Sunday, September 30, 2012

Save a Pumpkin




Don’t let those pumpkins you bought for decoration go to waste.  You do not have to buy cans of pumpkin when you have fresh pumpkin already.  Here are several ways to save that pumpkin.

Baking a Pumpkin

Cut the pumpkin open and scoop out the seeds.  Save the seeds and I’ll talk later about drying and roasting them. Place pumpkin halves face down in a baking dish. Add 1/2" of water to pan: this helps keep the pumpkin flesh moist.

Bake at 450º until you can pierce the skin with a fork (about 45 minutes to an hour).

Scoop flesh out of shell with a spoon.  Fill mason jars with the soft pumpkin and use in your favorite pumpkin recipes.

The Microwave

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut the pumpkin into large chunks (so it will fit in microwave), leaving skin on. Place pumpkin chunks in a shallow, microwave-safe dish with a lid (or cover with plastic wrap).

Spray the cut pumpkin surfaces with cooking spray, and cover. Cook on high for 15 minutes, or until tender (feels soft and cooked).

Alternately, you can add water to the dish, eliminating the spray, to keep the pumpkin from drying out.

Stove Top

Cut pumpkin in half, scooping out the seeds. Then, cut pumpkin into large chunks, but leave the skin on.

Place chunks in a large steamer basket (I use a colander placed inside a dutch oven, with water on the bottom). Steam for 20 minutes, or until pumpkin is tender.

Cool and scoop out the pumpkin.

Drying Pumpkin Seeds

Don’t let those seeds go to waste either.  Save the seeds you scooped out of the pumpkin.

Wash the pumpkin seeds carefully. Separate them from the stringy pumpkin tissue. I do this by rinsing the seeds under water over a colander.

Preheat the oven to its lowest setting. It should be lower than 150 degrees F. Place the seeds on a cookie sheet. Put them in the oven for 3 to 4 hours.

Stir seeds with a spoon every 30 minutes to an hour so that they don't scorch.

After you have dried them to roast: take dried pumpkin seeds and toss with oil and/or salt and roast in a preheated oven at 250 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes.

This week I will share a pumpkin soup recipe and other pumpkin recipes with you that you can use that pumpkin you have saved from the garbage.

Have a terrific Monday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Frost on the Pumpkin




I'm continuing with my Halloween theme and will share this recipe I invented for Saylor.  He can't have gluten or dairy so I modified it to suit his needs.  If you like, you can exchange the rice and soy flour for 2 cups of regular flour.

This recipe is for a loaf or for muffins which ever you prefer.  I have a silicone muffin pan that is shaped like pumpkins that I use just for these and when I fix them, I call them frost on the pumpkin because I sprinkle powdered sugar on the top as the frost.  

1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (15 ounce) can of pumpkin (add extra for extra moist)
1 cup rice flour
1 cup soy flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a bread pan or spray your muffin pan. 

Cream oil and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well after each one. Add vanilla and pumpkin mixing until well-blended.

In a separate bowl, mix remaining dry ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined. Do not over-mix. Pour into prepared bread pan and bake one hour to one hour and ten minutes or approximately 30 minutes for muffins.  Check with a toothpick.

Makes 1 large loaf.

If gluten is no problem for you, you can replace the two flours with regular flour.

Have a super Sunday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Faux Fondant


On my last foodie bus trip, a co-foodie shared a recipe for faux fondant that she learned in a class she took.  I love the look of a fondant cake but do not like the pricey bland tasting traditional fondant.  She said to try this faux fondant by using marshmallows of all things.   I thought I would share it with Halloween coming in case you are brave enough to give it a try and take on the challenge of a simple cake like this one.




Here is her recipe:


1 16 oz. bag on miniature marshmallows
2 lb. powdered sugar
2 tbs. gum paste mix
1 tbs. clear extract or flavoring of your choice (you can use almond to give a more traditional taste if you like)
Crisco shortening (to coat your hands when mixing).


Place marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat them for 1 minute.  Stir and add your extract or flavoring. If not completely melted, heat at 20 second intervals until you can stir it and it is very smooth. Do not overheat, the marshmallows will blow up. They will swell up and double in size so make sure your bowl is large enough.

Pour powdered sugar in a large bowl. Mix in the gum paste mix. Create a well in the center. You want to make sure that when you pour the marshmallow mixture into the bowl, it does not touch the sides.  It should sit in the bottom of the well.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the sugar bowl. Coat your hands with shortening. Begin to bring the sides of the sugar into the marshmallow mixture. Slowly add the sugar into the mixture. Eventually you will have a dough. If too sticky, you can add more powdered sugar.

Continue to knead the dough until it is a fondant texture. If you are not going to be using it right away, store it in Saran Wrap or a Ziploc bag. Make sure you create an airtight seal. It should last about 2 - 4 weeks.

To create colored fondant, just add some food gel color into center of fondant. Knead the fondant until all the fondant is the color you desire.

Now, you're ready to roll it out and decorate!



You may decorate cookies, cakes or what ever your heart desires with this. To decorate a cookie, use the same cookie cutter that you made your cook with and cut out the fondant.  Brush some water on the cookie before placing the fondant and it acts like glue.


In decorating a cake, you may also cut out the shapes with a cookie cutter to decorate your cake or you can, using a ruler or yard stick, cut out strips to stripe your cake or make ribbons like this simple ribbon cake.  You can also place real flowers or real ribbon on the cake and remove it when you are ready to cut it.



