Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spinach and Ham Rotini

This meal was actually a meal from leftovers which happens often, but rarely with so elegant an end-product.

Matt kept raving about it and it was then that I had underestimated his appreciation for spinach! Maybe I will add more next time...

You'll need:

8 oz. rotini
1 T. veggie oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth (or water with bouillion cubes)
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. half and half (or heavy cream)
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper
Ham, cubed, slivered or WHATEVER. I used leftovers equal to one cup or so.
1 # spinach, cooked and drained
Sharp Cheddar for topping dish

Cook pasta, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over med.Hi heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft, about five minutes.
Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, and half and half. Add bay leaf and salt and pepper. Cook until sauce is reduced by half, about 10-15 minutes.
Remove bay leaf from sauce and discard. Add ham pieces and spinach and simmer until heated through. Toss into cooked pasta and top with freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Serves 4

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Beef Jerky

The way to a man's heart is through his belly, right?

EXACTLY why Matt's Father's Day present was some homemade beef jerky!

(Despite his scary expression, he loved it. Which leads me to the question: WHY do men always make faces when a camera is pointed at them?!?!?)

Beef Jerky is so stinkin' easy to make at home if you have a food dehydrator, it is BEYOND me why people would pay the outlandish store prices for it! I mean, the bag is only 1/4 full ANYWAY!!

Here is a semi-spicy (but not overly so) version of Beef Jerky that actually starts out with a smidge of sweet.

For Jerky, you can use any meat but I always get the reduced-for-quick sale thinly sliced steaks for my jerky.

Once, I paid 48cents for the WHOLE package of steaks! That was the cheapest I have ever gone, most of the time I average about $1.00.

Slice your meat (I used a whole package of four thinly sliced steaks) into strips about an inch thick. If the cut of meat you are using has fatty portions, trim them off.

In a ziploc bag put 3T. sweet barbeque sauce (I LOVE Sweet Baby Ray's!! yummo) and anywhere from 1/4 c.- 1/2c. hot sauce (depending on how much meat you have) and about 2 T. water.

(If you use more meat, just make more marinade!)

Marinate overnight.

Next day, skim the extra marinade off the meat by pulling the strips through your two fingers and place in dehydrator. (If you leave the extra sauce on, the strips will be sticky and caramelized, not a good thing for jerky.

If your dehydrator has specific settings, use the meat one, otherwise have it set at around 150 degrees.

Depending on how thick the meat is, it can take from several hours to overnight so periodically check back. When the outside is dry looking but the strips are slightly pliable they are done.

(For thinly cut steaks like I used, it takes about 6 hours)
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It makes a GREAT gift!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Spanish Rice

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Spanish Rice, to me, is either win or lose. There is no mediocre. This one is definitely a win, and I *think* it has to do with the home-canned chili sauce (which means I will have to get that recipe on here too!). My canned sauce has a sweetness to it that I think would be lacking in the storebought.

Of course, make it with storebought if you must. And hey~if you want to add some sweetness, just add some sugar! Try it and let me know if you like it.

I like to serve Spanish Rice with some cheese quesadilla topped with salsa and sour cream. It's cheap, it's light, and it's muy delicioso.

Here's what you need:

* 1 pound lean ground beef
* 1 small to medium chopped onion
* half a green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 (14.5 ounce) can canned tomatoes
* 1 cup water
* 3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
* 1/2 cup chili sauce
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon brown sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 pinch ground black pepper
* 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Brown your ground beef and cook your onions in a large, oven safe pot over medium-high heat with a bit of oil. Drain excess fat and turn heat down to medium-low. Stir in the green bell pepper, tomatoes, water, rice, chili sauce, salt, brown sugar, cumin, Worcestershire sauce and ground black pepper.

Put the lid on and let simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add shredded cheddar cheese and put in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. (Or-in the mid summer, just put the lid on tight and turn heat down low on burner to avoid turning on the oven.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bacon and Broccoli Salad

This salad is so good, the flavor sometimes haunts me. I crave it, just like a pizza or fries. I just love this salad.

