Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

This has been an unusual year. I've learned the value of living for today, taking care of those things we've put off for too long and staying in touch. I've learned to take care of what is truly important and let the rest go. Family and extended family are THE most important to me. I am very blessed to have friends who are like family and family who are also friends. I treasure every one.

So this year we are doing Thanksgiving a little differently. At first it didn't make sense nor seem doable, but with lots of love, days of pre-planning, many lists and a good head start, it's coming together.

I'm cooking ( or helping cook)  2 Thanksgiving dinners this year. The first is at my daughter's house in Atlanta with her family, her in-laws, a long time friend and us. It's a small group (8) but a hungry one! Then late on Friday night , my son and his family of 5 are heading for the mountains to have a late Thanksgiving with us here on Saturday. My daughter-in-law works every Thanksgiving as a trade off for being off on Christmas morning so, this dinner is for her. She's eaten leftovers for years! This year, she gets a fresh, hot meal! I have 2 turkeys, one thawed, one going from freezer to refrigerator tomorrow. As I prepped cornbread for dressing, sweet potatoes for casserole, etc... I made doubles. Everything is packaged, labeled and ready to either go to ATL or waiting for dinner no. 2 when we get home. I actually sat down this afternoon and rested.  Even a batch of cookies are baked and in the freezer for the Hanging of the Green service at our Methodist church on Sunday afternoon. Sometimes I get on a roll and just keep going until it's all finished! It's all about organization and lots of lists!

I look forward to being with all 4 3/4 of the Grands. They are growing up fast and stay so busy that our times together are too far apart. It will be good to hug them and see the smiles on those sweet faces. I look forward to my girls helping in the kitchen. I have such great memories of cooking with my grandma. No doubt it will be a blast and when they are all gone the house will be too quiet and I will be pooped! But it is all absolutely worth it!

May your turkey be tender, your gravy free of lumps and your pumpkin pie covered in whipped cream! And may ALL the calories be washed away by a big glass of tea ( or water or cup of coffee)!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you and your family! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Butternut Squash Apple Soup

We grew butternut squash last summer in a community garden. I have a hallway downstairs lined with squash! We love it cut into chunks, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with Rosemary Garlic Salt and oven roasted BUT there are so many other great ways to prepare this versatile vegetable. Here is my new favorite. This soup makes a tasty first course for Thanksgiving dinner or a filling main course for lunch.

Butternut Squash - Apple Soup
4 pounds whole butternut squash (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1 medium Pink Lady apple (about 8 ounces)
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
8 fresh sage leaves
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream
2 tablespoons Calvados apple brandy, if desired
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon butter (or EVOO) and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves (alternatively, you can rub it on evenly with your fingers). Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and cut the apple into medium dice. Cut the onion into medium dice. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add apple, onion, and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the skins.
Add broth, water, and salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape and prevents the lid from popping off). Alternatively, use an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed; stir in Calvados. Serve garnished with the pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes

I thought about searching out some new recipes for you this Thanksgiving but quickly realized that this meal IS Thanksgiving in my world. Mama made these same dishes every year that I can remember. As an adult child I have made these same recipes every year except for two. Both times we ate with someone else's family. I missed the comfort of sameness, having leftovers and as my son says, "laying in the floor and rubbing our bellies"! Ok, HE does that, not me! 

Whatever you cook, I wish for you love, health and happiness around your table. I am very thankful for each and every one of you who take the time to read this blog. 

Happy Thanksgiving!
November 21, 2013

This post is from November 2011
It occured to me that giving you these recipes next week would not do you much good, so here are our family's favorites for a traditional Southern Thanksgiving Dinner. They have been on our Thanksgiving table for more years than I can remember. Mama (Miss Martha) made the best pecan pie I've ever eaten and it's sooo easy! The Praline Sweet Potatoes are almost like dessert and always a hit with the kids. And finally, our "recipe" for Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing. It was hard to put it down on paper, but I decided it was time to pass it along to the next generation. Mama and I would taste the dressing and add whatever we thought it needed. I like dry dressing so that you can put lots of gravy on it. This one fits the bill. If you like moist dressing, add more liquid and reduce the cooking time by 5 or 10 minutes.

I have to confess that I make Pumpkin Pie straight off the Libby's Pumpkin can label AND I put it ( as well as the Pecan Pie) in a frozen piecrust. My opinion of piecrust is that it's job is just to hold the filling! ;)

And, of course, we'll have green beans, mac 'n cheese, rolls (Sister Schubert's) and giblet gravy. And maybe I'll make Indiana egg noodles for my dear husband...Oh boy! I'm hungry just thinking about it!

Helen's Notes: Getting this all done depends on organization and pre- prep. Here's what I'll do ahead:
Chop all the pecans at once (in food processor)
Measure ingredients for each recipe and put in containers
Bake the cornbread for dressing and freeze when cool
Bake sweet potatoes in oven while cornbread is cooking, mash and refrigerate until needed. Take sweet potatoes out of refrig early in day to warm up to room temperature before making casserole
Make Praline Sweet Potato Casserole topping and refrigerate until needed
Bake pies on Wed. Refrigerate Pumpkin Pie, not Pecan
Combine bread and dry ingredients for dressing. Then mix it all together on Turkey Day.

