Monday, November 24, 2008

Our Big Ol' Family Dinner

My house is in shambles - we need to have everything in boxes and ready to load into the truck on Wednesday morning, so I've been really busy. So this isn't going to be the big, wonderful post that I had hoped for and planned on doing. Oh well, the food was good!

Our meal was very much like a regular Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey, ham, potatoes, gravy, fruit salad, and lots of other stuff. My contributions were a roll of cranberry butter, a jar of spiced cranberry sauce, some freezer crescent rolls (they thawed and rose beautifully, you just have to remember to keep them covered while they thaw and while they rise), and a simple chocolate cream pie.

The delicious turkey (sorry for the bad picture, Dad was still carving the ham and wouldn't let me get too close, lest I try to sneak a piece).

My beautiful, gem-like cranberry sauce.

The crescent rolls.

My yummy chocolate pie.

I also have posted a recipe for wheat salad, a delicious salad made with whole wheat berries. I plan on using that idea in a number of other salads, once we've settled in. I think you could use cooked whole wheat berries in place of noodles in a pasta salad with fantastic results! I really couldn't get enough of this salad.

Our dessert was a trio of pies provided by my sisters and I. We're kinda funny, we all decided to start slicing the pies all at the same time, providing these fun pictures.

You may notice that my sister who brought the pecan pie (left) is getting nowhere with her pie - it was kind of hard and she was having a hard time getting the knife to slice through, hence the funny faces! She was finally able to slice her pie with a big pizza slicer. :-) All three pies turned out absolutely delicious.

Anyway, sorry this isn't the big, wonderful post I promised, but I have to get back to packing and cleaning. Don't expect much in the way of posts for the next while, we're packing the computer tomorrow. I'll miss blogging and I will get back to posting regularly as soon as I can! Yesterday was my birthday and I'll post about my cake when I'm able to.

Wish us luck!

Simple Chocolate Cream Pie

Since we're moving, I didn't really want to go all-out for a pie for our big family dinner. Besides, I knew my sisters were also providing pies, so I decided to go simple.

18 graham cracker squares (9 full sheets)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp. melted margarine
1 large box chocolate pudding mix (instant)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 8-oz. tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

To make crust, crush crackers into fine crumbs. Add sugar and butter, stir until combined. Press into 9-inch pie plate, onto bottom and sides. Bake at 375 for 6-9 minutes or till edges are brown. Cool completely before filling.

Mix pudding mix and milk according to package directions. Pour half of the pudding into the pie crust. Fold half of the cool whip into the other half of the pudding. Chill until partially set (both pie and pudding/cool whip mixture). Spoon pudding/cool whip mixture on top of pudding layer. Chill until set. Top with remaining cool whip, and chill until serving.

Wheat Salad

I didn't make this one; Mom did. You know those recipes that are made specifically to use whole wheat, and they always taste like whole wheat? They're okay and all, but they just taste wheaty. This isn't one of those recipes. It tastes delicious.

Wheat Salad
2 cups cooked whole wheat*
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 boneless chicken breast (Mom used canned chicken)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar

Mix together first four ingredients. Make dressing and pour on top of wheat mixture. Chill well and serve.

*To cook whole wheat berries: Place 1 cup whole wheat berries into crock pot with 4 cups water. Turn on low and cook for 8 hours. Drain any extra liquid.

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

I've made this sauce with and without cloves. The cloves added a really great flavor, and this tasted fantastic with turkey!

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 12-oz package fresh cranberries
Dash ground cloves (optional)

Heat water and sugar to boiling in medium saucepan. Add berries. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Berries will pop and release their juices, making some fun little noises! Remove from heat and add cloves if desired. Cool completely at room temperature, and chill in refrigerator.

The berried contain natural pectins that jellify the sauce, making it almost like a jam. It's so pretty!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bigger Post Coming Soon!