For Salad:
10 slices bacon
1 bunch fresh broccoli (about 3-4 stalks), cut into bite size
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup raisins

For dressing:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sunflower seeds

1. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the broccoli, onion and raisins. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, sugar and mayonnaise. Pour over broccoli mixture, and toss until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
3. Before serving, toss salad with crumbled bacon and sunflower seeds.

OPTIONAL ADDITION: This salad is also excellent with once can of mandarin orange slices added. My hubby requested it this way next time, and he doesn't even like mandarin oranges!

Strawberry Spinach Salad

This is superb. Simply divine. Don't be skeptical of the ingredients list, just step out in blind faith. Trust me, it will be worth it in the end.

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced onion
10 ounces fresh spinach - rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 quart strawberries - cleaned, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Pineapple Angel Layer Cake

Delicate. Light. Just the right amount of sweet with a tad of tropical.

This is a perfect ending to a filling meal, summer meal, or a diet meal.

  • 1 (20 ounce) can crushed pineapple, in juice, undrained
  • 1 pkg. (4 serving size) vanilla pudding
  • 1 cup thawed Whipped Topping
  • 1 angel food cake
  • fresh strawberries for garnish
  1. Mix pineapple with its juice and the dry pudding mix in medium bowl. Gently stir in whipped topping.
  2. Cut cake horizontally into three layers. Place bottom cake layer, cut-side up, on serving plate; top with 1-1/3 cups of the pudding mixture. Cover with middle cake layer and an additional 1 cup of the remaining pudding mixture. Top with remaining cake layer; spread top of dessert with the remaining pudding mixture.
  3. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Top with strawberries just before serving.

Angel Food Cake, from Scratch

Angel food cake is a deliciously light and mildly sweet cake. The storebought versions are good, but I think every one ought to taste a homemade version at least once before they die. It does require a lot of eggs-but please. Don't just throw away the yokes (as they are not used.) Save them. Use them. FREEZE them, for heavens sake. But please, don't just throw them out. Thank you.

What you need:

*18 egg whites
* 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
* 1 pinch salt
* 1 1/2 cups white sugar
* 1 cup cake flour
* 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350.. Sift cake flour and confectioners sugar together 5 times and set aside.

2. In a large clean bowl, whip egg whites with a pinch of salt until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar while beating, and continue to beat until very stiff. Add vanilla.

3. Quickly fold in flour mixture. Pour into a 10 inch tube pan (don't grease).

4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.

5. When cooling, oddly enough, you need to turn the cake upside down so that it doesn't lose its height. You can do this by inverting the pan onto an upturned metal funnel. When you take it out of the pan, you will need to gently scrape the sides of the pan with a butter knife to loosen the sides but the bottom should pop right out with a hearty thump.

Mac and Cheese

A few months ago, my sister and I went out together and her teenage daughter graciously took care of my two eldest children until they could be picked up by Papa on his way home from work. Only about an hour...but one to look forward to anyway.

On the drive there, five year old Corynn said "Mama. Will we get to stay for SUPPER? Because Samantha makes the best supper ever!"

Curious, I asked what the best supper ever would be classified as.

"Oh you know...those noodly things. With the cheese?!"

At that moment I thought to myself. "Golly. My all-American children haven't ever had macaroni and cheese BEFORE?! That is just SAD."

I don't get the box mixes from the grocery but homemade versions never really floated my boat. But that has now changed.

I vowed at that moment, that I was going to conquer the macaroni. As I tested things, I realized that my palette rejects the crumb topping on some mac and cheeses. I also realized that when it comes to mac and cheese, LOTS of cheese is a must. Finally, I discovered that creating a white sauce turned cheese-sauce was way better than just mixing up cheese and letting it melt.

Here. Let me show you. Here is how it is done.

(PS. Pardon the awful pictures. Odd colored ham doesn't really make ME salivate. It was just the lighting, which STINKS in my house in the middle of winter. When I make this again, if I remember, I will update the photo into something so visually appealing you will be drooling over the keyboard.)

You'll need:

About 12 oz. Macaroni

.....Prepare as directed and set aside.

~1 small onion, chopped
~2 T. butter

....Saute the onion in the butter until it is translucent

~1 T. flour

....Add to onion and butter mixture and stir until flour is coating onions and turning golden.

~1 2/3 c. heavy cream (yeah. you CAN use regular milk, but WHY?!?)

