Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Baked Mashed Potato Casserole

This is my spin on a potato casserole I saw and thought I’d like with a few changes.  I tested it last night for supper.  It really was tasty, but then how can you go wrong with bacon and potatoes. 

2.5 lb. bag of potatoes
½ tub of whipped cream cheese
½ stick of butter
1 cup of cheddar cheese
½ cup French onion dip (flavored sour cream)
5 slices bacon cooked and chopped
Chives (from my herb garden)
Half and half as needed for mashing consistency (or milk if you like)
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes with skins on in salted water.  Always start your potatoes in cold water (cooks evenly).  I like my mashed potatoes with a little skin on, but you can peel and leave off if you like.  Hate to peel off all the nutrition. Waxy potatoes, such as Red Rose, White Rose, and Yukon Gold varieties, are recommended for boiling applications because they have less starch and a higher moisture content.  Idaho and russet potatoes have a higher starch content and lower moisture, resulting in a mealier texture when cooked.

Drain potatoes when they are tender and add the cream cheese, butter, ½ cup of shredded cheese (I used mild cheddar), sour cream dip, and half and half. Mash with a hand mixer to get most of the lumps.

You have to leave a few lumps in though to let everyone know they are not instant potatoes.  When you get your right consistency, add ¾ of the bacon and stir.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Place in a greased 9 x 9 inch casserole dish or pan and garnish with the remaining bacon, cheese and chopped chives (I cut mine bacon and chives with a kitchen scissors because it gives me better control of the size I want). Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to reheat. 

I cut this recipe in half because I did not need a 9 x 13 pan for just me.  If you are feeding a large group, double it.

Have a great Wednesday, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cashew Chicken Salad with Grapes

This is a little twist to a chicken salad.  You add cashews instead of walnuts. 

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper

2 cups dark or white meat chicken or both
1 1/2 cups red grapes
1/2 cup halved and toasted cashews
Mixed leaf lettuce

This is a great recipe to use that left over roast chicken or you can poach 2 chicken breast.  Cut your chicken into 1 inch pieces.

Cut your grapes in half.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the chicken and the grapes and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

Wash and dry your lettuce.  Arrange the plate with lettuce and put your cold chicken and grape mixture on top.  Top with your toasted cashews and serve. 

Variation – You may candy the cashews if you like.  Add both red and green grapes for color.

Candied Cashews 

1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 pinch salt (if your cashews are not salted)

In a small saucepan, mix together cashews, sugar, and water over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Cook and stir for about 15 minutes, or until mixture crystallizes.
Spread the cashews onto parchment paper on a baking sheet (season with salt now if needed).  Bake 15 minutes, then stir mixture.  Bake 15 minutes more, then cool cashews before storing in an airtight container (until needed).  You can use this for walnuts or pecans also. 

Such a simple salad, but huge in taste.  

Have a great Tuesday, be happy and may God bless you and yours.   

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bone Soup

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup

Growing up, just like every Monday was wash day, it was also vegetable soup day.  Mom had the ability to transform some old beef bones into a nutritious meal.  She was a miracle worker when it came to making economical nutritious meals by extending a little meat to feed 8 kids.

2 tablespoons oil
2 or 3 beef bones
Kosher salt and pepper
1 large onion (mom uses dried onions)
2 large celery stalks
3 beef bouillon cubes
2 medium carrots
3 large potatoes
7 cups water
3/4 cup pearl barley

Peel your potatoes.  Chop your onion, celery, carrots and peeled potatoes.

Heat a bit of oil in a large soup pot over high heat.  Season beef with salt and pepper to taste.  Add beef bones to pot and brown on all sides.  Transfer beef to a plate using a slotted spoon.

Reduce heat to medium. Add 2 teaspoons oil.  Add onion, carrot, celery and cook until soft, stirring occasionally.  Season with additional salt and pepper.

Return beef to pot, and add bouillon cubes and water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

Add the barley.  Cook, covered, for another 30 minutes.   Uncover, and cook until beef and barley are tender, 20 minutes more.

Serve soup hot with crusty bread.

The more times you reheat this, the better it tastes.  Mom now will fix a pot of soup and eat on the pot of soup all week.  We aren’t very good at cooking just for one.

She could do the same thing with a ham bone, making the best bean soup with white beans or Lima beans, onions, carrots, salt and pepper.  With a little corn bread, the simple meal would satisfy all of us kids.  

Have a great Monday (vegetable soup day), be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bacon and Potato Bake

This is a great Sunday brunch idea.  Everything I like for breakfast in one casserole.  I saw this on FB, but had to change it out to make it my own.  This doesn't have to be just for breakfast or brunch.  It would be great for any meal.  Serve it with a fresh fruit salad or salad.