Start simple and work your way up.  The balls are made with a piped butter cream frosting.

You can play with your food no matter what your mama told you.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Caramel Corn




7 cups popped popcorn
¾ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
3 tbs. light corn syrup
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees,

Pop the popcorn and pour into a 9 × 12  baking dish.

In a small saucepan, mix the sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Use a candy thermometer and bring the caramel mixture to 250 degrees.

Remove from heat.  Stir in the baking soda and vanilla.  The mixture will raise so make sure your pan is not too small.  Pour caramel mixture over the popcorn and stir.

Bake in 300 degree oven for 5 minutes. Stir and bake for another 5 minutes.

Pour the mixture on parchment paper or aluminum foil and cool completely before mixing in any add-ins.  Store the mixture in air tight container if you can save any of it.  It is so good just slightly warm that you will have to make another batch for the crew.

Variation:


If you want to make it even more decadent, melt semi sweet chocolate chips and drizzle it over the caramel corn and then decide what if anything you want to add to the mix.  Try these:

1 cup M&Ms
1 cup peanuts or mixed nuts
1 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1 cup of candy corn
Pretzels

My mother likes to take her own popped buttered popcorn and add store bought bagged cheesy popcorn and caramel popcorn and mix them together in a huge covered bowl.  It is addicting.  It saves the mess and fuss for those that like simple. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chocolate Halloween Bark


Here is another Halloween treat that is fun to make and easy.


Line an baking pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

16 oz of semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup of salted peanuts
1 cup of candy corn
1 cup of broken pretzels
1 cup of Halloween colored M & Ms
16 oz. of white chocolate


Place the semi sweet chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water. Heat on low until the chocolate is melted (you can also use the microwave method of 30 seconds, stir, another 30 seconds, stir). Pour the melted chocolate into parchment lined pan. Spread chocolate until smooth.

In another bowl mix the peanuts, candy corn, pretzels and M & M’s well.  Sprinkle them over the dark chocolate bark before it hardens.  Let it harden before applying the white chocolate.  You can place it in the freezer if you want to speed up the process.

Place white chocolate in a large saucepan and heat it until  melted. Put the melted chocolate in a small baggie.
Cut a small tip in the baggie corner and drizzle the white chocolate back and forth over the chocolate bark. 

Once it has cooled and hardened break it up into pieces. 

Variation – It is your bark, so you can add any variation you would like.  You can melt caramels and drizzle the melted caramel over the bark or chop your favorite candy bars up that you like to give out on Halloween. 

Make a pumpkin field with Halloween pumpkin candy, sprinkle with crushed chocolate cookies for dirt and add a drop of green food coloring to the melted white chocolate and drizzle green vines over the pumpkins.

Make a grave yard with cookies saying RIP and decorate with pumpkins and green white chocolate.  Get creative.  It is a good project to make with the kids.  Enjoy.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sacred Sage

This is my 1 sage plant that is huge

I’m going way off the grid on this one, but I have so much sage, I have been giving some thought to it so it will not go to waste.  I have had dried sage hanging in my living room for years and being part Native American do believe it to be sacred.  I believe many things God (The Great Spirit) has created to be sacred, but in looking into believes of Native Americans, I have taken on new believes when it comes to sage.




Last week while channel surfing, I landed on a program called Long Island Medium.  I had never seen the show before.  She acts as a neutral catalyst to connect the spiritual world and she delivers or allows a clear message to come through that she shares with the living. I think it was on TLC which I seldom watch.  It caught my eye because this medium had bad feelings about the room she was in so she burnt some sage to clear the room.  I knew Native Americans burnt sage but found it interesting that this medium was doing it, so I thought I would do some more research because inquiring minds have to know. 

My great grandfather was Cherokee. 

My Grandfather 

My Great Grandfather


I am very proud of that heritage and with my interest in genealogy; I have done research on my proud heritage.  I, like my ancestors believe Mother Earth and living things are sacred.  It would be a better world if everyone believed that.  We can learn much from these teaching.  So today I am sharing information on sacred sage with you. 

Herbs can be powerful medicine. Some herbal remedies hold an incredible and potent medicinal quality. In addition, there are other plants that, when burnt, the smoldering smoke offers various remedies for many physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental imbalances - one such herb is sage.

Sage is held sacred by many Native American Indians, because of its effective purifying energies. It heals by bringing the patient back into balance and cleanses the body and mind of negative spirits and impurities. This is why the medium probably used it.

Sage is a traditional choice for burning and smudging for the Native Americans because of all of the herbs; it is one of the best for cleansing. Medicine People used this herb on people who were ill, to bring them back from the negative place where their body and soul laid. Today, sage is often used in smudging ceremonies for those who are seeking balance and pure thought, spirit and body. An updated smudging ceremony can be performed by nearly anyone who wishes to relieve their worries, open their mind, clear negative thoughts and feelings, harmonize the body and de-stress the spirit. It is often used when a person faces a personal difficulty, when negative luck has seemed to follow, prior to a major transition, within a new house, over a new baby or following a major emotional difficulty. In a sense, whenever a person feels "out of balance" or unlucky.

The following is a smudging technique that you can try. But remember - this is powerful medicine and you should be open and understanding of the entire experience.