....Slowly add cream (or milk) to the flour-y mixture of onion and stir. Allow to boil over medium-high heat until thickened.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and if you are feeling exotic, sprinkle some cayenne pepper in there too.

now, brace yourselves....

3 cups shredded cheese. ( I like to use a variation of cheeses and that variation almost always includes jalepeno cheese. It really enhances the flavor.)

If you like creamy creamy macaroni and cheese, add the full three cups of shredded cheese to the prepared white sauce...let melt ( always stirring), add to the pasta and cook for just a moment or two more, until it is all melded and the pasta re-warmed. Then feel free to snarf.

If you like baked macaroni with a bit of a cheesy crust here and there, add two cups of cheese to the white sauce and stir until melted. Mix with cooked pasta (which is now in an oven safe pan) and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Bake until golden on top in a 350 degree oven (about 15 minutes)

Creamy Corn Casserole

This is an interesting mix of cornbread and spoonbread. VERY moist, not at all like cornbread, and yet: definitely has a taste LIKE cornbread. OK. I don't know how to explain it. All you have to know is that it is good, right?

I'll never forget: (uh oh, MEMORY ALERT!): It was our first year of marriage. I was a new wifey and had a new home to call my own. If it was nice, it was all me. If it was awful, it was all my fault. I chose to make it nice, although marrying an obsessive compulsive clean guy sorta forced me into that box.

I married not knowing a LICK about cooking. In fact, as a joke, I was gifted an egg boiler thingy because I didn't know how to hardcook eggs. Yeah. Come to think of it, maybe it WASN'T a joke...

Well, had had a few run-in's with food flops (like, every night) but I was determined to fulfill all my womanly roles, and one of them was entertaining. I invited my parents' over for supper, and then worked tirelessly to find some good (infallible) recipes. I cooked, I cleaned, I primped and primed. We sat down to eat after I spent a good portion of time fluttering about the kitchen and on the menu was....THIS. I don't remember what ELSE there was (I mean, sheesh. It WAS six years ago!) but that isn't important anyway. The fact that I remember THIS just goes to show you how...memorable a dish it is.

We sat. We ate. We visited. And then. Moment of truth: I got up to go refill something and as I stepped into the kitchen I heard Dad quietly say something to my mother.

My Dad, southern boy born and raised, said "Now THAT is what cornbread is supposed to taste like!"

No. He didn't say it to ME---that is what made it so special. Because anyone can say "Oh, this is DELICIOUS" out of kindness for your hospitality. And if anyone is going to conveniently and extravagently exaggerate, it will be your dear Dad. The fact that he said it to Mom out of admiration and not to make me feel good was what...made me feel good!

I walked back to my seat just a wee bit puffed up, sat just a wee bit taller, and smiled just a wee bit bigger. A "SCORE" was just what I had been needing after so many strike-outs.

It has been a delicious standby ever since.
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 (8.5 ounce) package dry corn bread mix
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can creamed corn
  • 1 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and lightly grease a 9x9 inch baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. If you really like sugar, you can sprinkle a wee bit on top too. That is one of my secret tricks. But keep it a secret, will ya?!?
  3. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden brown.
This is EXCELLENT served with chili, soups, or beef cuts. I usually make it with a meat the first night, and then crumble it on the bottom of our bowls and ladle chili on top. yum.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Christmas Meringues

Or in this case, POST Christmas Meringues.
YES...all these delectable, very HOLIDAY-ISH recipes are coming AFTER the holidays. I'm really organized and efficient that way.
But on the bright side~ here is a good way to use up all those extra candycanes that came off your tree and are cluttering every jar on every table in every room of your home.
These cookies are so delicious and SO light...and so guilt-free. Just my kind of cookie.
Not to mention, they have the added benefit of requiring FEW ingredients and ones that are almost always on hand. I love recipes that have all those things combined. They make me feel happy, whole, and comfortable.

2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
2 peppermint candy canes, crushed
In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.
Sprinkle with salt and cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased foil or paper-lined baking sheets; sprinkle with the crushed candy.
Bake at 225 degrees F for 1-1/2 hours. Turn off heat; leave cookies in the oven with the door ajar for at least 1 hour or until cool.
Store in an airtight container.
I usually make two batches at a time. Then, eat them all up in a day. (I'm kidding about that last part. Sortof.)
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Homemade Peppermint Schnapps

Who knew you could make your own booze?!? Well, I did.