I've got a couple recipes and some pictures to share, which I will be posting sometime after tomorrow. My sister lives in this area, as well as my parents and grandparents. But big sis is going to spend Thanksgiving with her husband's parents on the other side of the state. Our family being as close as we are, we decided that we'd have a big Thanksgiving-like family dinner this Saturday, so I've been working on preparing for that today. I've got my freezer crescent rolls thawing in the fridge, and I made another batch of cranberry butter. I also made some cranberry sauce with the leftover cranberries, and a deliciously creamy, easy chocolate pie. I'll share those recipes later, as well as pictures of our delicious dinner and that wonderful turkey I keep raving about. I'm so excited! Is it weird that the prospect of a big dinner gets me excited, or is that normal?...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oatmeal Cookie "Bars" and Another Award!

Today was kind of rough. I have a cold, with an enormously aching throat, a stuffy nose, a cough, and a migraine. Plus I spent a lot of time packing, and sorting through boxes that we hadn't even unpacked yet from when we moved to our current apartment. I've been trying to bear it all with a smile, and I am pleased with how much I got done today. But by this evening I was in need of some serious relief and comfort! So I did what any self-respecting person would do - I got high on cough drops and drunk off DayQuil (generic brand, of course), and baked up some intense cookie bars!

Well, cookie "bars" is a sort of loose term here. The pan size suggested in the recipe was, in my opinion, incorrect. The bars didn't really cook all the way through and sort of ended up being a big gooey cookie mess, as evidenced by the above picture. A delicious mess, and I keep eating it anyway. But I'll post the pan size that I think they should be cooked in, not the size that I used.

Oatmeal Cookie Bars
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups oats, regular or quick-cooking
1 cup flour
1/2 cup each butterscotch chips and chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients except oats, flour, and chips. Beat with mixer until smooth. Stir in oats, flour and chips. Spread dough into ungreased 9x13 baking pan (not 8x8 unless you actually want an uncooked gooey mess). Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until browned. Cool in pan on wire rack, and cut into bars.

See, the 8x8 was way too small. The bars are practically spilling out over the sides!

Despite being incompletely cooked, the cookie bars were definitely delicious. As a variation, you could make these into actual cookies - Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 9-11 minutes. Remove from pan immediately to wire racks to cool.

********Update: After cooling overnight, the cookie bars have actually hardened into bars, instead of goo. I guess all that saturated fat in the butter and shortening had a chance to solidify or something. They hardened so much, actually, that I had to re-slice them. So if you're willing to wait for the bars to cool completely before cutting them, I guess that the 8x8 pan really is acceptable for this recipe. :-)

Shelby, aka HoneyB, aka Grumpy's Honeybunch, has given me an award! Hooray, two in a row! It's nice to know that people are reading and enjoying my cheapo, tightwad recipes. I sure enjoy having this blog, and I'm glad others are enjoying it as well.

As this is the Inspiration Award, I'm passing it on to blogs that inspire me. Not all will be cooking blogs, because I get inspired by lots more than just food. But food is big in my life too! :-)

Memories and Mayhem - My cousin Rachel has a cute family and always keeps a good attitude about life and the adventures it brings when there are three young children around. She helps me to remember to see the good and the humorous things in everyday life, whether it's pooping in the leaves or a child that wants to do chores!

The American Homemaker - I love seeing all the wonderful vintage delights that Angie posts about - her old memo book and address book, her pink chamber pot, and her delightful vintage cookbook, from which she made a delicious looking coffee cake. She helps me see old things in a new light.

A Year of CrockPotting - Stephanie made a New Year's resolution to use her crock pot every single day of 2008, and so far she has! She's on day 324 right now, with a delicious crock pot turkey. I have been using my crock pot more often thanks to Stephanie's inspiring blog. And check out her post on how using a crock pot can save you money.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Taco Soup, Tag, and Award

Three birds with one stone in this post. First up is the delicious soup I made tonight out of things that we usually don't have in our pantry and fridge. Tonight's dinner was all about making do with what we had on hand, and making dinner fast because it was too late and I was too tired and the kids were too impatient for me to do a big fancy meal.

