Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Jack Of All Cookies

 I have a secret to share with you all. When I make up my cookie platters and gift boxes every year....

Don't be mad okay???

I use one cookie base recipe and add different flavors to it. Horrible!!!! I know! It only gets worse... I make them ahead of time into cookie logs, freeze them, and slice and bake when I need them! Oh the shame! Although I feel much better about telling my secret. Plus, now that you know about it, you can cheat with me, and then I won't feel so bad. 

I start out with a cookie base that is simple and easy. The recipe below is similar to the one I use, but mine is actually from my Aunt Diana, and some things should stay in the family, ya know?

Brown Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp. salt
4 c. flour
1 tsp. vanilla

Now we get to the fun part:

Go to you baking isle, and check out all the tempting tidbits and yummy morsels just begging to be added to a cookie batter. I have seen and used butterscotch, toffee, dark chocolate, peppermint bits, peanut butter chips, mint chocolate chips, mini chips, and M&M's to name a few. Don't forget to get some almonds, walnuts, or pecans, and then swing by the dried fruits and pick up some Craisins,  and what ever else you fancy. Make a new batch of dough for each flavor you choose to make. If you don't want to go out and get any of these chips and bits? Make up a bowl of cinnamon and sugar and roll balls of your dough in it before you bake. This will produce what is known as "snickerdoodles". If you want to bake right away, make sure to put your dough in the fridge for at least an 1/2 hour to firm it up. (Cooking with butter can be tricky like that)

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, and bask in the glory of delicious cookie love. 

My next post will have all my helpful cookie making hints in it. Be sure to look out for it, especially if you can never figure out how to make chewy cookies instead of making those frisbees you cringe at sharing. Been there, done that, writing the blog about it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It Is Called A Food-gasm, Have one.

Thanksgiving is the mother of all food holidays. Yes, yes, it is also about giving thanks, and having your family around you, but it is really more about the roasted or fried poultry delicacy and all the trimmings. We spend so much money on the big day, which is nothing but an eat fest. Not only do you serve a meal with more side dishes than should be legally allowed, you serve a variety of desserts too. Not to mention the left overs. So, With a day full of food, and more food, I try my best to focus my attention on the centerpiece of the day which is the bird. I prefer ham really, but there is something undeniably satisfying about cooking a large bird that not only looks good, but tastes great too. I tend to focus more on the taste, because, the turkey only really looks good for the 10 min before carving while the meat rests.

Yummy , but not so beautiful anymore.

I tend to lean towards tradition with my bird, and do as my mother does. She cooks the turkey in a blush wine, with a bit of salt, and poultry seasoning.  I get creative and made an herb butter spread that I applied to the entire turkey inside and outside the skin, not to mention put onions and garlic in the cavity. Mmm! I like feeling up my turkeys while lathering them in butter in the early morning hours. But all that turkey lovin' aside, lets get to the important subject of what you can do to take your turkey from ordinary, to legendary. Now, I must say, I am just giving ideas here, I haven't actually tried these methods of seasoning myself, but I am sure there are crazy people out there like me, with an extra turkey to go all experimental on.

1. Blackened Turkey. I love blackened anything so I could imagine a whole turkey coated in the Cajun spice of the gods. Inject that sucker with some of the seasoning mixed with butter, and call me over when it is ready!

2. Honey Roasted. Honey is liquid heaven. Drench your celebratory bird in honey and roast that sucker to perfection. I bet a fight breaks out at your table over the skin alone. Post pictures please!

3. Crouching Turkey, Hidden Flavor. Peel a bunch of garlic cloves. Tuck them between the skin of your bird and the meat. Do this all over the entire bird. Salt and pepper your bird, drizzle some olive oil on it, give it a massage, and cook it. When you pull the main attraction from the oven, the cloves should have dissolved, if not push on them and they should disintegrate. If that doesn't work, you fail. Throw the whole thing out and try again tomorrow. (not really)

4. Garbage Pot Turkey. You have the turkey, you have a bunch of stuff in your fridge, and you have NO CLUE what to do with it all. Well, do as I do. Open your fridge, and look around. Pick something you think may work well with Turkey. I open my fridge, I find onion, garlic, butter, beer, apples, and and orange. Score! I take the orange, squeeze the juice in a bowl, set aside. Chop the apples, onion and garlic. Insert inside poultry. Mix a hodge-podge of spices with the butter, and get under that skin. Paint your bird like a Picasso with the orange juice with pulp, sprinkle some seasoning on the outside. Put in pan, pour a beer in the bottom, and set to cook. Finally, don't forget to mention me in your "Cook of the Year" acceptance speech.