Smudging is a ceremony that uses cleansing smoke to clear away negative energy and to attract positive ones.

You will need a "bowl" - examples would be, a shell, a stone that has an indented round surface, a piece of pottery or a stone bowl or mortar.

The dried-leaf herbal mixture. If desired, you can also add in cedar (healing) , sweet grass (brings positive energy) and , juniper (for healing).

You will need a feather, if possible. If not, you can make a feather-like object from paper or material, or simply use your hand.

Drumming or Native music, if desired.

The Ceremony

1. Use your hands to roll the dried herbal leaves, crumbling them into your bowl.  See drying of sage below.

2. Placed the rolled and mixed plants into the bowl.

3. Burn the leaves until they begin to smolder, giving off clouds of smoke.

4. Fan the smoke with a feather or with your hand to circulate it into the air. Starting with your heart and working your way up to the head, you will visualize the smoke entering your body and spirit, pulling out the impurities. Continue this procedure all the way down the body, and back up again.

5. All the while, pray for the Great Spirit to assist you on your life path and ask for good, positive energy and spirits to guide you.

6. Offer the smoke to the 7 directions - North, South, East, West, Father Sky, Mother Earth and the Great Spirit. Request their assistance on your journey and ask they will help to lead the negativity that is attached to your life - out of your life.

7. Continue cleansing anything that you may feel needs the purification. Your home, your family and friends, or even something that is causing you great pain such as a person (smudge their photo or a letter), finances (smudge the bills) or even an illness (smudge the medication).

8. Following the smudging, you should pray to your spiritual advisor and relax your body with soft stretching and then relax your mind with meditation or sleep.

Note: Some people like to incorporate their smudging ceremony into fasting plans, visions quests and mediation.


Other Medicinal Properties of Sage

As mentioned before, Sage is powerful medicine. Not only will its smoke help to purify the mind and body, but the plant has some other equally amazing healing properties. For example, it is an antiseptic, a sore throat tonic and it works well for darkening gray hair. Below is a list of beneficial uses for this wonder herb that you should never be without!

Oil: It is said that sage oil and tonics may be helpful in the fight against alzhelmizers, improves brain functions and memory and aids in the circulation through the coronary arteries.

Leaf Tea: regulates menstrual cycle, reduces breast flow, natural deodorant, sore throat tonic (when gargled). antiseptic and astringent, healing of the scalp and hair, calms the nerves, great for the skin when bathing, aids in healing burns, nausea, flatulence, liver ailments, kidney stones, gallstones, mouth and gum lesions, antidepressant, and tonsillitis. When mixed with rosemary - it can darken graying hair.

Raw Sage Juice: warts, skin cancer, tumors.

From the past to the present, Sage has been a natural way to heal every aspect of man. Whether in the form of oil, teas, smoke or juiced, this medicinal marvel should be part of every herbal garden, sitting on the shelf of every pantry and located in every first aid kit. From flavoring to functional medicine, Sage is the king of all plants!

Drying Sage

The easiest and quickest way to dry sage is to take one branch of sage and microwave it. Wrap it in a piece of dry paper towel and put it in the microwave for one minute.



You can set a flat piece of bake ware on it if you like.  Do not walk away.  Watch it closely to make sure it does not catch on fire.  You will hear it pop at the moisture is dried out. 




When you have a quantity dried, you can bundle them together with cotton string and use as herbs or in a burning ceremony. 



You can purchase dried sage for smudging and burning on the internet. I was surprised at how expensive it is.  I’d rather grow and dry my own. 

I'm ready for when I feel myself in a negative place. I’m going to start burning sage to destress and bring harmony back into my life.



May your world be stress free and in harmony.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Mom's Popcorn Balls


Growing up, my mother about this time of year would make us popcorn balls.  It was a fall tradition.  I still have the recipe in her hand that she gave to me.  Since it is now fall, I’d like to pass it on so you can make them with your kids or grand kids.  It was a family affair.  She would pop the popcorn and fill a huge enamel dish pan and make up the syrup.  We would all get our hands wet by dipping them in cold water and pick up the hot syrupy popcorn and form the balls.


1 cup sugar
1 tbs. vinegar
1 cup white Karo syrup
Large bowl of popped popcorn  (I now use 4 bags of microwave popcorn, but mom would never do that)

Pop the pop corn and salt to taste.  Try to make sure there are no old maids in the popcorn. Mix sugar, vinegar and syrup and boil mixture until syrup forms a hard ball in cold water. The hard ball test is to take a drop of the hot mixture and put in tablespoon of cold water.  If it turns to a hard ball, the mixture is done.   Pour hot mixture slowly all over the popcorn.  Make sure you have a bowl of cold  ice water next to the hot mixture.  Place your hands in the water and them take a handful of popcorn mixture and form a ball.  You will want to let cool just a bit.  Do not press too hard but hard enough to keep balls together.  Put your hands in the cold water each time you form a ball.



Wrap in plastic wrap after balls have cooled.  This should make over 12 small balls.

Variation – After you have made the popcorn ball, roll it in candy corn and peanuts mixture and press again to get it to stick.   Another variation is after you make a popcorn ball and it has cooled a bit, you can also roll them in M & M’s or sprinkle them with orange and black sprinkles for color.  Melt some chocolate chips and put in a baggie, cutting off the tip and drizzle chocolate on the finished popcorn ball.

