Come on in! Let's talk FOOD!

"Bacon grease makes pretty much anything taste better!" is the local philosophy and I grew up on good, down home country cookin'! Although I've ventured into a healthier way of eating (some of the time) I still enjoy many of the favorites of my childhood. I also have a passion for Italian food and I'm slowly but surely learning the pleasures of cooking with fresh herbs. Here I'll share with you a broad spectrum of recipes...some healthier than others, but all of them guaranteed DELICIOUS! : )

*I have imported posts from my other blog. These posts may involve topics other than food, but they do include recipes or food related information at some point in the post. Future posts to this blog will be more strictly food-related but I did want to include these recipes here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banana Nut Muffins

Funny how you can take these...

Mash them and mix them with a few other ingredients, so they look like this...

Then bake it to make it turn into these...


I have tried numerous banana muffin recipes over the years
and just never found the one that was my idea of perfect.
They were either too dry, too coarse, too bland or didn't have enough banana flavor.

Today I decided to just use my Mom's banana bread recipe
and put the batter into muffin tins to bake.
THAT was a GREAT idea!

I've always thought Mom's banana bread was the best around anyway,
but somehow I just didn't think it would make the best muffins.
I was looking for a slightly smoother texture for the muffins
than what I thought the bread batter would provide.

I'm happy to report that I was quite mistaken.

These are the most delicious banana muffins I've ever tasted!
And the texture is exactly what I was hoping it would be.
Here is the recipe and please remember...
I always do my own thing with recipes like this, so yes...I have changed it up a bit from the original that Mom gave me, but I can assure you I didn't hurt it one little bit. ; )

Banana Bread or Muffins
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup Crisco oil
3 large, overly ripe bananas
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 heaping Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts, if desired (I LOVE this with walnuts!)

Cream sugar and oil. Add eggs and mix well. Sift dry ingredients into mixture and add mashed bananas. Pour into greased and cinnamon/sugared loaf pan or muffin tin. Bake at 350* until brown.
loaf pan = 40-50 minutes or muffins = 20-24 minutes or 13"x9" pan = 30 minutes

Tips and Tricks:
*I always double this recipe and it works very well. I have doubled some recipes in the past that do not double well, changing the consistency or flavor in some way. This one is PERFECT for doubling and it gives you some to share with friends and family. : )

*If you are short a banana or two, you can use applesauce to pick up the slack.
That's exactly what I did today!
Since I had only 4 bananas and I needed 6 to double the recipe,
I simply added what I thought was enough applesauce to equal 2 bananas.
I would never substitute for more than one banana per recipe
or you'll lose too much banana flavor.

*When making muffins, I fill the cups almost completely to the top,
not 3/4 full like for cupcakes.
You want a nice, rounded crown on your muffin and you won't get it if you don't fill the cup.
And I sprinkle the top of the batter with cinnamon/sugar
just before putting them in the oven.
I have also made a streusel topping for them
using flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and cold butter.
Mix until crumbly and then sprinkle on top of the batter before baking.

Attempting to add a printable version below...just click on it!

Printable Version of Banana Bread or Muffins

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fried Apple Pies

Many of my best childhood memories involve time spent in the kitchen. There was always something delicious coming out of the oven or simmering on the stove and I treasure the many down-home recipes I inherited from my Mom and my grandmother. I hope to share lots of these recipes with you in the coming months, but you do need to understand that many times I'm shooting from the hip when it comes to measurements. You see, they don't make measuring spoons and cups marked "about that much" and "just a tad". And that happens to be the way much of the cooking is done around here. : ) Still, I'm giving you my best estimates and in some cases I have actually measured out the ingredients to make sure they're as accurate as possible.

That being said, you need to know that this particular recipe is not one of those that was accurately measured. ; )

Just try it. They're pretty tough to mess up and everyone loves them!