Bacon and Potato Bake

1 bag of frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1/2 cup onion
12 pieces of cooked bacon
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Half and Half
1 large egg
1 teaspoons Lawry salt
Pepper to taste (I always go heavy on the pepper)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prep Work:

Unthaw your hash browns or you can always make your own by boiling potatoes until they are half done and then grating them. 

Spray an 12 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Chop your onion finely.

Using a kitchen scissors, cut up your bacon.  I love using the pre-cooked and just microwave it 30 seconds.  It saves time and a mess.  Other wise fry it until it is as crisp as you like it.  I like mine really crisp.

I used the store bought shredded cheese, but you can shred yours if you have a block of it. 

Mix all of your ingredients in a large bowl.   Add the cheese to the mixture but leave ½ cup of the cheese out so you can sprinkle it on top when you are done. 

Put in your baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes. Uncover, and then bake for an additional 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Variation – Add a can of cream of mushroom soup for even more flavor. 

Change out the bacon with ham or change the cheese out for your favorite cheese or what you have in the house. 

You can change the Half and Half out for milk.  The original recipe called for evaporated milk, but I changed it out.  You can use a can of evaporated milk if you like.

Have a great Sunday, be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Minion Marshmallow Army

Eatable Eyes
Black food coloring
Yellow food coloring
Blue good coloring
Powdered sugar
Skews or Popsicle sticks (plastic silverware would work also)
Giant Marshmallows
Egg carton

I took an egg carton to hold up my sticks.  I stuck holes in it with my skews before I started anything.

I began by making a not too running glaze of powdered sugar and milk (Saylor friendly so we are using soy milk).  I added blue food coloring for the pants to the minions.  I dipped the marshmallow in the glaze and stuck it on a stick and then stuck the stick in the egg carton to dry.

After they dried, I made another frosting and added yellow food coloring.  I put this in a cup so it would allow me to dip deep without making a ton of frosting and covered the rest of the marshmallow after the blue had dried.  It should not be runny but not too thick either.  Test one to see if it runs.  Put the sticks back in the carton to dry.  

Add black food coloring to any left over yellow you have.  Make it thick by adding additional powdered sugar so you can pipe it.  Put it in a baggie and cut a very tiny tip in the corner of the bag so you can pipe and draw the goggles and mouth.  Put your eyes on while the piping is still wet.  Put them in a jar to dry.  The skews weren't the best idea because they started to stick through the top, so we used straws at the end.  

For the hair, I used tiny chocolate tube like sprinkles.  I made the colored marshmallow bodies and then handed them over to the boys and they decorated them and enjoyed making and eating them.  

Don't be surprised when they smile at you with black teeth though.  I'm making them brush their teeth Staci when we are done. It is so much fun making goodies with the boys.  I hope someday they will do it with their grandchildren and tell their grandchildren about what they did with their grandma Elaine. 

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

White Fish

Trout last week from Yellow River has put me in the mood for more fish. My two oldest grandsons are leaving today to go to Minnesota and fish with their grandpa for pike.  Good luck Sam and Sawyer.

I picked up some nice frozen white fish for only $5.00 at Wal-mart and it is on my menu.  I have enough to make fish several times so am making a white sauce one day and with a salsa the next time.  I also bought some store bought Newman’s Own mango salsa that I was thinking I would put on it, but will give you a recipe, just in case you want to make your own fresh salsa.  Mangoes are on sale I see.  This week, I mentioned using Newman’s dressing and liking the idea of 100% of the profits going to charity.  His mango salsa is excellent and you can make it easy on yourself, while giving to charity.

White Fish with Mango Salsa

White fish fillets
Vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and black pepper
White rice

Mango Salsa
2 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup diced jalapeno
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
2 cups chopped mango

I’m using frozen fish, so have to unthaw it first.

Brush both sides of the white fish with oil.

Season with salt, pepper and paprika over both sides of the white fish.

Cook the fish on a lightly oiled grill or a cast iron skillet.  Cook to an internal temperature of 145° F, turning once during cooking, about 4 to 8 minutes total cooking time depending on the size of your fish.

Serve with rice.  Cook the rice according to package directions

To make the mango salsa, mix all the ingredients but the mango together in a bowl. Just before serving, add the mango and mix lightly.

To serve, top the fish with salsa.

White Fish in White Sauce

1/3 cup white wine
1/2 cup double cream
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
2 teaspoon butter

Unthaw your fish.  Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Lay the fillets in a flat shallow dish greased with 1 teaspoon of the butter. Salt them. Sprinkle half teaspoon of tarragon. Pour 3/4 cup white wine and put into the oven. Bake over just about 10 minutes. Keep it in the oven.

While the fish is being cooked, add 1 teaspoon of butter to another pan. Melt it and add the flour and mix it thoroughly in. Continue to stir and cook for 3 minutes. Strain the wine from the fish. Arrange the fillet on a plate and keep warm. Add the strained wine little by little and using a whisk mix it into the roux at very low heat. It should be without lumps. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and stir. Pour the sauce over the fish fillet.  Warm the fish through and serve.  