We happened to have a variety of things in the fridge and pantry that just happened to go really well together. Jeff happened to boil up some chicken a couple nights ago, and we had the broth left from that (always save your chicken broth, you can use it in so many ways!). I happened to make some refried beans from bean flour the other night, and we had lots left from that. We made salsa a while back and there happened to be plenty of that in the fridge. I happened to have some TVP in the pantry (texturized vegetable protein, an inexpensive meat alternative) that I've been experimenting with in a variety of recipes.

I did some thinking and decided that taco soup would be a good way to use these miscellaneous food items. No real recipe here - my taco soup "recipe" is basically to throw together whatever foods we have that would make a good taco-like soup. Usually it includes taco meat and broth or bouillon. Tonight all I did was whisk together a couple cups of chicken broth, about 3/4 cup refried beans, 1/2 cup salsa, and a handful of TVP. I heated that over medium-high heat until it was hot and the TVP was reconstituted. Then I spooned it into bowls and topped it with shredded cheese. It was simple and quick, and surprisingly delicious! See, I told you that I might be utilizing some interesting ingredients while we're in the process of moving. :-)

Next up is a tag from Tina of The Adventures of a Working Mom and Hayley of Away With The Fairycakes. It's the Seven Random Things tag.

So here are The Rules:

  • Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
  • Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself.
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links.
  • Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. I have a sore throat right now that's really bugging me.

2. I absolutely love romantic chic flicks. But I don't like watching them with my husband. I always get the feeling that he's laughing at the characters and their problems, and at me for getting so caught up in the characters and their problems. So that's a treat I reserve for nights when the kids are in bed and Jeff is working late. And I like eating ice cream or other fattening desserts while I watch. :-)

3. Speaking of movies, we don't usually buy new movies. We wait for my younger sister to buy them, and then borrow them from her. Unfortunately, that won't work anymore after we move, because we won't live five minutes away from her anymore!

4. My 3-year-old daughter is going through a clothes-changing phase lately. She changes her clothes about six times a day, alternating between pants-and-shirt outfits and princess dresses. It's getting hard to clean up after her, so her room tends to be strewn with clothes most of the time.

5. I play the organ.

6. I wash my dishes in big red dishpans, because for the past several months our kitchen sinks do not drain, and management hasn't fixed them yet. They tried once, but it didn't work.

7. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, even more favorite than Christmas, because I'm totally addicted to all the delicious traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Especially my family's favorite Oven Smoked Turkey. That stuff is fantastic.

I'm tagging:
Megan's Munchies
Priscilla's Baking Adventures
Real Mom Kitchen
What's for Dinner
Tummy Yummies
Eat From Your Pantry
Life and Cooking With Littles Underfoot

And lastly, an award given to me by JadeMerie of Living Frugally. It's fun to receive awards, and it's fun to pass them on! :-)

Lucky everyone that I just tagged - I'm passing this award on to all of you! These are all blogs that I love to read, and I keep up with every post.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Chocolate Chess Pie

This has got to be the absolute best pie that I've ever made. And that is really saying a lot, because I like every pie I make. Chess pie is a Southern classic, and is defined in Wikipedia as "a single crust and a filling composed of eggs, butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. What sets chess pie apart from many other custard pies is the substitution of corn meal for flour." This particular pie adds melted chocolate into the equation. It has a texture similar to pecan pie, but without the pecans. The corn meal, to my surprise, didn't add any grittiness at all - the pie was smooth and gelatinous, and deliciously rich. Present this at your Thanksgiving meal, and let the compliments fly!

Chocolate Chess Pie
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 to 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer your pie. I used 1 cup and it was really sweet. We all loved it!)
1 tbsp. corn meal
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 unbaked 9" pastry shell

Melt butter with chocolate. In a mixing bowl, combine the chocolate and butter mixture with sugar, flour, salt, milk, eggs, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer for 5 to 6 minutes (I couldn't find my mom's mixer, so I used a whisk and beat it vigorously by hand. It worked out fine). Pour filling into prepared pastry shell; bake at 350 for 35 to 45 minutes, until set. Serve at room temperature, with whipped cream if desired.