Matt is the hard cider connoisseur and master beer brewer, and I've even tried my hand at wine making (though with not the greatest results~but, the wine was made from WEEDS for goodness' sake!) but never have I gone so elegant as to make schnapps.

(My goodness, after I post this everyone is going to think me a lush...)

This Christmas I handed out bottles of this homemade peppermint schnapps to a lucky few. At least, they will think themselves lucky only if they do not find this recipe...

the amount of corn syrup is positively sinful.

This is an easy recipe, but everyone will think you incredibly smart and talented...I am REALLY good at foolin' people.

2/3 cup sugar
4 cups corn syrup
4 cups vodka
4 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
~Combine sugar and corn syrup in saucepan over medium heat.
~Heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves.
~Remove from heat, add vodka, and stir well.
~Allow to cool in pan, covered.
~Add peppermint extract to mixture and pour into a sealable bottle.
If making for a gift, make a pretty label, wrap some peppermint ribbon or tie on a few peppermint sticks to make it really festive.
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Some Sweets: Two in One

Most years for Christmas, I enjoy making mounds upon mounds of various Christmas candies and cookies. I deliver them to neighbors, the mailman, family and of course, Matt's work. This year I took it easy and made less than a HANDFUL of goodies-but enough of each to still share the love.

Oreo Truffles~ the recipe everyone already has...

1 (16 ounce) package OREO Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, divided
1 (8 ounce) package PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
2 (8 ounce) packages Semi-Sweet chocolate chips, melted
2 T. white chocolate chips
Promptly eat several oreos. Hand over oreos to begging children also, lest you be unfair. THEN~
Crush remaining 36 cookies to fine crumbs; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1-inch in diameter.
Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. (Any leftover chocolate can be stored at room temperature for another use. PS. Anytime I have leftover dipping chocolate, I find something to dip or drizzle. This time was raisins...and oh la la---I liked them almost as much as the oreos. Almost.)
Put the white chocolate chips in a sandwich baggy and pound away your frustrations. OR let little fingers pound until crushed with rolling pin or itsy kitchen drawer hammer. Both are great for pounding.
Sprinkle white chocolate crumbs on top of dark chocolate truffles~BEFORE they cool.
Ta-Da! Who knew four ingredients could be so elegant?!?
Now-for a recipe NOBODY has...
Peanut Butter Fudge.
When I got this fudge recipe years ago, I decided right then and there I would be devoted to it for the rest of my life. I no longer try other peanut butter fudge recipes. These are just too good. And for the record: Matt thinks so too.
Put 2 c. sugar and 2/3 c. milk into saucepan and boil to softball stage (or 235 degrees)
Remove from heat.
Add 1 c. EACH marshmellow fluff and peanut butter and then 1 t. vanilla. Stir well and pour into a greased 8x8 pan.
Cool. Slice. and E.N.J.O.Y.
PS. For my brittle recipe, go HERE.
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Simplest Crock Stew....ever

This here is one of those recipes I never EVER would have tried if I glanced at the recipe card instead of tasting it firsthand.

My mother-in-law made it and it was so delicious I asked for the recipe...then she gave it to me and I about had a heart attack.

SURELY, it COULDN'T be that simple. SURELY-a recipe like that couldn't produce the wonderfully melded stew I was consuming at present. But it could! And DOES!

2-3 large sized potatoes, sliced
2-3 medium carrots, sliced
1 can of peas, drained (or frozen-like I use)
3 medium onions, sliced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, browned
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 10 ounce can tomato soup
1 10 ounce can water

Brown the beef while you are slicing the veggies. Then layer first six ingredients in order listed into your handy dandy crockpot.

Mix a can of tomato soup and a can of water and POUR over everything. Season with salt and pepper if you like.

THEN~ the hard part. Turn the crockpot on low and leave it alone. For 6-8 hours. (Or turn it on HIGH for 2-4)

What a simple meal! And very delicious. But don't take MY word for it...
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