Perfect weekend to go fishing.  Have a great day.  Be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Poke Cakes

I fixed a Jello poke cake last week for book club and thought I'd share some other poke cake ideas.  They are great for summer entertaining.  Someone shared a banana one on FB and I love the idea.  I’m taking it to other places in addition to the Banana Pudding Cake.  Give all of them some thought or better yet taste when you need to take or make a special dessert. 

Jello Poke Cake

1 box yellow cake mix
1 box strawberry Jello
1 large tub whipped topping

Make cake according to directions on box. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Prepare your Jello according to directions on box. Poke holes about 1 inch apart with a wooden spoon all over your cake. Pour Jello mixture over the cake. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.. Serve cold.

You can use any flavor of Jello you like and also top with fresh berries if you like. 

Banana Pudding Poke Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (& ingredients to make cake)
2 box (small) instant banana pudding
4 cup milk
8 oz. whipped topping
20 vanilla wafers
Sliced bananas

Follow the direction on the cake mix box to prepare the actual cake. Prepare it in a 9 x 13" pan. When golden, remove from over and let cool for a few minutes.

When just slightly cooled, use the end of a wooden spoon (the handle end) to poke holes into the baked cake. Don't be shy; make the holes big enough for the pudding to seep into and go deep enough with the spoon that you hit the bottom of the pan.

Prepare your pudding mixture. Combine your 4 cups of milk and the instant pudding mix; whisk until fully combined and there are no lumps.

Pour the pudding mixture over the entire cake, taking care to get it into all your holes. Use the spoon to help really get it into the cake and spread evenly.

Refrigerate for two hours... or until set. Top with whipped topping, crushed vanilla wafers and sliced banana! Serve and enjoy. (Refrigerate any leftovers.)

Variations – Use a chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding.  Use crushed Oreos for the topping.

Make a pineapple poke cake by replacing the bananas with canned pineapple and use pineapple juice in making your vanilla pudding.  You can also use Marciano cherries to decorate with.  I think there is a pineapple cake mix you can buy also.

How about a lemon cake and lemon pudding topped with whipped cream and grated lemon peel on top.

Coconut poke cake with a white cake mix, coconut pudding and whipped topping with shredded coconut on top.  Yum!

Make a grasshopper poke cake by adding a little mint extract to the pudding, whipped cream  and/or the cake mix and top with Andes Mints or chocolate crushed mint cookies.

Or here is an over the top Grasshopper Poke Cake recipe.

Grasshopper Poke Cake

1 chocolate cake mix
1 14.5 oz. can sweetened condensed milk or chocolate pudding
1 12.8 oz. jar Hershey's Special Hot Fudge Sauce
1 10 oz. package Keebler Fudge Mint Cookies
1 16 oz. container whipped topping
1 Mint extract
1 cup Andes Mint chips

Prepare and bake the cake mix in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Allow to cool completely. Use the bottom of a wooden spoon to poke holes evenly across the entire cake (about 20 holes). Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk over the cake or chocolate pudding, trying to fill the holes.

Heat the hot fudge sauce in a small bowl in the microwave. 30 to 40 seconds should do the trick, you just want it to soften a little.

Crumble half of the fudge mint cookies into the hot fudge sauce and mix. Spread the cookie/fudge sauce over the cake.

In a large bowl, whisk together the mint extract and the cool whip. You may add a little green food coloring for a green topping.  Spread the whipped topping over the fudge layer.

Crumble the remaining cookie crumbs over top of the cool whip. Sprinkle the Andes Mint chips over top.  You can now buy these chopped in a package.

Refrigerate and chill for at least 4 hours (overnight is best). Cut and serve.

Walk your cake isle and your pudding isle and come up with your own combinations.  What is your favorite flavor?

Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

Fried Eggplant

Back in the 70’s I visited a very dear friend who was a retired lifer from the U. S. Navy.  I'd take him some dessert I'd fixed for him and he'd offer me something he made.  To this day, when I eat eggplant I think of Otho.  He is the one that taught me “old school” on how to fry eggplant.  I had never had eggplant up to him serving it to me and I fell in love with it.

Because the eggplant maybe a little bitter, after peeling and slicing the eggplant, I soak the eggplant in heavily salted water over night as Otho taught me. I pat it dry with a paper towel the next day. This will remove much of the bitter taste (when I ask Otho why he did this he said it was to remove the poison jokingly).  Although you do not need to soak it in water, I still do it Otho’s way in honor of his memory. 

You can also salt after you have sliced it. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with Kosher salt. Place the eggplant in colander with a weight on top to drain for 30 minutes to drain out the water that is in the egg plant.  I find that salting it improves the flavor of the egg plant also.  I peel mine, but you do not need to.  I peel it because the skin can be a little tough.  Soaking it in salt water also improves the flavor of the flesh if you leave it on.  You can also cut it into wedges for long fries for a different look.