I hope I have given you some idea of how to amp up turkey day for you and your guests. No matter how you cook your turkey, or tofurkey this year, above all, have fun, and give thanks that you have all that you have. Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Broccoli and Cheese, If You Please Soup

Canned soup is great when you are sick, and you need sustenance. Or just don't feel like making a mess in your kitchen. But when the weather is chilly, and your stove is clean, soup is the perfect cure for both problems. The following recipe isn't the exact same one my mom used to make, but it is close, plus it is budget and time friendly. Add a cheater chicken, and some garlic bread and you have a yummy delish meal that will be a go-to cold weather dish.

1/2 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped broccoli
4 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (1 pound) loaf processed cheese food, cubed
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
1.) In a stockpot, melt butter over medium heat. Cook onion in butter until softened. Stir in broccoli, and cover with chicken broth. Simmer until broccoli is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. 
2.) Reduce heat, and stir in cheese cubes until melted. Mix in milk and garlic powder. 
3.) In a small bowl, stir cornstarch into water until dissolved. Stir into soup; cook, stirring frequently, until thick.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mushroom Stroganoff For The Meatless

 We eat meat in my family, lots and lots of red meat, chicken, and pork. We are obviously protein people. But, occasionally we do run across a friend or acquaintance that is anti meat. You know them as Vegetarians. Veggies are great, but I have never had to stop and consider all the things that we cook with that already have chicken and beef flavoring, or something similar. Tofu is outta bounds for me, and I will tolerate a chunk or two in some hot and sour soup, but Tofu dogs?? No. Not ever. Gah!!! So upon hearing that I would have a vegetarian joining my table this past weekend, I panicked, and then ran to my good ole red and white checkered cook book. Sure I could open some cans of veggies, and call free for all, but we don't treat guests like that. Only the family. I found a perfect answer to my "wtf do I make?" dilemma. It is called mushroom stroganoff, and it is pretty darn tasty for a meatless dish. Although, my first thought upon tasting the final product was "this would be really tasty with ground beef!" Sadly, our veggie loving guest couldn't make it after all, and I had a huge pot of it left over. So I cut up leftover steak and added it to the pasta, and served it for dinner last night. It was amazing!

1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large onion, sliced and separated into rings
1 pound assorted mushrooms (such as button, crimini, oyster and portabella), sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1 crushed vegetable bullion cube
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup sour cream
6 cups hot cooked egg noodles or linguini

1.) Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic, onion and mushrooms in margarine, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Stir in 1 tablespoon parsley and salt.

2.) Mix broth and flour; stir into mushroom mixture. sprinkle in crushed bullion cube Heat to boiling. Boil, stirring constantly, until thickened; reduce heat to low.

3 .)Stir in sour cream (do not boil). Serve over noodles. Sprinkle with parsley.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cheater Chicken: What You Have Been Missing

You have seen this before if you have ever been to any store that has a deli. They are popular, and tasty. But they have a darker, more sensual side to their existence. Normally, they come home with you, and go nicely with a side of mash and gravy. But when you aren't looking, they are flashing their juicy goodness at your recipe book, like the naughty little cheater chickens they are. Why exactly do I call it cheater chicken? Because unlike good little "Suzie Homemakers" that can strangle, pluck and boil a fresh chicken for a recipe, (or even just open a package and dump it in water), I can use the cheater and avoid the boiling mess and get to de-boning and chopping immediately. The flavor is also included with the chicken. Look Ma! No Seasoning! Now there are things that you still want to boil for, such as soups and stews. You can use the cheater, but you can't beat homemade broth.

But for the sake of my point, (I will eventually make one) let's say one night you are feeling like enchiladas, but you are in dire need of a siesta. That means you want enchiladas, but you are tired. Instead of going out to the coop (or freezer) for your main meat, scoop up a cheater. Cut that cheater up, and make cheater sauce (that is another discussion for another time), throw in tortillas, and cheese, and OLE! You have in your possession one sexy pan of enchiladas ready for your  enjoyment. Same goes for most chicken dishes. Add a cheater to a pan of broccoli cheese and rice casserole, or put it on a salad and call it "chef sal-lad". There are many many things I can think of to do with a cheater, other than eating it right from the package.