***When I name a specific brand of an ingredient, it is a matter of personal preference, trial and error with other brands, or simply what I think works best. I am receiving no reimbursement from any product manufacturers and should that ever change, you'll be the first to know! : ) ***

Fried Apple Pies

Baking Mix (your favorite brand, or if you have your own biscuit recipe...use it!)
cooked apples
Crisco shortening
a good nonstick skillet (I adore my WearEver hard anodized!)
cooked apples or *shudder* CANNED pie filling ( apples is not that difficult!)

Here are my starting ingredients:

My baking mix is from Save A Lot and the brand is Ginger Evans. I know everyone doesn't have a Save A Lot store nearby but if you do, it's worth the trip there to get this baking mix.

The bowl of filling is the result of some Golden Delicious apples I had forgotten were in the fridge and by the time I stumbled across them, they were somewhat withered and perfect for cooking.
Peel (though you don't have to peel them), core, slice, and cook with a little water, butter, sugar and cinnamon. Makes the house smell great, too. : )

{ The most important thing in this pic is the fork right there in the front. In this house, it is lovingly referred to as a 'Mawmaw Fork'. : ) It is a piece from my Mawmaw Jones's everyday flatware. I have only a couple of the forks, a couple of the spoons and a handful of the knives. I use one of these forks to mix pretty much anything I make. And I'm tellin' ya, that's the secret to my kitchen success. : ) }

Mix your biscuit mix according to the directions on the package, but add a little extra mix to make a not-so-soft dough. For rolled and cut biscuits you want a softer dough. When you need to pat it out, fill it and lift it into a frying pan, stiffer is better. ; )

Sprinkle some mix on the counter where you're working. Take a ball of dough about 1/3 cup in size and pat it into a circle about 1/4" thick.

Before filling, lift dough to be sure it is not stuck to the counter. There is nothing worse than getting the filling in there and then discovering the dough is stuck.
Not that I've done that much.

Now spoon on some yummy, sweet, cinnamon-laden apple deliciousness.

Fold over the dough and press the edges to seal.

Now place the pie in the heated skillet.
You should have about this much Crisco in there:

(Just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.)

You will have to add more throughout the cooking process,
but I don't like to have them floating in grease.
That's why a nonstick skillet is good.

Now start adding pies! : ) Fry them on low heat.
Nothing worse than a pie that's black on the outside, gooey on the inside.

Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, or until golden. You do NOT want to turn the pies more than one time. Trust me. Turning multiple times just makes them really greasy.
And as soon as you turn one over, sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar.
Then you get to make it do a little trick.
Once it is nice and golden brown on both sides, you get to teach it to stand, like this:

Sometimes that little bit of dough around the edge doesn't get quite done if you forget this step,
so be sure to give it at least a minute or so standing on edge.

And in the end, you get this:

Do those look delicious or what???

*Don't make up more pies than you have room for in the skillet.
They need to go into the hot grease as soon as the edges are sealed.
Otherwise, the apples make the dough soggy and it's impossible to get them
to the skillet in one piece.*

*Be generous when sprinkling your work surface with baking mix.
Unlike making some breads, these fried pies won't get overly tough
because you added too much flour.
That doesn't mean you want to make the dough completely dry!
Just add enough to make it manageable.*

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Spinach Salad Pitas

PLEASE don't let the word 'spinach' turn you away from this recipe! I am not a huge fan of it but I LOVE this stuff. It is terrific as an appetizer and doesn't have to be stuffed in pitas. It's also great served on crackers. My MIL got this recipe from a friend and shared it with me a few years ago. It has been craved often since that time. ;)

Spinach Salad Pitas

2-10 oz. packages of frozen spinach

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped onion

2 boiled eggs, chopped

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish (not horseradish mustard, but the creamy kind)

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vinegar

1 ¼ cups mayonnaise

Thaw spinach and squeeze out the excess moisture. Add celery, onions, eggs and cheese. Mix remaining ingredients to make dressing. Combine and refrigerate overnight. Serve in pita pockets cut into quarters.

*Important* Slice pita pockets in half to fill. Once stuffed, slice again into quarters. Fill pitas no more than a couple of hours before serving or they will become soggy. Keep refrigerated.