Make sure you get out any excess moisture because it can make the eggplant taste a little bitter and is also dangerous when deep frying as water makes the oil bubble and splatter more.

Picking a Good Eggplant

Check for brown spots on the skin or stem.  Pass it over if you see any.
Pick one with a green stem that is free of mold.
Pick one with skin that is shiny and smooth without bruises or blemishes.
Pick one with skin that is resilient and bounces back when you apply gentle pressure.
Pick one that is heavy for size of eggplant.

The eggplant is technically a fruit, but like the tomato, it is referred to as a vegetable. 

I use vegetable oil to fry in because you can get a higher heat with it.  You can use olive oil if you prefer, but it has a lower burning point.

After the eggplant has drained and dried, set up a breading station of flour, egg wash and flour.  I add Kosher salt and pepper to the last dredge of flour and coat first with plain flour, then dip it in the egg wash and then in the salt and peppered flour. 

Drop your dredged slices into hot pre-heated oil (I like using my big cast iron skillet).

Fry on each side for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown.

Put on paper towel to drain the grease. 

Additional flavorings
I only use salt and pepper with my flour dredge, but you can also add garlic powder, onion powder, and/or a little cayenne for heat.  Eggplant does not have a lot of flavor.  It will soak up what ever flavor you add.

You may also add lemon juice or hot sauce to your egg wash for additional flavoring.

Variations - Skin on or off?  I peel mine, but it is not necessary.

Want even more flavor, try using bacon grease to fry them in.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese after frying or use Lawry salt.

You can use Panko bread crumbs or a 50/50 mix of flour and corn meal for the last coating if you like more texture.

Fried Eggplant

My recipe

I start a day in advance and peel and slice my eggplant and soak it in salt water over night.  I slice them as thinly as possible (1/4 inch).  After adding several teaspoonfuls of Kosher salt to water in a large bowl, I put a small plate or bowl on top to keep the egg plant in the water.

The next day I drain it very well in a colander and dry the slices on paper towel before breading it.  I fry them just before serving them.

1 eggplant (I peel the eggplant because it's tough)
3 eggs
2 cup flour
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt and pepper

In a large skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. Heat your oil on medium heat.
In a shallow bowl, scramble your eggs.  Pour 1 cup each of flour in 2 shallow bowls.  Once your oil is hot enough, dip your eggplant slices in the plain flour first, then egg wash, coating both sides and then in the seasoned flour coating completely.  Place in pan.  After about 3 minutes or when golden brown, turn with a fork or tongs.  Cook 3 more minutes. Place on a paper towel to cool.  Sprinkle with salt and grated Parmesan cheese while still hot. Continue until you cook all your eggplant.  Do not over crowd the skillet.  It usually takes 3 to 4 rounds to finish it all. 

You may need to add oil after a 2nd or 3rd frying.

One egg plant is more than I can eat, so I always have left overs.  They heat up nicely in the microwave for a second meal. 

Another Variation –  What to do with those left over?  Like fried green tomatoes, you can turn these into an appetizer very easily by topping them with a pizza sauce and some mozzarella cheese and put under the broiler until bubbly and golden brown. 

I so often acquaint food with the first time I had it or who prepared it.  Certain foods will always call up nice memories for me.  Call up a few nice memories for yourself by fixing those that hold special memories for you.

Tomorrow several poke cake dessert recipes.  Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.   

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Vintage Dessert Recipes

Here are some vintage, tried and true recipes to store away in your family recipes. 

Impossible Pie

Betty Crocker pointed out, the impossible pie is impossibly easy to make.  You don't need to make a crust for it. Instead, you just mix up all the ingredients together—the ingredients for the filling and the crust—and while it cooks the pie forms its own crust. Impossible Pie first became widely known in the 1970s when it was printed on the backs of Bisquick boxes.  Over 40 years later, you need to give this a try if you have not had it.

This is an impossible pie recipe off of an old Bisquick box.  You could replace the tuna with hamburger and make it a hamburger impossible pie.  Leave out the nutmeg and use some onion and garlic powder.

Impossible Coconut Pie

All the ingredients are mixed together and poured into a pie tin, but when it cooks it forms its own crust with filling.  

1 shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
½ cup Bisquick mix
¼ cup butter
2 cups milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray.

In medium bowl, stir all ingredients until blended. Pour into pie plate.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie.

Impossible Cherry-Almond Pie

1/2 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 eggs
1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling

Brown Sugar Streusel
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons firm butter
Slivered almonds

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 9 inch pie tin with nonstick spray and set aside.

Stir together first six ingredients until blended. Pour into prepared pie plate. Spoon pie filling over top. Bake 30 minutes.