I remember when we went trick or treating, an elderly neighbor lady made them and gave them out as treats.  We always went to her house every year.   Wish those care free days were here for our kids where we knew and trusted all of our neighbors.

I think I will share some fall and Halloween treats with you in the near future so you can make some new traditions and great memories.  

Be happy and may God bless you and yours. 




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tomorrow is National Pancake Day


September 26th is National Pancake Day so I’m thinking pancakes for tomorrow.  I’m going to share a simple recipe that you can modify by adding other ingredients or toppings of your choice.


Simple Pancake Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons melted butter

In a large bowl add milk, 2 large eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter.  Mix the milk and eggs together. I like to use a bowl I have that has a spout on it for easy pouring, but some people like to use a ladle to pour the pancake so they are all the same size.  You get to pick. 

Then add all the salt, sugar, baking powder and some flour and start stirring. Stir and keep adding the flour until you add all of it. Stop stirring as soon as the batter is smooth and without large lumps. It should be pretty thick but still liquid enough so you can pour it. If it is to thick add some more milk and mix a little more.  Do not over mix.

Usually these kind of pancakes are made on a hot greased griddle but we can also use a pan.  I like to use my old cast iron skillet.  Take about 1/4 cup of batter and pour it on the griddle. Pancakes should be cooked until they are bubbly, a little dry around the edges, and lightly browned on the bottom.  Fry them on medium heat and do not play with them until you are sure they are ready to flip. Then we turn them over and brown them on the other side.  The first always seems to leave a little to be desired.  Some call it the throw away pancake, but it tastes just as good.  Hide it under a stack of pancakes.  The recipe should serve 4 stacks to 4 people.


Variations

1.  You may swap out the regular milk with butter milk to make butter milk pancakes.
2.  For blue berry pancakes, add ½ cup of fresh blueberries to the batter when you have finished the batter so the blue berries stay whole.  You can also add other fruit such as strawberries, blackberries or cherries.


3.  Add a ½ cup of mashed bananas.  Drop a few chips on after you have flipped your pancake.
4.  Apple sauce pancakes can be made by adding ½ cup of apple sauce and 1 tsp. of cinnamon.
5.  Bacon pancakes you may simply crumble 6 slices of cooked bacon and add it to your batter.  You know I had to add that didn’t you?
6.  Whole wheat pancakes – use 1 cup of regular flour and 1 cup of whole wheat or buckwheat flour.
7.  Remember as a child putting jelly or jam on them and rolling them up.  You can also just add sugar and cinnamon and roll them up.
8.  For the chocolate lover chocolate pancakes – add some chocolate syrup to your batter.  Sprinkle the pancake with powdered sugar and serve with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.




Toppings

Set up a topping buffet and let everyone pick their own toppings.  You can put out fresh bananas, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, or raspberries.  Put out chocolate chips for the kids and chocolate lovers.  Add some walnuts to the buffet.  They go wonderful with maple syrup. 



Put out a selection of syrups.  I blogged making your own some time back but will repost here again for you. 

I always put the butter on the pancakes as soon as I take it out of the pan, but you may want to put out some additional whipped butter for those butter lovers.

Homemade Maple Syrup

I have goosed up what my mom did when she made homemade syrup and given it a little more flavor.  You can also add butter to it and pretend it is Mrs. Butterworth syrup.

1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon maple flavored extract
1 tsp. vanilla

Bring the water, white sugar, and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir in the maple extract; simmer 3 minutes longer.

Store it in the refrigerator, but when serving you can put it in the microwave and heat a bit and serve it warm over your pancake, waffle or French toast.

Flavored Syrup

1 part water
1 part sugar
1 part flavoring ingredient (chopped fruit or herbs or a combination)

Boil all ingredients for five minutes (or long if you want a stronger flavor), let the mixture cool, strain out the solids and refrigerate the liquid. About one quarter of the liquid evaporates in the cooking process thickening it.  The longer you cook it, the thicker it will get.  If it gets too thick add a little more water to it.

Adjust the amount of fruit slightly based on how intense you want the flavor to be and how strong the fruit or herb is.

For a more subtle herb flavor when mixing fruit and herbs, don’t add the herb until the last minute. Then remove from heat and let steep for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on desired flavor. You can even add a sprig to the bottle or jar you’ll be storing it in to show what flavor it is.
For citrus, use the rind as well as the juicy part.  You may also use honey instead of sugar to mix it up!

Homemade syrup doesn’t keep as long as the commercial variety.  Store it in one of my favorite things, canning jars and you can label the lid with a Sharpie or plastic squeeze bottles.


Possible flavor:

Strawberry
Strawberry basil (toss in a couple of fresh basil leaves to steep)
Blueberry
Raspberry
Blackberry lemon (toss in a couple pieces of lemon rind)
Lemon honey
Peach cinnamon (toss in a cinnamon stick to steep)
Raspberry mint (toss in some fresh mint leaves)
Raspberry strawberry

Chocolate Syrup

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugars to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and whisk in the cocoa powder, salt, and corn syrup, whisking until all of the solids have dissolved.

Allow the mixture to simmer until it has slightly reduced and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of any lumps and cool to room temperature.