Pastry Shell (aka pie crust)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup shortening
3-4 tbsp. cold water

Combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening. Mix in enough water to make dough hold together. Roll out on floured surface and ease into pie plate. Trim and flute edges. Use as directed in recipe.

This pie, oh my gosh, I can't say enough about it. It really was a fantastic pie! The filling separated out into two layers - the bottom layer was similar to the filling of a pecan pie, and the top layer had all the chocolate. On the very top of the filling was a thin, almost crispy topping that literally melts in your mouth. The result is a fabulous pie that looks and tastes like you put a ton of work into it, when really it's quite simple and easy to make.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My Kitchen My World - Puerto Rico

This week's chosen country isn't technically a country - it's a U.S. territory. But the MKMW moderator believes that Puerto Rico should be treated as its own country for the purposes of this blogging event. I'm glad - we got to enjoy a real treat this week! You see, Puerto Ricans are really smart when it comes to food. They make a deliciously creamy pudding, call it Maizena, and eat it for breakfast!

I made this on Thursday morning, and it was perfect. The morning was rainy, chilly, and dreary. It was wonderful to have this warm, creamy, comfort-food dish for breakfast.

2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups milk (I departed from authenticity here and used 3 eggs plus enough milk to make 2 cups. This cut down the cooking time and upped the protein)

Whisk together the cornstarch, salt, sugar, and cinnamon in a large saucepan. Stir in the milk (and eggs, in my case) to evenly blend ingredients, and set over medium-high heat. Continue whisking and cooking until custard reaches a thick consistency, 25 to 30 minutes (with the eggs, it took about 5-10 minutes). It is important to stir the entire time, or the custard can easily burn or clump. The custard will continue to thicken as it cools. Spoon into bowls to serve.

As I pointed out, I added eggs to the regular recipe. The idea of a shorter cooking time really appealed to me, since my kids don't like to stand around waiting for their breakfast - they want it now! It tasted absolutely delicious - my kids felt like they were getting a special treat for their breakfast, as did I! This would even work well as a dessert. But I would really love to try this recipe the way the Puerto Ricans make it - without eggs. That is, if I think my arm can hold up to 25 minutes of whisking...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Holiday Broccoli

Just so everyone knows, I will probably be posting with less frequency for a little while. My husband and I are in the middle of preparing to move. Today, we stuffed half of our possessions into neatly labeled boxes, which are now stacked precariously throughout the apartment. Over the next couple of weeks the rest of our stuff will be packed as well. Then we get to look forward to unpacking in our new home and getting settled in.

I'll still try to post yummy holiday dishes, as I am able. But they will have to be a little more simple, prepared with the most basic of kitchen equipment, since everything else is or will be packed. Some of my ingredients may get a little random sometimes too, as we are trying to avoid buying more food, so we're using what we have on hand and what we haven't packed yet. Fun stuff.

That said, here's another yummy veggie dish that we tried tonight. This dish starts as simple broccoli and cheese sauce, but is made special with the addition of stuffing mix. We all liked this a lot, except for Thomas, who seemed to think that the pieces of broccoli had just the perfect aerodynamics for being flung across the dining room. He's learning to dislike green vegetables, I think. Well, I'll break him of that eventually. :-)

Holiday Broccoli
4 tbsp. butter, divided
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. minced onions (use fresh or dried)
1/2 cup diced Cheddar cheese
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp. mace (or substitute nutmeg)
Dash of hot sauce
2 (10 oz) pkg. frozen broccoli
1 1/2 cups seasoned stuffing mix

Melt 2 tbsp. butter in saucepan. Stir in flour, then blend in milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens. Stir in onions, cheese, salt, mace, and hot sauce. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese melts.

