Monday, December 19, 2011

Old Favorite With a New Twist

One of my family's favorite comfort foods is broccoli casserole.  It's my husband's specialty and he's forever tinkering with it.  Finally, he's come up with a recipe he actually had me write down.  We hope your family enjoys it as much as we do!

By the way, it freezes beautifully, so we make really big batches to freeze servings for later!

Savory Broccoli Casserole

1 stick of Kroger's Nice & Cheesy (2 pounds)
2 cans cream of chicken soup
6 cups of cooked rice (slightly underdone)
3 cups broccoli pieces
3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cubed and marinated in creamy Italian dressing
3 T. butter
3 T. Watkins Chicken Soup & Gravy Mix
1 T. Watkins Garlic & Parmesan Dip Mix
1 can French's Fried Onions

Cook chicken in skillet prepared with about 1 T. olive oil.  Save drippings to add to dish.  If you do not like chunks of broccoli, blend the broccoli and chicken soup until desired texture.  Cube cheese in large casserole dish with broccoli, cream of chicken soup, and butter.  Microwave until melted.  Add chicken and dripping and mix.  Add soup mix and dip mix and stir.  Add rice and stir until it begins to thicken.  Sprinkle onions on top & bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Never Stop Having Seconds--and Firsts

As I sit here, staving off the turkey coma, I can't help remembering holidays past.  One of the harbingers of the holidays at my grandmother's was the reappearance of the cookbooks on her counter.  Now, my grandmother seldom used a recipe for everyday cooking, but the holiday recipes were carefully selected, usually from her favorite Southern Cooking . . . Ripley Style.  Published in 1963 by the Business and Professional Women's Club of Ripley, Mississippi, this cookbook is more than a collection of everyday and holiday recipes from middle-class Southern women; it is a slice of Southern life, of my life.

So, despite the fact that we're cutting back this year (whether it be for burgeoning waistlines or flattening wallets), I felt we needed a treat, I needed a treat, and I turned to the "Ripley cookbook" to fill the bill.

My Ripley cookbook was, actually, my mother's book and is well-thumbed and well-used.  I've made stroganoff, Spanish rice, fudge pie, and many other of its recipes.  But I had assiduously avoided two recipes--chocolate meringue pie and divinity.  In the South, meringue (and its cousin divinity) is a tricky thing; the summer humidity makes it both gummy and sticky.  Consequently, meringue pies tend to be fall and winter delights.  After three days of rain, Thanksgiving morning dawned bright after an early morning light fog.  I decided to give the pie a try.  Like my mother, and my grandmother before me, I separated the eggs, mixed and cooked the filling, and poured it into a store-bought crust.  After it baked and cooled, I fired up my 1980s vintage KitchenAid mixer and began whipping the egg whites.  Despite my worry, the soft peaks formed.  Long story made short, it worked!

That got me thinking.  Why should I have been surprised?  There's no reason for me to have been afraid to try this before now.  Why is this the first time I've tried to make meringue?  You're right.  Failure--or the fear of it, in truth.  But it didn't fail, and I felt like I'd accomplished a long-held goal I did not even know I had.

So, before I enjoyed seconds, I accomplished a first.  I should do that more often.  What about you?

Chocolate Pie

1.5 c. sugar
2 T. flour
3 T. cocoa
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
1.5 c. evaporated milk
3 eggs, separated
1 unbaked 9" pie shell

Combine sugar, flour, and cocoa in a sauce pan.  Mix well.  Add milk, vanilla, beaten egg yolks, and butter.  Cook over slow hear until very slightly thickened.  Pour in unbaked pie shell.  Bake in oven 350 degrees until done.  Cool.

Cover with meringue made of 3 egg whites, 6 T. sugar, a pinch of salt, and 0.5 t. vanilla.  Slowly bake until brown.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weeknight Lasagna

Some nights you want something special, but don't have time to make sauce from scratch.  Here's a yummy alternative using prepared sauce.  If your garden is in full swing, add sliced or julienned squash, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and onions.

48-64 oz. prepared spaghetti sauce (I used Hunt's Garlic and Herb)
2 large cans sliced mushrooms
prewashed baby spinach
2 pounds ground meat, browned and drained (I used 1 pound ground beef and 1 pound Jimmy Dean pork sausage)
1 jar alfredo sauce
12 oz. ricotta
1/4 t. garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 1/2 t. dried parsley
1/2 t. salt
1 t. salt (for boiling noodles)
2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons shaved parmesan
9 lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, fill deep pot with water and bring to a boil. When water is boiling, cook noodles until al dente.  While waiting for water to boil, brown meat then drain.  Mix together ricotta, garlic powder and parsley.  Prepare an 11x13 baking dish with cooking spray (I really prefer Watkins Cooking Spray).  Ladle about 1/2 cup of spaghetti sauce into baking dish and spread to cover.  Spread 3 cooked lasagna noodles over the sauce in the baking dish.  Spread half of meat on noodles, half of ricotta on meat, one can of mushrooms, half jar of alfredo sauce, a layer of spinach, and about one third remaining sauce.  Layer three noodles on top, the repeat previous layer.  Finish with a layer of noodles, sauce, mozzarella, and parmesan (in that order).  Bake a 350 degrees for one hour.  Let stand for about 30 minutes before serving.