Pour into a squeeze bottle or canning jar and refrigerate. Use it to make chocolate milk, pour over your pancakes or ice cream, or even in a recipe calling for chocolate syrup.  I tested this syrup and it is a real close copy to the Hershey's Dark Chocolate Syrup and is high in antioxidants so good for you. 

Again, as I have stated before you are allowed to play with your food.  When pouring your pancakes pour them in the shape of a heart or put Mickie Mouse ears on them.  Place the chocolate chips to make a happy face.  Someone’s birthday?  Make them a stack of pancakes instead of a birthday cake.  For your pancake lover, pour chocolate syrup on a stack, add whipped cream and some candles.  Won’t they be surprised?  Get creative.  Pancakes in the morning say I love you to those you have fussed for. 

How many pancakes can you eat? I always have a small stack of 2.  I’ve wondered how a person can eat a large stack or seconds.

By the way, we have fix them morning, noon and night.  If we have them for supper, we call it brupper.  They are not just for breakfast or brunch.  I hope I have given you some ideas and hope you have a great National Pancake Day tomorrow!

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.




Monday, September 24, 2012

Pumpkin Cheesecake


I picked up a bunch of pumpkins yesterday for decorating for fall at a local farmer's garden.  I guess the drought has hurt the pumpkin crop.  There was not much of a selection and they were all small.  They had no gourds at all.  I haven’t seen them in the stores yet either.

So with fall here, I am thinking pumpkin and fall recipes.  I thought I would share a pumpkin cheese cake with you that I've made before and recommend.  Cheesecake is my sister Wendy’s forte, but I’ve made a few.   

Pumpkin Cheesecake 


Crust  

1 box ginger snaps (about 16 oz.)     
1 stick (1/2 cup) of melted butter     
¼ cup sugar   
½ cup pecans, chopped fine  

Or make it easy on yourself and use a store bought graham cracker crust.
           
Filling            

3 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, room temperature (you may use low-fat, but do not use fat free)
1 ¼ cups (15 oz. can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
5 lg. eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup heavy cream
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt

Salted Caramel Sauce

½ cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup sugar
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter
1/3 cup water
¼ cup heavy cream (you can use milk)
½  tsp. pure vanilla extract
½  to ¾  tsp. salt

Toasted pecan halves for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Crust

Crush the gingersnaps and reserve some for garnish (I do it in a food processor or you can place them in a baggie and use a rolling pin). Combine all crust ingredients in bowl. Press into bottom of 10" or 11" spring form pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 min. or until pecans are slightly toasty. Cool a bit before filling.  This is good with a graham cracker crust also if you wish to substitute and save a lot of work.

Filling

In a bowl, beat cream cheese, cream and sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add spices, beat until light in texture. Add 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree and mix until just blended. Stir in eggs one at a time, scraping sides of bowl after each addition.

Pour batter into spring form pan over cooled crust or your graham cracker crust.   To prevent the cheesecake from cracking, it is a good idea to put the cheese cake in another pan with a bit of water in it.  If you are using a spring from pan make sure you put aluminum foil around it so water does not leak into the crust.  Bake in the center of the oven until cheesecake is firm to touch and does not jiggle in middle, about 50 minutes to an hour. Let the cheesecake cool on a wire rack for about 45 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. The cake will fall slightly in the middle as it chills giving it that classic "cheesecake" shape with a ridge around the edge.

Caramel Sauce

Put sugars and water in small heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil approx. 4 minutes until nice caramel color. Do not walk away or overcook it or you'll burn the sugar and have to start over. Remove from heat, add cream, salt and butter and stir until well blended. Let cool for about 5 min. then add vanilla extract.  You can substitute this with store bought caramel ice cream topping to simplify.

Drizzle with cooled caramel sauce and garnish with roasted pecans.  Roasting the pecans for 2 minutes in a dry frying pan will release oils adding more flavor.

Do you want to make these as individual cheesecakes?  You can buy small individual aluminum pans to make them or even individual ready made graham cracker crusts.  Try using a large muffin pan to make small individual ones.  Just cut your baking time and watch closely. 

Have a beautiful fall day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homemade Sweet and Salty Chips

Yesterday I shared a fellow FB page with my FB friends.  It was an Apple Quesadillas.  It looked wonderful but I lacked some of the ingredients without going to the store, so I thought I'd make up some of my tortilla chips instead.  I am going to make them though the next time I get to the store.  I have to add tortilla to my list now because mine are all gone.  They are a great thing to keep in your frig because you can always make up a quick quesadilla up with nothing more than some pepper cheese and a little left over chicken.




I cut up tortillas in half, cut again into quarters and then again into eights using a kitchen scissors.  Heat up a fry pan with about 1/2 inch of oil it it.  Use medium heat and no higher or you will burn them.  Use your favorite oil.  I used canola oil today because I don't want to taste the oil.


When your oil is hot drop in just a few and do not walk away.  It only takes about 1 minute before you need to flip them with a slotted spatula.


When they are crispy and golden remove from heat and let them drain on a piece of paper towel.  Sprinkle them very lightly with kosher salt while they are still hot.


My grandson Saylor loves these and we make them together when he is here.  He cuts them up and I fry them.  Since he can't have gluten these are made with only corn flour.  I also make them first so there is no chance of frying in oil that had gluten in it.  He likes them plain.  I like to dip them in homemade salsa.