Meanwhile, cook broccoli in a large covered pan in a small amount of water only until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. In a 1 1/2 quart buttered baking dish, spread half of the stuffing mix; arrange cooked broccoli over mix. Pour sauce over broccoli and sprinkle with remaining stuffing mix. Dot with remaining 2 tbsp. butter (I forgot this part, oops). Bake at 375 for 20 to 25 minutes, until topping is golden brown and sauce bubbles.

To double recipe, cook in 9x13 dish.

This was pretty yummy. The sauce was creamy, and I really liked the addition of nutmeg and hot sauce - it was just enough to give it a great flavor. And I really liked the crunch of the stuffing mix on top.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cranberry Butter

There weren't a lot of people on my poll who voted for unique cranberry sauces, but there were a few, and I wanted to post at least one special cranberry accompaniment anyway. This is a delicious flavored butter to spread on your Thanksgiving rolls, such as Freezer Crescent Rolls. It is sweet and rich, thanks to the brown sugar and honey, and it is tart and pink, thanks to the cranberries. It's very pretty, and is sure to be a hit.

Cranberry Butter
3/4 cup butter, softened (margarine is okay too)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. honey
1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
2 tbsp. chopped walnuts, optional

In a small mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add cranberries and walnuts if desired; beat 5 minutes longer or until butter turns nice and pink.

Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap; roll into a log.

Refrigerate until chilled. Unwrap and slice or place on a butter dish. Yields 1 1/3 cup.

This would be perfect on those crescent rolls I posted this morning, but since I didn't have any baked right now, I threw together some hoe cake and we ate it with that. Delicious!

Freezer Crescent Rolls

These crescent rolls are soft and fluffy and buttery and delicious - and taste nothing like the kind you pop out of a can. I got this recipe from the Taste of Home 2008 Annual Recipe Book, which I won in a giveaway on Priscilla's Baking Adventures. It's a great book, filled with delicious recipes!

Anyway, I saw these rolls and knew that I had to try them, because they will be great as Thanksgiving rolls. Picture this - on Thanksgiving morning, you pull a pan of rolls out of the fridge, let them rise an hour, then bake them. People compliment you on the incredible rolls, and you humbly tell them that you made them from scratch, as they ooh and aah over your wonderful kitchen prowess. Sigh. I love that mental picture.

No, seriously, these are great rolls because not only do they taste great and have a wonderful fluffy light texture (thanks to the potato flakes and butter), but you make them ahead and freeze them. Then they're ready for when you need them, and you only have a tiny bit of work to get them cooked. See? Perfect for Thanksgiving.

Freezer Crescent Rolls
3 tsp. active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup mashed potato flakes
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the butter, milk powder, sugar, potato flakes, eggs, salt, and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough (for this I used my mom's heavy duty Kitchenaid mixer. I love that mixer).

Turn onto a heavily floured surface; knead 8-10 times. Divide dough in half. Roll each portion into a 12-inch circle; cut each circle into 16 wedges (pizza cutter works great for this). Roll up wedges from the wide end and place point side down 2 inches apart on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Curve ends to form crescent shape.

Cover and freeze. When firm, transfer to a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Freeze for up to 4 weeks.

To use freezer rolls: Arrange frozen rolls 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and thaw in refrigerator overnight.

Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. Makes 32 rolls.

I kept four rolls out of the freezer when I made these yesterday, so I could bake them up and make sure they tasted good. They did.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Maple-Glazed Carrots

Here's another great vegetable dish to grace your Thanksgiving table. Carrots are julienned (cut into thin strips - it looks really fancy), then cooked and coated in a sweet and citrusy glaze. Tonight I made one quarter of the recipe - 3 carrots seemed a much more appropriate amount for our family than 12!

Maple-Glazed Carrots
12 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2/3 cup orange juice
5 tbsp. maple syrup
5 tbsp. melted butter or margarine
1 tbsp. grated orange peel (Jeff hates citrus zest, so I skipped this)
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt

In a large saucepan, bring 1 inch or water and carrots to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until tender crisp.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine the cornstarch and orange juice until smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened (since I made such a small amount, it took less than 2 minutes).