This makes a huge lasagna which contains eight generous portions.  Serve with salad, a baguette, and your favorite wine!  (It's even better the next day!)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Savory Scarborough Turkey

One of the biggest stresses of the holiday season is wondering if the turkey will turn out perfectly.  Many fuss and stress and inject and fry and do all sorts of unnecessary things.  Roasting a turkey is practically the easiest thing on earth.  Here's my "secret" recipe!

1 turkey, 15-18 pounds, thawed, drained, cavities emptied
2 large sweet onions, peeled and halved
1 bunch of fresh parsley, halved
1 bunch of fresh sage, halved
1 bunch of fresh rosemary, halved
1 bunch of fresh thyme, halved
1 t. Salt, kosher
1/4 t. Black pepper, freshly cracked
1/4 t. rubbed sage
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried rosemary
4 T. olive oil, plain (not extra-virgin)
4 T. unsalted butter, melted.

Equipment:  Roasting pan with rack, aluminum foil, meat thermometer (absolutely essential)

Place wire rack in roasting pan and tuck the wings under the bird (as best as possible).  Fill the neck cavity with half of the fresh herbs, and using one half of an onion like the "stopper."  Tuck the skin under the bird.  Fill the large cavity with the remaining fresh herbs and use the remaining onions to seal the cavity.  If the legs are not wired together, tie them together with butcher's twine. 

Dry the skin with a paper towel, then slather with the olive oil, making sure all the skin is covered.  Rub the dried herbs into the skin.  Tent aluminum foil over the entire bird (you will probably need two lengths) to prevent burning the skin.  Pour water into the roasting pan so that it covers the bottom but does not touch the bird.  If you can refill through the cooking process, do so.

If you have a programmable oven, set it to cook at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes per pound.  I set mine before I go to bed and let the bird cook while I sleep.  At the end of the 20 minutes per pound time period (5 hours for a 15-pound bird), check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.  I like 175-180 degrees deep in the thickest part of the breast and near the thigh.

Once your bird is nearing done, about 170-175 degrees, remove tent and drizzle butter over the skin.  Continue cooking until correct internal temperature is attained and the skin is crispy and golden brown.  Let set for 5-10 minutes before carving.  Your bird should be juicy and tender.

Serve on a bed of herbed wild rice.  For larger birds, you will need to increase the herbs.

Count your blessings during this holiday season!

He Asked For More! Cranberry Sauce

My father-in-law has always liked the canned, gelatin cranberry sauce.  This year, many of us are watching our weight and working toward a more natural diet so I tried making whole-berry sauce.  He loved it!  He asked for more!  My DH loved it!  And, it's lower in calories, too!  What's not to love?  I adapted the recipe from the back of the cranberry bag:

1 bag fresh cranberries, washed, then ground in food processor
1 cup Splenda(tm) (or sugar if you're not watching carbs)
Water to cover in saucepan

Equipment:  2-quart saucepan, food processor with chopping blade, spoon, and final serving dish

Wash, pick out the bruised berries, then grind the cranberries until they are in about 1/4 to 1/8 inch pieces.  Turn into the saucepan and add Splenda(tm), then water to just more than cover.  Simmer on low, stirring often, until the cranberries are soft and the mixture glossy.  They should thicken slightly.  Turn into the final serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until serving.  I made this at least a day in advance.

Important note:  DO NOT STIR once you've put the mixture into the serving bowl until you serve.  This will thicken a bit in the refrigerator.

Stand back and enjoy the contented sighs!

What a Waffle!

Who wouldn't like waffles for breakfast?  A while back I had the idea to use one of my favorite kitchen staples, Martha White muffin mixes, to make waffles!  As muffins, you can't beat the value of Martha White mixes--one envelope makes a half-dozen muffins for less than $2.  Just imagine what kind of waffles they would make!  Well, this past Sunday I tried out two of my favorite flavors:  Apple Cinnamon and Banana Nut.  I dumped the mix into a bowl with a pour spout and added 1/2 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons evaporated milk.  Stir until just mixed.  Let sit for a few minutes to thicken before cooking in a pre-heated waffle iron until golden.  (Don't forget to spray your waffle iron with cooking spray!)  These are very tender so be careful when removing them from the waffle iron.  Drizzle a little melted butter over and keep warm until serving with your favorite syrup.  I can't wait to try out Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chocolate Chip.  Wow!

Savory Home Made Mac and Cheese

With everyone's busy lifestyle, it's easy to become reliant on fast food.  It's not necessary, especially when comfort food is so easy and quick!

Home Made Mac and Cheese

16 oz. Kroger Nice-n-Cheesy (yes, it is better than Velveeta)
8 oz. evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
12 oz. small shell noodles
1 teaspoon salt

Fill stock pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add noodles and salt and stir.  Cook until al dente.

While the macaroni is cooking, cut the cheese into 1" cubes.  Put the cheese, the milk, the onion powder, and nutmeg into a covered casserole and microwave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until smooth.

When noodles are cooked, add to cheese mixture, coating evenly.  Sprinkle paprika over top.  This is ready to eat now or can be browned in the oven at 350 degrees.

For a one dish-meal, add meat (ground beef, leftover roasted meat, bacon, even franks!) and a colorful vegetable (English peas, chopped sweet peppers, carrot).   Use your imagination!