While pie is baking, make streusel topping by mixing Bisquick, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and cut in the butter until you have crumbs. Stir in almonds.  After pie has baked 30 minutes, sprinkle streusel over pie filling and return to oven to bake another 10 minutes, or until streusel is golden brown. Remove pie from oven and cool.

Serve slightly warm, at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator. It tastes great any way!  You may substitute any can of pie filling you like.  Blueberry or raspberry would be nice also.

Magic Cakes

Buttermilk Magic Cake

4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 ¼  cups buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
1 tbs. sugar
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8 × 8 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat together egg yolks and sugar at medium speed until doubled in volume. Beat in melted butter, then sift in the flour and salt and mix until well combined. At low speed, gradually blend in the buttermilk and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Beat in 1 tbs. sugar, and then continue to beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form.

Whisk half of the egg whites into the buttermilk mixture until well combined. The buttermilk mixture will be fluid, so don’t worry if the egg whites lose some volume. Once half of the egg whites have been incorporated, fold in the remaining half with your whisk.

Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 60 minutes, until the cake is set and jiggles (but is not liquidy) when the pan is gently shaken and the top is golden brown.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Magic Custard Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
1/8 teaspoon white vinegar
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar for dusting
Fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly butter or grease an 8"x8" baking dish.

Melt the butter and set aside to slightly cool. Warm the milk to lukewarm and set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and cocoa powder for 20 seconds. Set aside.

Whip the egg whites with vinegar to stiff peaks. Set aside.

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light. Beat in the melted butter, and vanilla for about 2 minutes or until evenly incorporated.

Mix in the flour/cocoa into the batter until evenly incorporated. Gently whisk in the milk until everything is well mixed.

Fold in the egg whites, 1/3 at a time. Repeat until all of the egg whites are folded in.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until when you gently shake the cake, it is slightly jiggly but is no longer runny.
Allow cake to completely cool before cutting and then dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with raspberries.

Enjoy a bit of yesteryear.  Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Asian Salad

I played with one of my favorite salads yesterday by making some changes in an old recipe I usually use for a Ramen noodle Asian salad. Thought I'd share it with you today.

Asian Salad Nut Mix

Oriental Ramen noodles
Slivered almonds
Sesame seeds
½ flavor packet from Oriental Ramen noodles

Toast your slivered almonds and sesame seeds on medium heat. These can burn quickly. Add ½ of the flavor packet from the Oriental Ramen noodles.  Keep stirring and only heat for until you start to smell them.  This releases the oils and flavors.  Take off the heat.  Crush your Ramen noodles until they are broke up in their packaging.  Add your dried Ramen noodles to the almonds and sesame seeds and put back on the heat for another 30 seconds.  Let the mixture cool.

Shred a head of cabbage and chop up some green onions and add your mix to the salad. 

1/2 packet from the Oriental Ramen noodles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon of ground ginger

Put all your ingredients in a quart mason jar and shake well.  Pour some of the dressing over the salad until all the cabbage is lightly coated and let it rest a little to marinate the cabbage. Store the left over dressing in the refrigerator.  It will store for several weeks. Shake it well each time you use it.

Variations - If you want to buy a dressing, I recommend Newman’s Own Sesame Ginger for your salad dressing.  The nice thing about buying this product is that 100% of the profits go to charity.

Want a little more color; add a drained can of Mandarin oranges for color and flavor?  You can add the juice from the can to your dressing.

Don’t want to mess with roasting the nuts and seeds; you can buy a package premixed already.  Wal-mart carries a product called Salad Pizazz and they have an Asian Cashew Medley that would be great on an Asian salad.  The medley is so good; you can eat it as a snack.  It has a very Asian taste of soy sauce to it.

If you are roasting your own, replace the almonds with cashews and pumpkin seeds.

You can also use the pre-packaged coleslaw mix that will give you extra color with carrots and purple cabbage.

Don’t have cabbage but have iceberg lettuce or leaf lettuce from your garden; substitute the cabbage with lettuce.

No rules; just make sure you have texture, color and lots of Asian flavors.

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes

My daughter-in-law brought ripe tomatoes from her garden on our camping trip.  I don’t have ripe tomatoes yet, so I think I’ll have to go with the green ones while I’m waiting and waiting.  I’ll share a vintage recipe that I found and then share how I make mine.  I’ll also give you a couple of variations.

1881 Fried Green Tomato Recipe

Slice the tomatoes and lay in salt water a half hour, drain and roll in corn-meal and fry in hot lard; salt and pepper to taste.  The lard tells the recipe is old doesn't it although my grandmothers and mother used lard a lot in the 50’s?  It probably would make a better fried tomato.  I think this is how they made them in the movie because of the era the movie represented.

My Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

Kosher salt and pepper
½ tsp. of paprika
1 tsp. of sugar
Panko bread crumbs

Clean your tomatoes and cut as thin as you can (1/4 to 1/8 of an inch is ideal).  Get out your best cutting knife and sharpen it so you can slice the tomatoes super thin.