Drain carrots; transfer to a serving bowl. Pour glaze over carrots; gently stir to coat (I took the picture before stirring, because it looked so pretty).

These carrots were quite good. They are a bit unique as far as glazed carrots go, because of the orange juice and maple syrup. It was a good flavor combination, perfect for Thanksgiving dinner, or any day.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cookie Dough Truffles

I have a disclaimer - I am obviously not nearly as good as dipping balls of dough into chocolate as Priscilla is - her cookie dough truffles are beautiful! And you should check out her top ten countdown that she has been doing, of her ten favorite holiday treats. These truffles are number two, so you know they're good! She just posted them today. I started making them as soon as I commented on her post that I had to make them right away.

I loved the idea of these truffles because I love eating cookie dough. These truffles feature a cookie dough filling - it tastes just like regular chocolate chip cookie dough, but without the eggs so it's safe to eat raw. Yum!

Cookie Dough Truffles
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used half vanilla and half almond extract for a fun flavor twist)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips (I used half chocolate chips and half butterscotch chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (omitted, but these would taste great)
1-1/2 pounds semisweet candy coating, chopped (I just used chocolate chips)

In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour, alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Shape into 1-in. balls; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Loosely cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until firm.

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating; stir until smooth. Dip balls in coating, allowing excess to drip off; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes. If desired, remelt remaining candy coating and drizzle over candies. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 5-1/2 dozen.

My little dough balls kept getting bigger and bigger, so I got nowhere near 5 1/2 dozen, but that's okay. Also, you may notice from my pictures that I did not fully dip them in the chocolate. I actually did dip one fully, but it was hard and messy, so I decided to skip doing that with all of them.

Instead, I just dipped the bottoms in the chocolate, and then spread more chocolate on top with the back of a spoon. I think they turned out kinda fun looking. If I had done these around Halloween time, it would have been fun to top each one with an M&M, and call them eyeballs or something.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Corn 'n' Bean Bake - a Thanksgiving Side Dish

Most of you have probably noticed the poll on the top of my sidebar, asking what kinds of Thanksgiving dishes you would like to see me post about. I've starting a list of Thanksgiving menu items on my sidebar, to keep all of these delicious holiday treats in one place. I already posted the deliciously tender turkey recipe that my family makes. But the poll indicates that a great number of you would like to see some vegetable side dishes - which I find kinda funny, as I added that option as a last-minute afterthought. Anyway, this one goes out to all of you veggie lovers out there.

This dish is a fun and easy variation on the traditional green bean casserole. It changes up the filling and the topping just enough to make it refreshingly different. And it was very cheap and simple to make. I altered this recipe from a Taste of Home recipe book.

Corn 'n' Bean Bake
1 can green beans, drained
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded cheese, divided
1/2 cup crushed crackers (recipe suggests butter-flavored like Ritz; tonight I used saltines)

In a bowl, combine the beans, corn, soup, and 1/2 cup cheese. Spoon into a greased 2-quart baking dish. Top with crackers and remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 35 minutes or until heated through.

I baked this in a plain 8-inch square baking dish. For nicer presentation at a holiday meal, bake it in a pretty casserole, or in a large glass serving bowl (make sure it's oven-safe). To double the recipe, bake it in a 9x13.

Jeff said this tasted really good, but he missed the french fried onion flavor of regular green bean casserole. So if you really have to have that onion flavor, you can go ahead and add some french onions, I suppose.

My Kitchen My World - Ireland

I tend to be a procrastinator when it comes to My Kitchen My World. I keep forgetting to check what the country is until Thursday or Friday. Luckily, when I checked on Thursday I found that this week, Michelle from My Year to Get Skinny chose Ireland, the land of potatoes. Since I live in Idaho, the other land of potatoes, I figured I could skip an extra shopping trip (extra shopping trip = extra things I didn't intend to buy in the first place = extra money spent) by making a potato dish. We've always got potatoes around.