Next using flour tortillas, cut them up.  I like to get fancy for the grand kids and when cutting them, I cut a little of the top off of the chip to make it look like a heart but you don't have to fuss unless it is for someone special you want to say I love you to.  Divide them up into two plates since we are going to make both powdered sugar ones and cinnamon and sugar one.

Again I fry them in hot oil.  Be careful in frying these because the flour tortilla fries up very quickly.  They only need a matter of a few seconds.  Flip allowing it to get crispy on both sides and put on a piece of paper towel to drain.


Using powdered sugar dust the chips lightly with the sugar while they are still hot.  When plating, shake off any excess sugar.


Serve them with a small bowl of chocolate syrup to dip in or they stand well on their own.  I'm serving them with the Hershey's dark chocolate syrup.



Take your remaining plate of uncut and uncooked chips and fry them up being care to not leave them or you will burn them.  Drain on a paper towel and dust them with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar while they are hot.  I make up a small jar of cinnamon and sugar and have it on hand for youngest grandson because he loves cinnamon and sugar toast.  If you can get the Mexican cinnamon, the chips will have a more complex  taste.  I really like it, but don't worry if you don't have it.


Serve it with apple sauce.  I'm serving mine with my own homemade apple sauce I've made.

Give one or all of them a try.  Hope you have a wonderful Sunday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.




Saturday, September 22, 2012

Avocado Soup or Bisque With Shrimp



I got this recipe from Trader Joes last time I was there.  I'm seeing ripe avocados in the grocery store, so picked up some yesterday and figure it might be a good time to make it.

Avocado Cream Soup with Shrimp

1 box of chicken broth or 32 oz. of your own
16 oz. of guacamole
1 carton of heavy cream (16 oz.)
¼ cup dry sherry (optional)
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper
Hot Sauce, to taste
1 bag of thawed cooked salad shrimp (16 oz.)

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and when the stock is simmering, stir in the guacamole & heavy cream. Add the sherry (optional), salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

To serve the soup hot, add the shrimp & cook until shrimp are heated through.

To serve the soup cold, refrigerate the soup and then add the thawed shrimp just before serving.

Garnish with a couple of shrimp on top or a dollop of sour cream and/or chopped cilantro or chives.

Variation – You can’t be surprised on this slight variation.  Swap out the shrimp and add chopped bacon instead or add both.  You can also garnish with garlic bread croutons. 

If you do not like the heat, here is a simpler version of avocado and shrimp bisque.

3 avocados
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
2 cups cream or milk
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 teaspoons finely grated onion (you can substitute onion powder – 1 tsp.)
1/2 pound cooked fresh shrimp
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Prep - Cut the 3 avocados in half and scoop out the meat, spooning the avocado into a small bowl.  Chop cooked shrimp.  Grate onion.

In a medium saucepan, combine avocado, chicken broth, cream or milk, lime juice, and grated onion. Heat slowly to boiling, stirring frequently. Add chopped shrimp, along with salt and pepper. Heat through, but do not boil. Remove from heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.  The bisque can be served hot or cold. 

Again garnish with a couple of whole shrimp or chopped bacon or a dollop of sour cream and chives.

Here is my guacamole recipe for you if you wish to make the soup with heat.

Guacamole 





3 large, ripe avocados cut into cubes
1 finely diced onion (once chopped, rinse in strainer with water running through it to take bite out.)
1 ripe jalapeño chili peppers, seeds removed and finely diced (Keep seeds if you like it really hot)
1 clove garlic
1/8 teaspoon kosher coarse salt
1/2 freshly squeezed small lime

Blend in a blender or processor so everything is chopped fine.

Add the onion, along with the garlic, jalapeño and some salt. Grind them together until the bits have fallen apart slightly, and the mixture looks wet and smells aromatic. Add the avocados and grind some more, until the mixture is smooth.  Squeeze your 1/2 of lime.  Taste and see if it needs more salt.  Add more salt and lime juice if needed.

The lime helps delay oxidation, but not all.  If the guacamole is stored overnight, you will have a dark discoloration. This will not hurt you, and will not change the taste but looks are important also.

Hope you have a great weekend.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Apples, Apples, Apples

I picked and canned some more apples this week.  I'm still looking for great ways to use up my fresh apples and found these two ideas that I'm going to use.  I'll share them with you.


Apple Cole Slaw


Poppy Seed Honey Dressing

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup poppy seeds
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Slaw

1 bag of cabbage slaw mix (green cabbage and carrots in the mix)
4 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, julienne

In a medium bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients together until well blended. Set aside.

Prepare the salad. In a large bowl, combine the bag of cabbage slaw, scallions, and apples. Pour in the reserved dressing and toss until well blended. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or more before serving to let the cabbage sweat, mixing the salad several times before serving.

Variation – For color you can add purple cabbage, red delicious apples or for a little sweetness add some green and/or red grapes. 

Another variation is to add mustard seed instead of poppy seed.  Try this variation on top of a brat and bun or any variation will go wonderful with pork.

Apple Sandwiches



Sliced and cored apple
Peanut butter
Honey
Chocolate chips
Lemon juice

Core your apple and slice it as thick as a slice of bread.  Squeeze a lemon into a bowl and drop the slices in the lemon to prevent the apples from turning brown.  Spread peanut butter on the apple slices and drizzle honey.  Sprinkle the slices with a few chocolate chips and put two slices together.  