Mix the flour with salt and pepper.  Add paprika and a teaspoon of sugar to your first dusting mixture.  I like to use paper plates or parchment paper for easy clean up.  I know it is not as economical, but I sometimes have to go with easy first.  I do not own a dish washer so paper plates or parchment paper makes it easier for me.  I mix the flour mixture right on the paper plate with my fingers. If I need more I just add a little at a time so there is no waste.

Salt your tomato and let it sit on a paper towel and get some of the moister out of it.  Dip your tomato in the flour mixture, then in buttermilk, then into Panko bread crumbs for a thick crust.  The Panko gives the fried tomatoes a great crunch.  If you do not want the expense of Panko crumbs, substitute it with corn meal and flour (50/50).  If you don’t have buttermilk, a good substitute is to dip them in a beaten egg instead.  I do prefer the buttermilk though; however, they both help you get a thick crust.  I set up stations and move from the flour mixture, to milk, to the Panko crumbs to the cast iron skillet using one hand because you do get messy.

Fry in hot olive oil or lard if you want to go old school, in a hot cast iron skillet on medium heat (a secret is the old cast iron skillet).  Be careful the olive oil is not too hot or it will burn, but make sure the oil and skillet are sufficiently heated before frying, so you get a really crispy tomato.  Do not over crowd the pan or play with the tomatoes.  Fry them until they are golden brown on both sides using a pancake turner to flip them when they are brown and drain on paper towels.

Taste for seasoning and if needed add additional salt and pepper while still hot.  I always find it could use a little more.

Variations - You seekers of heat, you might want to put in a pinch of Cheyenne pepper in your flour mixture, or a dash of hot sauce in your egg mixture, or maybe garlic or onion powder to really goose it up.  As you know, I like it simple.

How about using bacon grease for the frying?  It would add a whole new flavor to the tomato.

Making these makes me think of a great movie Fried Green Tomatoes, staring one of my favorite actresses Kathy Bates.  Make a batch and rent the movie and celebrate your green tomatoes. Or you can go to Fried Green tomatoes in Galena.  Their address is 213 North Main Street, Galena, IL.  Their FB page is .  I love this place.  It holds a very nice memory for me. I love their fried green tomato appetizer which is a fried green tomato with a pizza sauce and fresh mozzarella on top.  Put them under the broiler to melt the cheese until they are bubbly and are golden brown.  Love them.

Be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Funnel Cakes

The Jackson County Fair starts this week and it made me think of funnel cakes.  I just got back from Yellow River Park where we had wonderful fresh trout Staci and the boys caught.  I need to get groceries though so am looking for ingredients I have in the house.   You could serve these warm for Sunday brunch.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg

Sift the dry ingredients into a large container that you can easily pour from (like a plastic pitcher). In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the rest of the wet ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until a thick batter forms. Pour the batter into a squeeze bottle or use a funnel to pour your batter from the pitcher in.  I have a cheap plastic funnel I use just for the occasion so I don't have to keep filling a squeeze bottle and after all it is a funnel cake.

In a large frying pan, pour your oil about 1/2 inch deep and heat to medium. Drizzle the batter in random overlapping patterns. Cook 30 seconds to one minute, and let the funnel cake float. Flip and cook the other side for 30 seconds to one minute, until a nice light golden brown. (These cook very quickly, so be careful not to burn them!) When golden brown, remove from the pan and place onto several layers of paper towels to drain. Immediately sprinkle with powdered sugar and top with fruit, if you like.

Serve warm!

Have a terrific Sunday, be happy and may God bless you and yours.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sour Cherries

It is cherry picking season.  It is time for cherry cobbler, cherry pie, or what ever your pleasure is.   Trouble is pitting the little beauties.  I’ll share a couple of things you can do with sour cherries if you have a tree or know someone that will share their bounty and I’ll also share ways to pit them.

Pitting Cherries

Choose fresh, ripe cherries. Rinse them with cool water, pat dry, and remove their stems.

Use a toothpick, un-bent paper clip, or, my favorite, orange stick (as for manicures), and insert into the stem-end of the cherry. You should feel it hit the pit.

Twist your implement of choice around the pit and pop it out. It will take you a few cherries to get the feel of it. Be patient, experiment a bit for the twisting motion that works best for you, and don't worry about the mangled mess those first few cherries may become – they'll still taste just as good.

There are a lot of cherry pickers you can buy.  Some very expensive, but very time saving.  You might want to check into some if you have a couple of trees.  A quick check of the internet will give you a big variety of them.  I loved this one because you do not have to deal with them individually. 

Here is a very inexpensive way to pit.  Use one of your tips for cake decorating.  

Cherry Pit Vinegar

Letting nothing go to waste, use your cherry pits to make cherry vinegar.  It is extremely  easy to make. Simply put 1/2 to 1 cup fresh cherry pits in a mason jar, fill with about 2 cups cider vinegar or white wine vinegar, cover, and set aside for at least a week and up to a month to let the cherry flavor blend into the vinegar.