I lucked out when I found this recipe on - it's almost entirely made of potatoes, plus a few common ingredients I always have on hand. Because of how totally cheap this meal was, I'm also submitting it to Frugal Fridays, another blogging event that I have been neglecting of late. This made enough for four, for way under $10.

Irish Boxty
1 1/2 cups grated raw potato
1 cup flour
1 cup leftover mashed potatoes (I made these yesterday on purpose so I could do this recipe)
1 egg
1 tbsp. skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oil

Toss the grated potatoes with flour in a large bowl. Stir in mashed potatoes until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and skim milk; mix into the potatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in the potato mixture, forming patties about 2 inches in diameter (I made mine bigger, pancake size). Fry on both sides until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve warm.

These were crispy on the outside, soft and potato-y on the inside. They were quite good.

When I plated these for pictures, I thought it would look great to have some butter melting tantalizingly on top of the boxty. When I went to eat it, the butter turned out to be totally unnecessary - it made them a little too greasy. Kind of like buttering fried chicken. But it sure looked nice!

See what other delicious Irish treasures were created this week - My Kitchen My World.

Friday, November 7, 2008

My First Dump Cake

I've eaten dump cakes before, and I've seen recipes for a variety of dump cakes. But until today, I'd never actually made one. The premise of a dump cake is that you just dump a can or two of fruit into the pan, dump some dry cake mix on top, sprinkle it with bits of butter and bake the thing until it's done. You don't even have to dirty a bowl. I really have no excuse for not ever making one before, considering how easy it is, except that we rarely buy cake mix. This week, however, cake mix was on sale at Wally-World, so we caved in and bought a couple boxes. And I'm so glad we did!

This recipe is based on one from Southern Plate's cookbook (which is an absolute treasure trove of real, delicious Southern recipes! You can buy it on her blog). Christy's recipe calls for cherries, but I substituted some canned peaches. I also omitted the nuts that Christy calls for. They would be delicious in this cake, but I didn't happen to have any that I could use tonight.

Dump Cake
1 can crushed pineapple, undrained
About 1 1/2 cup chopped canned peaches, mostly drained but still a bit drippy (don't you love my technical vocab)
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cube butter or margarine

Grease baking pan (I used a 9x13). Dump in the pineapple and then the peaches. Sprinkle cake mix on top. Cut butter into patties and put on top. Bake at 350 for 50 to 55 minutes (I was skeptical about the time to cook, usually a 9x13 cake bakes in almost half that time, but this really is how long it's supposed to bake). Serve warm.

This smelled wonderful while it was baking, and it tasted great, with the warm fruit on the bottom, and the sweet and buttery crisp cake on top. It would have been absolutely fabulous with some ice cream melting on top, but it was great without it as well. When I took my first piece, I wanted it to look nice for the pictures. Well, as nice as something can look considering that it's called "dump." But by my second helping, I didn't care what it looked like, I just wanted to get it onto my plate and start eating it! So it ended up looking like this. You know, I almost think it looks tastier this way.

An added bonus: This recipe is easy enough for kids to help, which leads to family fun in the kitchen!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Oven Smoked Turkey - Our Family Tradition

I don't have a picture to go with this one. Because a huge turkey isn't normally in our everyday budget, we won't be cooking this until Thanksgiving. Just picture in your mind a roast turkey.

Besides, with this recipe, what it looks like doesn't matter - everyone knows what a turkey looks like. What's important is that this is the most tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious turkey I've ever eaten, with a wonderfully smoky flavor that stirs up memories for me of the Thanksgivings of my childhood. This is the turkey we've had almost every year since I was young. Give it a try this year and see what you think!