Put out the slices, PB, honey and chips and let the kids make their own when they get home from school or for their lunch or weekend snack.  It would go nice in a lunch bag too and be a change from the same old sandwich.

Apple Dip


8 oz cream cheese softened
1/2 c mayonnaise
2 x medium red apples chopped
1/2 c chopped walnuts
1 tbsp. lemon Juice

Blend together cheese and mayonnaise. Add apples nuts and lemon juice. Serve with crackers.


Caramel Apple Dip

2 packages (8 ounce size) cream cheese
1/2 cup golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup caramel store bought flavored topping
1/4 cup milk chocolate toffee bits
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 Crisp apples, cored, cut into 8 wedges each
3 Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into 8 wedges each
Lemon juice

In small bowl, beat cream cheese, brown sugar and vanilla until thoroughly combined; spread on center of round platter. Drizzle caramel topping over cream cheese mixture; sprinkle with toffee bits and pecans. Dip apple wedges in lemon juice; arrange around edge of platter.


Tomorrow I'm sharing Avocado Shrimp Creamed Soup.

Hope you have a great Friday.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.   





Thursday, September 20, 2012

More Game Day Bacon Snacks



Here are a couple more ideas with bacon for game day treats or an appetizer.  They could not be simpler.

Stuffed Jalapenos 


6 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
12 slices bacon

Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat or an oven 400 degrees F.   Spread cream cheese to fill jalapeno halves. Wrap with bacon. Secure with a toothpick.  Make sure you wash your hands well after handling the chilies. Place on the grill or in the oven and cook until bacon is crispy.  Turn over when one side is crispy and do the other side.  

   Bacon Wrapped Lil’ Smokies 

   1 16 oz. package Little Smokies
1 package bacon
1 cup brown sugar
Toothpicks

Cut bacon slices into thirds. Wrap each Little Smokie with a piece of bacon. Secure with a toothpick. Continue wrapping Little Smokies until all are used.

Put into a 9 x 13 pan. Pour brown sugar over the bacon wrapped Smokies and bake in a 350 degrees F oven for 20 minutes and then turn over to let other side get crispy.  Bake another 10 to 20 minutes until both sides are crispy. 

Variation - I also make a bacon wrapped shrimp but since it take such a short time to cook shrimp, I use pre-cooked bacon and only bake it for a few minutes until the shrimp is done.  I don't use the brown sugar.  I marinate the shrimp in soy sauce and a bit of lemon.

Tomorrow I doing apples again.  I found a couple more apple recipes to use up the fall apples.  

Enjoy this week ends game.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wilted Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing and Pomegranate Seeds


I’m sharing healthy today with a beautiful salad.  Oh, I forgot there is bacon in it.  I guess you can use turkey bacon, but I have to have the real thing.  What is it they say, all good things in moderation?  It looks good enough to eat. 


8 slices bacon, chopped up in small pieces
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (Pomegranate balsamic vinegar if you can find it or vinegar of your choice.  Apple cider vinegar would work nicely also.)
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbs. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 package (10 oz) fresh spinach
2 hard boiled egg, sliced in quarters
Separated seeds from 1 pomegranate
Salt and pepper to taste

To extract the pomegranate seeds cut off the flowery end of the pomegranate.  Score the pomegranate into sections.  Place in a bowl of water.  Allow fruit to soak for 5 minutes.  Break the sections of the fruit open in the bowl of water.  Allow the seed kernels to separate from the rind and sink to the bottom.  Discard the rind and drain the kernels. 


In a large skillet, cook the chopped bacon over medium high heat until crisp. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and pepper; mix well. Place the spinach in a serving bowl; add the hot bacon dressing and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and place the egg around the salad and serve immediately.

Variation - If you can’t find the pomegranate, try using a nut to give it texture.  A sliced almond or cashews would be nice. 

Can’t find the pomegranate balsamic vinegar, then make your own by adding a little of pomegranate juice to a good balsamic vinegar.  Serve the salad with a glass of pomegranate juice and a little club soda (equal parts of each).  


You can get a $1.00 off coupon on POM juice at this site:   http://www.pomwonderful.com/pomegranate-recipes along with some nice recipes.  You should start seeing pomegranates in the store about now.

Tomorrow I'll share a couple more game day appetizers with of all things....bacon.

Hope you have a great day.   Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sweet Spicy Turkey Meat Ball


So I bought turkey loaf when I got my Friday groceries and thought I would make turkey balls and divide them up and freeze several baggies.  They make a quick lunch I can nuke and have with a salad.  I usually don't buy ground turkey because it lacks flavor, but this is really sweet and spicy.  I’ll share them with you.


Spicy Glaze:

1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 dashes hot sauce (I use Louisiana Hot Sauce)
2/3 cup water

Turkey Meatballs:

1 egg
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped or 1 tbs. dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried sage or ½ teaspoon fresh sage
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 pound ground turkey


Glaze: 

In a saucepan combine the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, onion, sugar, hot sauce and water. Bring all to a boil, stirring.  Cook until it thickens a bit.  It will also thicken more in the oven.

Turkey Meat Balls:

In a large bowl, combine ingredients; blend just until mixed. Shape into 1 inch balls; place in a single layer in a greased 15 x 10 baking pan.  Spoon the glaze over the turkey balls. Cover and bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes more or until the turkey balls are just beginning to brown. Recoating the meatballs with the glaze.  Makes about 18 meat balls.