Strain, discard pits, and use Cherry Pit Vinegar in salad dressings, in glazes, or mixed with sparkling water or club soda and a bit simple syrup (1 part water and 1 part water boiled until sugar dissolves) to taste for a refreshing soft drink.

Cherry Juice

I got this recipe from the Kerr Jar canning book.  Originally it was a grape juice recipe that I adapted. This is the only recipe I have used for making juice because it is so simple and kids love it. 
Wash one cup cherries with pits in, put into sterilized quart jar and add 1/2 cup sugar.  Fill to within 1/2 inch of top of jar with boiling water.  Put on cap, screwing the band firmly tight.  Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.  When serving, just strain through a sieve.

Cherry Syrup

1 part water
1 part sugar
1 part cherries (you can keep pits in)

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.

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.
Homemade syrup doesn’t keep as long as the commercial variety because there are no preservatives (that’s a good thing).  Store it in one of my favorite things, canning jars and you can label the lid with a Sharpie. 

Don't forget to use your Kerr or Ball canning book to can those cherries for this winter so you can use them year round. 

Have a great day, keep pitting and may God bless you and yours.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

English Muffins

Have you ever tried making English muffins?  It really isn’t that hard.  This would be a nice Sunday brunch treat with some wonderful jellies or jams.  I also like to use them for little mini pizzas and let the kids make their own by setting out lots of toppings and then they stick them in the oven until the cheese is melted. 

You can also make brunch egg, cheese and Canadian bacon biscuits for breakfast. 

1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tbs. sugar
½ cup milk
2 tbs. butter
3 cups flour
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup cornmeal
Non-stick spray

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and ½ cup of warm water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Let sit about 5 minutes or until foamy on top.

While the yeast mixture is resting, combine 1 ½  cups of the flour and salt in a large bowl. Stir well to evenly distribute the salt.

In a second small bowl, combine the milk and butter. Microwave the milk/butter for 30 seconds, stir and microwave again for 30 seconds. Stir the butter until it melts into the warm milk.  It can’t be over 110 degrees or it will kill the yeast.

Pour the yeast mixture and the milk mixture into the flour. Stir until it has combined into a pasty mix. Adding ¼ cup at a time, stir in more flour until the dough forms a soft, slightly sticky ball that pulls away from the bowl.

Sprinkle a little bit of flour onto a clean counter top and coat your hands in flour. Dump the soft ball of dough out of the bowl and knead it for about 5 minutes. Add as little flour as possible to the counter top while kneading. Adding too much flour will yield tough muffins.

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl that has been coated in non-stick spray. Lightly spray the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour until it doubles in size.

Punch the dough down, shape it into another ball, cover the bowl/dough and let rise another hour.

Punch down the dough again and turn it out onto a well floured counter top. Using a rolling pin, lightly roll the dough until it is about ¾ inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter (you can use a clean can), cut the dough into circles. When you can’t cut out any more circles, gently ball the remaining dough, roll again and cut more. It gets more difficult to ball and roll out each time so fit as many circles in the dough as possible before balling it up again.

Place the cut dough circles onto a sheet pan that has been liberally covered in cornmeal. Sprinkle more cornmeal on top of the muffins. Cover loosely with a damp towel and let rise until it double in size (1 hour).

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Carefully transfer the fluffy, risen muffins to the hot skillet with a spatula. Cook the muffins, in batches, in the skillet until they are golden brown and crispy on each side. Make sure to keep the heat low so that the outside browns slowly, allowing time for the inside to bake.  Cook for about 7 minutes on each side but this will vary from stove top to stove top.

Let the muffins cool on a wire rack before attempting to slice open. Toast the split muffins in a toaster, slather with butter and jam then ooze with happiness!

Store any left overs in a baggie and refrigerate to have for breakfast or lunch again tomorrow. 

Hope you have a wonderful Sunday, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

National Pecan Day

Today is National Pecan Day, so thought I’d take the strawberry balsamic vinegar from yesterday and pecans and make a 3 ingredient salad that is delicious as well as simple.  For dessert how about a pecan apple bread pudding to celebrate with?

Strawberry Salad

5 oz. fresh baby spinach
1 ½ cups strawberries
½ cup pecan halves
3 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
3 tbs. strawberry balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp. salt
⅛ tsp. pepper

Rinse and dry the spinach.  Rinse and dry your strawberries.  Cut your strawberries lengthwise.  Sprinkle with you pecans. 

Put your dressing ingredients into a mason jar with a lid and shake it well. 

It could not be any simpler, but the taste is huge.

Pecan Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

5 pieces of dried bread cut into tiny cubes
½ cup pecans
1 can of apple pie filling
½ cup warm water
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cups warm milk
¼ cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place bread in a baking dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Chop your pecan and cut up your bread into small cubes.