I encourage you to cheat in the kitchen when you feel like it. I don't care if you opened a package and dumped it in boiling water, you are cooking. You have to enjoy it to get good at it. If you are stuck in a kitchen grumbling about a long process, then look for ways to make it easier. I pride myself on getting meals prepped and on the table in less than an hour. But I can't always do that without my cheats. Above all, have fun, because if it is not fun, then it is a chore. Plus you cook they clean! (or at least that is how it is supposed to work)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Smack Your Mamma Chicken Pot Pie

    This is one of my favorite dishes in the world. The rich gravy, and puff pastry crust, well they just do it for me. This recipe is top notch, and there are many short cuts you can make that don't take away from the taste. My first suggestion is to buy a rotisserie chicken (aka: cheater chicken) from the deli. (Do not buy the lemon pepper flavor... eww!) De-bone your cheater chicken, make sure it is cut into bite size pieces. You can also used canned mushrooms, and a bag of frozen peas and carrots. As my daddy would say: "It's so good it would make you smack your own mamma!"

1 package (17.3 ounces) Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed
1/3 cup butter
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
3 medium onions, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/4 cups Chicken Broth or Chicken Stock
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 

1. Heat the oven to 400°F.  Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Roll the pastry sheet into a 12-inch square.  Press the pastry into a 2-quart round casserole.  Trim the excess pastry.  Prick the pastry thoroughly with a fork.  Place aluminum foil onto the surface of the pastry.
Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the aluminum foil.

2. Heat the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the carrots, onions and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp, stirring occasionally.  Add the flour and cook and stir for 3 minutes or until the flour is golden brown.  Slowly stir in the broth and heat to a boil.  Cook and stir until the mixture boils and thickens.
3. Stir in the mustard, poultry seasoning, chicken, peas and 3 tablespoons parsley.  Remove the skillet from the heat.

4. Unfold the remaining pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface.  Cut the pastry sheet crosswise into 6 (1 1/2-inch thick) strips.
4. Spoon the chicken mixture into the casserole.  Weave a lattice pattern over the filling with the pastry strips.  Trim any excess pastry.  Sprinkle with the remaining parsley.  Place the casserole onto a baking sheet.

5. Bake for 45 minutes or until the filling is hot and bubbling and the pastry is golden brown.

Daddy's Favorite Sweet Potato Pie

 This recipe is fairly simple, but time consuming. To cheat (which I sometimes do) I either used 1 large can of sweet potatoes, or microwave the fresh taters till soft. The crust is truly something special, and is probably Daddy's favorite part.  Serve with a huge dollop of homemade whipped cream!

This is what it looks like (sans the cranberry stuff on top)

Sweet Potato Filling
2 large sweet potatoes
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning (or less depending on flavor preference) 
2 tablespoons dark molasses
3 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream

1 refrigerated pie crust, softened as directed on box
1 cup crushed gingersnaps (about 20)
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely ground
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted


1. Heat oven to 400°F. Wash and pierce sweet potatoes. Place on rimmed baking sheet. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cut lengthwise in half; scoop out inside; discard skins. Mash sweet potatoes until no lumps remain. 
2. Turn oven temperature down to 350°F. 3 Unroll and place crust into ungreased deep-dish 9-inch glass pie plate. Crimp edges. Combine remaining crust ingredients. Press in bottom and about 1/2 inch up side of pie crust. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on cooling rack, about 30 minutes.  
3. Beat all filling ingredients except molasses, eggs, cream and sweet potatoes together in large bowl with whisk. Beat in 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes, molasses and eggs. Beat in cream. Pour mixture into cooled crust. Place pie on middle oven rack; place sheet of foil on rack below pie in case of spillover. Bake about 60 minutes or until filling is set.  
4. Remove from oven and let cool completely on cooling rack, about 3 hours.

Well Hellooooooooo

So instead of clogging my normal blog page with recipes that I use and collect, I decided to create a sister blog for them. Please enjoy the tempting treats I aim to suggest for you. DO NOT try to sue me if after baking and consuming these dishes if your pants don't fit anymore. Happy Eating!!!