Miss Martha’s Pecan Pie
2/3 stick butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
1 cup white Karo
3 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans ( I coarsely chop mine and lightly toast them)
1 (9-inch) deep dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine ingredients in mixing bowl (or 4 cup-measure). Pour into pie crust. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until almost set in middle (that means it doesn’t wiggle when you gently shake the pan!). Cool on wire rack.

Praline Sweet Potato Casserole

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes (I bake mine, peel and mash)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt

Mash potatoes well and mix with remaining ingredients. Pour into greased 2-quart baking dish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

¼ cup butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (lightly toasted)

Combine butter, sugar and flour; mix with a fork until crumbly. Stir in pecans. Crumble over sweet potato mixture. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Old Fashioned Cornbread Dressing

2 cups cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl. Stir until well mixed. Pour into greased 9x13-inch baking dish. Bake for 35 minutes.  Cool completely. Crumble cornbread into a large mixing bowl.

12 slices white bread, crusts removed and crumbled
2 to 2 1/2 cups turkey or chicken broth (turkey broth makes it richer tasting)
1 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (Mama would have never used this, but I like it!)
½ teaspoon rubbed sage
¼ teaspoon black pepper

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add remaining ingredients to crumbled cornbread, stirring well. Spoon dressing into a greased 9x13-inch baking dish ( or 4-quart casserole). Bake for 30 minutes.

Friday, November 15, 2013

More Chicken....

I read all kinds of food blogs. Some have really good sounding recipes and I bookmark them to try some day. Others make no sense at all to me. And still others have recipes that I can't wait to try! This week my blogging friend, Donya Mullins, A Southern-Soul.blogspot.com,  posted one of those "can't wait to try" recipes. I made it for supper tonight and my husband punctuated EVERY bite with "This is REALLY good"! I made a few changes and noted those below. Print this one out. It's a keeper! Thanks, Donya! ( Oh yes, we had this over rice with a Waldorf Salad -from Mercier's pink lady apples! )

Cider Braised Chicken
4 chicken leg quarters
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 - 6 carrots - roughly chopped
1 onion - chopped
5 cloves garlic - sliced
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
3 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350°
In a large enameled cast-iron pot, heat olive oil.
Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add to pot, skin side down.
Cook over moderately high heat, in batches, turning once, until golden brown, about 12 minutes.
Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of fat in pot.
Add carrots, garlic and onion - cook over low heat until tender - 5 minutes.
Add flour and stir for 1 minute.
Add  cider vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of the pot. Bring sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, 3 minutes.
Add broth, thyme and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.
Nestle the chicken in sauce, skin side up. Transfer pot to oven and braise chicken for about 50 minutes, until cooked through.
Remove pot from oven and preheat to broil.
Transfer chicken to a baking sheet, skin side up. Broil on middle rack of the oven until skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Simmer sauce over moderate heat until reduced to about 1/2 - 10 to 15minutes.
Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper.
Return the chicken to the casserole, skin side up, and serve.

Helen's notes: Instead of leg quarters, I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, 3/4 cup cider vinegar plus 1/4 cup apple cider and reduced the chicken broth to 2 cups. I browned the chicken, removed from skillet, browned onion and carrots, added the flour, scraped the pan bottom then added the vinegar and garlic. When that mixture thickened, I added reduced amt of broth, chicken and veggies. It cooked without a lid in the convection oven for 35 minutes. My chicken was nicely brown, so I did not do the broiling step as in the original recipe. I also did not reduce the sauce and add butter. We thought it was VERY good!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chicken with Bacon in Wine Sauce

This fall has been extremely busy! I've had company, been company and run up and down the road to Atlanta and back. I've assisted my artist friend with classes, helped teach a class and tried to take one. My DH and I have tried to plan a trip to no avail. This year has simply been too busy!

On busy days ( as well as on not busy ones ) I'm on the lookout for quick and easy recipes with big flavor. This recipe is sort of quick, very easy and once you get it put together, cooks itself while you do other things. I served it with rice ( cooked in the microwave-1cup rice, 2 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1tablespoon butter in a covered dish cooked on HIGH for 5 min, then on 50%power for 15 min) and petite green peas from Publix. That last part is very important as they are the ONLY frozen green peas that I've found that are truly small and petite and not too "green" tasting.  I bought 10 bags on my last trip to Atlanta. The check out lady laughed her head off at my purchase.. Whatever... I'm stocked up for the winter.

The recipe originally called for bone in chicken breasts. I used boneless skinless chicken tenders, but think chicken thighs would also be delicious. If you need to borrow petite green peas, I'll loan you a bag!

 Chicken with Bacon in Wine Sauce

1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 boneless chicken tenders
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other white wine
1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or cream
1/4 cup minced parsley
1 tablespoon cornstarch, optional
2 tablespoons cold water, optional

Combine butter and oil in large Dutch oven. Heat over medium; add chicken and cook until chicken is browned but not cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside. Add bacon; cook until the fat is cooked out. Add onion cooking until onion is transparent. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Remove bacon, onion and garlic from pan. Add mushrooms and cook until browned. Return chicken, onion and garlic to pan. Pour wine over mixture, cover tightly and simmer for 15 minutes ( longer if using bone in chicken). Add 1/2 and 1/2, cook uncovered until liquid reduces. Garnish with parsley. If you like thicker sauce, dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Stir into sauce, return to simmer and stir until thickened.