Oven Smoked Turkey
1 10-12 pound turkey, thawed (we usually use larger, even 15 to 20 pounds works, depending on your bucket and your oven)
8 tbsp. liquid smoke (look for it in the grocery store next to the barbecue sauce)
1/4 cup rock salt
1 cup tender quick salt (this helps to make this tender turkey even more tender. But if you can't find it, it's okay to omit it. My mom hasn't been able to find any for years)
1 gallon hot water

Put salts and liquid smoke in the bottom of a large plastic bucket (3 gallon) that has a lid. Then pour gallon of hot water in to dissolve. Put the turkey in and place a bowl right side up on top of the turkey. When you put the lid on tight, the bowl pushes the turkey under the brine. Put the bucket with the turkey and brine outside so it will stay cold, and let it soak for 15 hours. Drain and bake at 200 degrees for 15 hours (start it cooking the night before Thanksgiving - this step ensures a very tender texture). Carve and serve.

Sample schedule, to clarify: If you want to eat at about 1:00 on Thanksgiving, start the turkey soaking at 7:00 the morning before. Put it in the oven at 10:00 that night before you go to bed. It will be done at 1:00, and you can eat!

Yes, this turkey takes a very very long time. And yes, it is very much worth it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Breaking Down Barriers

I was going to try to make this post kind of election-themed, but it didn't really fit so I won't worry about it.

My husband is one of those people who are decidedly un-picky when it comes to food. He has his preferences of course, but there are few things he just won't eat. One of those foods was fruitcake. He has always sworn up and down that fruitcake is one of the worst flavors he has ever had, and he will never learn to like it. Other people seem to have the same prejudices against this concoction. Here is a quote I found from Johnny Carson: "The worst gift is a fruitcake. There is only one fruitcake in the entire world, and people keep sending it to each other." Even my mom, who advocates the "clean-your-plate" policy and does not allow picky eating, considers fruitcake to be one of those foods that you are totally allowed to avoid. Obviously, fruitcake is not universally liked.

But as for myself, I had never tried fruitcake. Since Mom didn't like it, I wasn't ever exposed to it and never had the opportunity to try it for myself. A couple years ago I realized that I actually like the way that fruitcake sounded - a heavy cake studded with candied fruits and nuts. Doesn't that sound good? I thought it did. But Jeff was adamant - I wouldn't like it, it's awful, all that stuff.

Well, today I actually convinced him that I was serious - I wanted to try a fruitcake, gosh darnit! There were several of those little one-pounders on the clearance rack at Wal-Mart and I wanted to try one. He hemmed and hawed a bit, then gave in and we put it in the cart.

We got out to the car after purchasing and I eagerly tore open the package. I took a small bite. Hmm. I took another bite. Huh. I took another and another, the bites getting larger and larger - it was actually yummy! I actually liked the fruitcake! I passed bits of fruit and nuts to the kids in their car seats, and they liked it too.

But the clincher came when Jeff requested a tiny bit, just to verify that it was, indeed, as horrible as he remembered. I gave him a little piece and he cautiously tried it. He admitted that perhaps it wasn't quite as terrible as he had thought. He tried another bite, and another, and finally decided that except for the orange peel, he actually liked the fruitcake. We both had a good laugh, and continued snacking all the way home.

And we all lived happily ever after.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes

I had sweet potatoes for the first time a year or so ago at my sister's house. She did up some sweet potato fries that were absolutely delicious and I fell in love. Now we enjoy getting sweet potatoes on occasion as a special treat. As far as potatoes go, they're a bit pricey (compared to russet potatoes) but as vegetables they're not bad at all. And they are just so delicious! We bought a couple last week, and I cooked them on Saturday, a nice healthy dish to sort of counteract all the candy that we'd been eating. This recipe comes from

Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil (I used canola oil)
2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (I accidentally doubled this)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning (didn't have it, didn't use it)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper (omitted, because of the extra black pepper)

Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F.

Place the sweet potato chunks into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, then sprinkle the brown sugar, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, chili powder, and cayenne pepper over top. Toss until the potatoes are evenly coated with the seasoning. Spread onto a baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn the potatoes over with a spatula, and continue baking until the sweet potatoes are golden and tender, 10 to 15 minutes more

Just as the title suggest, these are sweet and spicy. This was a simple recipe to prepare, and we all enjoyed the delicious little sweet potato cubes!