Mexican Torte

Today was a busy day in the Williams household. I got started on those closets I mentioned on Monday and I made wonderful progress! The main linen closet is all finished, as is the closet in my bathroom. Now the one in the kids' bathroom....well, let's just say that will be tomorrow's project. It deserves a day all its own. Egad!

Anyway, with all that work taking place around here today, I needed something quick and easy for dinner. I also wanted something hot and filling. I ended up making a Mexican recipe I first discovered more than 15 years ago. It's a Mexican torte that is not only delicious, but also really easy to adjust to your family's tastes. I've made it many different ways over the years, depending upon who I was feeding. Nowadays it is a little more bland than I used to make it because the two kids living in my house at the moment don't like hot and spicy much.

Sure hope they grow out of that soon.

Here is a little peek at tonight's dinner, as well as the recipe and step by step instructions. Really easy, really delicious!

First you lightly grease a pie plate. I have skipped this step in the past and always regretted it. It tends to make the bottom tortilla get a little tough during baking. So get it greased (lightly) and drop in a flour tortilla. Then you start to layer:

First layer (sorry, forgot to take the pic until I had the second layer on.) is a can of refried beans.

Press a tortilla onto the beans, then add 1/2 pound of seasoned taco meat. I browned and crumbled ground beef and used Old El Paso taco seasoning. I have used other brands but this is the one we tend to like best.

Chop about half of a small onion and sprinkle that on the meat.

Then add another tortilla. At this point, if you have a spicy-food loving family, you should spread on a can of chopped green chilies and some shredded sharp cheddar. But if you have my family, you just add more meat and LOTS of shredded sharp cheddar.*

*If you do the chopped green chilies layer, continue to add the meat/cheese layer on top of it. The top layer should always be meat and cheese.

Then you bake it in a preheated 350* oven for about 25 minutes, or until the cheese is all melty and the edges of the tortillas are starting to turn a little golden.

Now comes the hard part.

Let it sit there, untouched, for about 5 minutes or so. It's difficult, I know. At this point you're wanting to dig in and devour, but trust's worth the pain it inflicts. It'll stay together much better when you serve it and not turn into a huge mess on your plate.

And this is the end product.

After you've add some shredded lettuce, a few diced tomatoes, some taco sauce and two or three (or TEN) jalapeno slices.

Oh. And a dollop of Daisy. :) That's the best part.

Served with a little Mexican rice and lots of love. :)

If you're really on the ball, you'll have already browned and seasoned taco meat in the freezer that you can just thaw and use at the last minute. I do that often, but of course I had none ready today and had to start from scratch.

However you have to do it, it's still quick and easy and makes a hot and satisfying meal on a cold winter's evening. :)

Jam Cake

Since ragweed pollen has taken over outside, I have been spending a little more time inside. This means I've been seeing a lot more of my kitchen. It seems that during the summer months I spend less time in there and more time at the grill, but hayfever will lure me back every time.

As busy as this summer has been, we have pretty much relied upon store bought treats to satisfy the sweet tooth. This is not typical of this household. There is almost always a cake on the cake stand or homemade cookies in the pantry. But I am happy to report that fall always puts me in a baking mood! :) Pumpkin rolls and pumpkin pies and pumpkin cakes...Apple pies and apple cakes and apple dumplings...and that's just to name a few.

I guess right now, since I'm pretty much forced to be indoors anyway, I'm kind of practicing for the baking frenzy that is to come. ;)

The other day I wanted to bake a cake but quickly realized I was low on some key ingredients. I really didn't want to run to the store so I was determined to find a cake recipe that didn't require 2 cups of sugar, since I had only about 1 1/2 cups in the canister. (Looks like I won't be voted Homemaker of the Year either!)

Did you ever notice how almost every cake recipe out there calls for 2 cups of sugar???

Then I found it. It was in one of my church cookbooks and I should have known I'd find it there. Almost every yummy recipe known to humankind comes from a local church cookbook. Those church ladies know how to cook! :)

This ended up being extremely delicious and I wanted to share the recipe with you. While I didn't think to take pics of the mixing and baking process, I did snap a shot of the finished product.

Well, almost finished. You know how I am. I can't leave well enough alone. I absolutely MUST do some little something to make it my own. Before I served it I added a raspberry glaze and dusted it with powdered sugar. YUMMY!!!

Here is the recipe:

Jam Cake
1 cup sugar
1 cup margarine
4 eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup blackberry or raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350*. Lightly grease and flour bundt pan.

Cream margarine an sugar thoroughly. Add well beaten egg yolks. Dissolve soda in buttermilk. Sift together flour, baking powder, and spices and add alternately with buttermilk to sugar/margarine mixture. Beat egg whites until stiff and add to batter. Stir in jam* and mix well. Bake for 60 minutes or until done.

*I put the jam in a small bowl and stirred it up well until there were no lumps. This allows it to blend into the batter much better.

For the glaze I added...
In a microwave safe bowl, heat about 1/3 cup jam (the same kind you used in the cake) in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir well to remove any lumps. You may need to heat it a few more seconds to get it to the right want it to be 'pourable'. Use a spoon to drizzle it over the cake, allowing it to run down the sides. Just before serving, dust lightly with powdered sugar.

While you really don't taste the jam that's in the cake, the glaze adds a definite POP of flavor! :) If you like spice cake, you'll love this. It is moist and delicious!

Slow Food

I've been reading about the 'slow food' movement. No, it doesn't mean your veggies are having trouble getting around or your fruits are being lazy. It means taking the time necessary to ensure that the food your eating isn't processed and full of additives. It means having this:

instead of this:

It means preserving the methods of food preparation that our grandparents utilized back before canned and boxed goods became the norm; before there was a McDonald's or a Burger King at every intersection;

before Chef Boy Ardee and Campbell's took up residence on the shelves of your pantry.

It's a great theory. Going back to the basics, cooking meals from scratch, simmering your own stew, making your own broth, baking your own bread, rendering your own lard, milling your own flour...



Some days I don't even have time to stop and pee

let alone mill my own flour!

I'm afraid that more often than not I'm a full speed ahead kind of girl.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE cooking and baking! There are days when I could spend hours in the kitchen and my family loves it when I do. I love experimenting (yes, I'm one of those annoying people who has a terrible time following a recipe too closely), the chopping, the mixing, the feeling of accomplishment when your family appreciates all the time and work you put into making something to please them. It's a great feeling!

You can just call me

Or not.

I try, but I definitely fall short.

If there were no Burger Kings or Taco Bells, no Ore Idas or Oscar Mayers....well let's just say we'd probably all starve. Spring has sprung, meaning softball/baseball and track seasons are in full swing and I'm officially licensed to operate Mom's Taxi Service. I'm on a first name basis with drive-thru personnel at all the major fast food joints in town.

I admire anyone who can do it all, I really do. I just decided a long while back that not doing it all is well worth the reduction in stress levels. My kids enjoy their sports and I enjoy watching them enjoying their sports. I still make homecooked meals on days that aren't overbooked. I even bake my own bread from time to time, but good ol' Pillsbury Better for Bread works just fine for me.

Someday, when the kids are grown and I have too much time on my hands, I know I'll do a lot less fast food and a lot more cooking from scratch. But for now I'll just keep doing the best I can with the time I have. I'll feed them as healthily as possible and appreciate the time we have together, even if it is moving by at warp speed.

So tell me, at what speed are you moving?

Easy Cream Cheese Danish

There has been much talk of cream cheese danish here and the following is simply proof positive that I am easily manipulated when it comes to food. If I read about it, smell it, see it or am in any way encouraged to think of it, I will probably end up making it.

I got this recipe from a friend a couple of years ago and my family LOVES it. It's especially delicious while still warm from the oven. And the best part is that chances are really good you already have the ingredients at home!

So here's where it all begins. Well, this and a cup of sugar. Didn't figure you needed to see a cup of sugar. Be sure to let the cream cheese come to room temperature before you start, but the crescent rolls should be straight from the fridge so they're easier to handle.

Now put that soft, smooshy cream cheese in a mixing bowl along with the cup of sugar and a little vanilla (I never measure, but I'd say a teaspoon) and beat it until well blended. Like this:

Now find a really pretty 13"x9" baking pan/dish like this cutie I have here.

Isn't it pretty? My MIL got it at a yard sale and gave it to me many, many moons ago. Love the cuteness of it!

Lightly grease your own cute pan and then unroll the crescent rolls into it, pinching together the seams and patting it gently to the sides and ends of the pan. You don't want it to come up on the sides much at all. Just enough to make a slight 'lip' around the edge.

*Note: My ultra-cute baking dish is not truly a 13"x9", but it just begs to be used and I comply. It is actually a little small for this recipe and if you use a 13"x9", your dough will appear a little thinner than this.

Then you spread on your yummilicious cream cheese mixture like this:

Put down a piece of waxed paper and open up that other can of crescent rolls. Unroll them onto the waxed paper, pinching the seams closed and patting it out evenly until it is large enough to cover the top of the yummilicious mixture, like so:

Now for the fun part. Pick up the waxed paper and invert it over the pan, then peel back the paper.

Gently pat down the dough so that it is touching the cheesy mixture all across the top. Don't press too hard! You don't want it to squish up the sides.

Looks kinda plain, doesn't it? We can't have that! Whatever shall we do???


Let's sprinkle the top with lots of cinnamon and sugar!!!

Now into a 375* oven for 15-20 minutes, or just until it turns a lovely golden brown, like so:

And this:

And this:

Tell me that doesn't look excrutiatingly delicious. It makes your tastebuds ache in anticipation, doesn't it?

If you let it sit until it reaches room temperature, the center will set up enough that you can actually pick it up and eat it, but I do love it warm and kind of gooey.

A little if this isn't yummy enough, you can also add a can of pie filling (blueberry, cherry, apple, peach, etc.) on top of the cream cheese and before you add the top crust. Talk about sinfully delicious!

So go check the fridge.

Find the cream cheese.

Find the crescent rolls.

Look behind the leftovers.

And in the crisper drawer.

They're in there SOMEWHERE!

And get busy baking!

Mom's Cornbread

How 'bout a nice, hot skillet of cornbread? Slather on a little butter...maybe some apple butter. With the snow blowing here today, this just seemed like the perfect thing to chase away the cold.

I won't bore you with the trivial steps, but I will show you the all-important ones.

This is the batter, all mixed up and ready to go. (Just follow the directions in the recipe below and you'll be just fine. :) )

And this is the piping hot cast iron skillet, fresh from the oven and anxiously anticipating the arrival of the above batter.

And then the two shall meet (just LISTEN to that wonderful sizzle!) and so begins a beautiful (if somewhat brief) relationship.

See how it's bubbling up and crisping around the edges???

So, after about 25 minutes in a hot oven, this is what you'll have...

Isn't it beautiful???

Wish I could put a scratch-n-sniff on your computer screen. That would definitely seal the deal.

So here is the recipe for this absolute deliciousness. I grew up on it, usually with a pot of brown beans and a slice of onion. But I have found that there are many meals that are vastly improved by the addition of a steamy hot slice of this corn meal ambrosia on the side. And often times it just hogs the spotlight, no meal necessary. Grab some butter, slather it on and you're set.

Mom’s Cornbread

1 ½ cups plain corn meal (NOT corn meal mix)
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup of sugar
2 eggs
Oil (approximately 2-3 Tablespoons)
Buttermilk enough to make the batter pourable

Preheat oven and cast iron skillet with 2 tablespoons oil to 425*. Do not get oil on sides of skillet, only bottom. This will allow the batter to ‘climb’ the sides of the pan.
Put dry ingredients in sifter and sift into mixing bowl. Add eggs, oil and buttermilk. Stir, adding just enough buttermilk to make the batter pour.
When oven is ready, remove skillet. Pour batter into skillet and return to oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and set. Immediately turn out onto serving plate and cover with a towel to keep warm until served.