Barefoot Contessa to get the name of her "favorite" restaurant in Paris that just happens to serve this dessert! Since neither of us speak French, it was quite a challenge to understand and then Google the name. But, we succeeded!
I even found a website, The Fork, that makes dinner reservations at any restaurant in the world (well.. almost) and we were set. I am happy to report that we enjoyed a delicious meal at a sidewalk table with a bowling lane view of the top 1/3 of the Eiffel Tower. Hey, it WAS Paris and he DID have the Molten Chocolate Cake. In his words, uuuuummmmmmm!!! Sweet memories!

Molten Chocolate Cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Generously butter four - 6 to 8 ounce molds, ramekins, or custard cups and dust the insides with granulated white sugar. Place the prepared molds on a baking sheet and set aside while you make the cake batter.

In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate. Remove from heat and set aside while you beat the egg yolks.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar until thick, pale, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) Beat in the vanilla extract and then fold in the melted chocolate mixture.

In another clean bowl whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1 tablespoon of granulated white sugar and whip just until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula or wire whisk gently fold the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture, just until incorporated. Do not over mix or the batter will deflate. Divide the batter between the prepared molds. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the outside edges of the cakes are set but the middle still looks a little wet and wobbly. You may have cracks on the top surface of the cakes.

 Immediately remove from oven and let them rest for a minute or two. You can serve the cakes in their molds or you can run a palette or sharp knife around the edge of each cake and then invert onto the center of each serving plate. Carefully remove the mold. Sprinkle the top of each cake with confectioner’s sugar and place a dollop of softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top of each warm cake. 

Note: You can prepare the chocolate mixture several hours ahead of time. Simply make the recipe, pour into the prepared molds, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.  Bake just before serving. When the batter is cold the cakes may take a minute or two longer to bake.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chicks n' Bacon

Here's a fun appetizer/main dish. Brush with the honey mustard mixture, BBQ sauce or Teriyaki sauce. Bake up a batch for Super Bowl Sunday or anytime you want something between a snack and a meal! NOT a low cholesterol snack, but yummmy and makes the house smell scrumptious while cooking!When I first saw this recipe, they called it Chicks n' Blanket... not sure that was accurate.. that would indicate wrapping in bread/roll of some sort..right?? So, I renamed them - call them what you want but make plenty. They are sure to be a hit!

Chicks n' Bacon
1 pound boneless chicken breasts or boneless chicken strips
20 thin bacon slices, cut in half
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp coarse mustard
fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the chicken breasts into strips, not too thin, the bacon has to brown and if the chicken is too thin it’ll get dry before the bacon gets crispy. Wrap chicken in bacon. Place them in a roasting tray or on a cookie sheet lined with foil (unless you like clean up better than I do)! If you want to reduce the fat, cook them on a rack.

Combine honey, mustard and about 1 teaspoon lemon juice in a small bowl. Brush chicken with mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, turn and brush again. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until bacon is crisp and browned.