This is another recipe that you can make for those football games.   The turkey has really been goosed up with flavor. Stick tooth picks in them and serve them on a platter for appetizers or you can serve them with a meal.   It would be nice with a nice macaroni and cheese casserole. 

Variation:  You may also use ham loaf instead of turkey.  I really like the ham balls, but the turkey is more economical.  Leave out the sage and the lemon juice and add a small can of crushed pineapple to the glaze.

Another variation would be to add some grape jelly to the glaze like the old beef meat balls with grape jelly recipe.  

Double the recipe, bake fully and keep half to freeze to nuke for game day.  Just put in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes.

Tomorrow I'm sharing a wilted spinach salad with hot bacon dressing and pomegranate seeds.   

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Monday, September 17, 2012

National Apple Dumpling Day

Well it is another holiday.  Great day in that I sure have Golden Delicious apples that I can make dumplings with.  Super simple because you use store bought frozen puff pastry that I always keep in my freezer for occasions just like this.  It makes a beautiful desert.




Apple Dumpling

Stuffing 

1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Hand full of chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
4 tsp. butter

Dumpling 

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten to mix
4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored


Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, butter, nuts and cinnamon. Set aside.

Wash, peel and core your apples.


On a floured surface, roll out one of the puff pastry sheets to a 13-by-13-inch square. Cut the square in half and cut each half into a 9-by-6-inch rectangle. With the beaten egg, lightly brush 1 inch along the edges of one of the rectangles. Put one of the apples, upside down, in the middle of the rectangle and put your cinnamon mixture in the center of the cavity filling it completely. Don't be afraid to over stuff it. Gather the four corners of the pastry and pinch them together. Pinch the edges together to seal.



With your kitchen scissors, trim any excess pastry from where the edges meet. Repeat with the remaining pastry, apples, and cinnamon sugar mixture.

If you like, use a small knife to cut eight small leaves from the scraps of pastry. Brush the backs of the leaves with the beaten egg and attach two of them to the top of each dumpling.  Make sure you have a small vent in the top.

Chill the dumplings for 15 minutes. Put them on a heavy sprayed baking pan and lightly brush them with the beaten egg. Bake the dumplings for 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees F and continue cooking until golden, 20 to 22 minutes longer. Don't bake too long or the dumplings may burst.  Yield: 4 servings per sheet of pastry you use.

Serve warm with ice cream and adorn it with a cinnamon stick stuck in the middle.

Variation - If it is not sweet enough for you, drizzle some caramel over the dumpling and ice cream and sprinkle with a few more nuts or drizzle it on the plate for a beautiful presentation.

Your home is going to smell amazing.

I bought some ground turkey this week and I'm going to make sweet turkey balls for tonight.  I'll share it with you tomorrow.  Hope you have a wonderful day.  It is suppose to rain here making it a great day to bake.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Oriental Salad with Ramen Noodles


I love the original Oriental salad that calls for cabbage, but years ago I ate the salad with a different twist.  Every Good Friday for years, my mother and I went to Good’s Furniture and spent the day in Kewanee, Illinois.  We always ate in Good’s Cellar Restaurant.  Instead of serving their Oriental Salad with cabbage they served it with lettuce and I think I like it even better with lettuce, although it is hard to pick.  I love this salad either way.  I tried making it and this is what I came up with.  I like to make it this time of year because I can get the pumpkin seeds and use up those ever-ending tomatoes.  If you can't get pumpkin seeds, replace them with sunflower seeds.


1 package Oriental Ramen noodles
Package of your favorite lettuce mix 
2 green chopped onions or chives
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 chopped tomato (optional)

Dressing:

1/2 cup salad oil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar
2 pinches flavor packet powder from noodles

In a large bowl mix together all vegetables, sunflower seeds and almonds.  Mix dressing ingredients into in a small bowl and whisk until blended or shake in a mason jar.  Add dressing to salad and mix well.   Crumble dry noodles and mix noodles into salad, cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.  Makes 4-5 servings

If you want the traditional, just exchange the lettuce mix with your cabbage coleslaw mix and don’t add the tomatoes.  Hope you enjoy.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dump Cake



Apple Pecan Dump Cake

Butter Pecan Boxed Cake Mix
5 cups Apple Pie Filling (I make my own but if you want to use canned, you will need 2-21 oz. cans)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) margarine or butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 X 13 pan.  Pour in your apple-pie-in-a-jar.  See my blog for Apple-Pie-In-A-Jar.  If you are using a can of apples, you will need to use the spices above.  Mix them dried and sprinkle them on top.  I have cinnamon in my canned apples so I skip this part.   Pour your dried cake mix on top.

Cut the butter into small pieces and place pieces over the top of the cake mix.  Be sure to cover as much of the cake mix as possible.  This will soak into the mix and make a crust.  Add the chopped pecans on the top. 

Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 45 minutes or until the top is a nice golden brown and the sides are bubbling.   Serve warm with ice cream. 

Chocolate Cherry Dump Cake

Another variation of this is using canned cherries, a chocolate cake mix and pecans.  It is my favorite dump cake.  You can do this with almost any type of cake mix and canned fruit.  I’ve made peach dump cake with a white cake mix and a pumpkin pie dump cake.  Think berries.  What mix combination can you come up with. 

Have a great week end.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.