Sprinkle with the pecans and apple pieces. Using your fingers, gently distribute the fruit evenly among the bread.

Whisk together warm water and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the sugar water over the bread.

Microwave your milk so it is warm.

Combine the remaining ingredients, mixing well and then pour the mixture over bread, making sure to soak everything evenly.  Let it soak in for about a ½ an hour.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with caramel sauce, whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy your National Pecan Day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Infused Balsamic Vinegar

I love infused balsamic vinegar.  I have bought some in Chicago that you could drink from the bottle, they were that good.  Little Maquoketa does not allow me that pleasure so here are a couple of ways you can make your own berry or fruit infused balsamic vinegar.   I use a Pompeian Balsamic Vinegar that I can pick up here in Maquoketa as my base.  The other two pictured are Chicago finds that I use only on special occasions.  One is fig and the other is black cherry. Sadly, I'll soon be out.

What is balsamic vinegar?

Traditional balsamic vinegar is produced from the juice of just-harvested white grapes (typically, Trebbiano grapes from Italy) boiled down to approximately 30% of the original volume to create a concentrate which is then fermented with a slow aging process which concentrates the flavors. The flavor intensifies over the years, with the vinegar being stored in wooden casks becoming sweet and very concentrated.  To be call balsamic vinegar, it may not be withdrawn until the end of the minimum of 12 years (18 or 25 years).  Like a fine aged wine, this is why balsamic vinegar is so expensive. 

I’m sharing two fruit infused balsamic vinegars that will extend and flavor your balsamic vinegar and some ideas on how to use them.

Easy Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

1 cup strawberries, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces
1 tbs. brown sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (Pompeian or your favorite brand)
¼ cup rice vinegar

Put the strawberries, vinegars and sugar into a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth.

Allow the mixture to sit in the blender for 1 hour (this will help the strawberries infuse the vinegar).  The longer you let it rest, the more flavor will be infused.

Put the mixture through a sieve to strain.  Put in a mason jar and save in refrigerator.  Use in a strawberry vinaigrette on a strawberry salad.  The sweet balsamic vinegar is also good just drizzled on some fresh strawberries.

Variation - You can do this with your favorite berries or fruit.  Make a blueberry balsamic or a raspberry.  I have bought a white peach balsamic vinegar in Chicago that was to die for.  Just pick your favorite fruit and go crazy. 


Rich Strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

This recipe takes much longer, but is worth the work and time.

1 cup chopped strawberries or your favorite fruit
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey

Combine strawberries, brown sugar, and vinegar in a small sauce pan.

Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to less than a simmer. 

Note:  Place the pan in an iron skillet to diffuse the heat.  A reduction can burn easily
if not constantly watched and stirred regularly.

You want to reduce the mixture by half.  When reduced by half, add in the honey, and reduce by half again.

The whole reduction process will take some patience and several hours.  I set my timer and go and stir often.  The timer reminds me not to forget.  I reset each time. This is a good time to work in the kitchen for a couple of hours so you are close at hand.

Pour in a mason jar and store in the refrigerator.

Here is a great recipe using this dark brown gold you just made.

Scallops with Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

Olive Oil
White wine
Salt and pepper
White and/or black sesame seeds and/or red chili flakes (Optional)
Strawberry balsamic vinegar

Make sure the scallops are as dry as possible before cooking them.  Dry with a paper towels.  Dry scallops will yield a nice, crisp, caramelized crust when seared.

Buying frozen scallops may be more economical than the fresh-caught scallops, but the frozen variety tend to be more water-logged and naturally release more liquid as they defrost.  Keep this in mind, as you may have to change the paper towel out several times.

When buying fresh scallops, look for scallops that smell slightly sweet and briny, not fishy.  If they smell fishy, do not buy them.  Fresh scallops must be used within 2 days. 

Don’t overcrowd the pan.  Adding more scallops to the pan will only bring down the heat and you’ll have to cook the scallops longer, at the risk of ending up with rubbery scallops. 

Heat your skillet over medium heat and add in a tablespoon each of butter and oil.
The butter is for flavor.  The oil is to raise the smoking point so the butter does not burn.

Season your scallops with salt and pepper and any seasoning you wish to add and put the seasoned scallop in your buttered oil.

Sear on each side until golden brown and add a little white wine to the pan to deglaze.  Swirl in some butter to enrich the sauce. 

The scallops are done when they can be easily pulled apart and appear white or opaque in color on the inside.  The cooking time varies according to the size of the scallop.  Be careful not to under cook or over cook the scallop.  You do not want them raw or tough.

Take off the heat and drizzle with a little balsamic strawberry reduction and serve.  You pick the easy or the rich slow cooked vinegar.

You can use these vinegars also for chicken, pork or seafood.  They are also perfect for any vinaigrette. 

Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours.