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.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bread Pudding and Vanilla Sauce

First a little history lesson...

It was the early 1930s in the small coal town of Hugheston in the Kanawha Valley of West Virginia. Times were tough and money was tight. Very few coal miners' wives didn't know how to pinch a penny until it squealed, and they were always looking for new ways to make that paycheck stretch just a little further. Clothes were mended until they were more patches than solid fabric and they were passed down from one child to the next. Groceries were bought with great care and planning so that nothing went to waste. Nothing.

Frona Jones was a coal miner's wife raising three children on her husband's meager salary. They weren't exactly poor, they could make ends meet, but there was nothing extra left at the end of a pay period. They were in no worse shape then any of the other families in Hugheston and were probably better off than some, but it took constant diligence on Frona's part.

One day while doing her housework, Frona looked up to see her oldest son, TJ, coming in the door. "Mommy, can I go up the holler to play? I promise to be home by supper." TJ was 11 or 12 years old and he knew to be polite and mannerly because Frona expected it of him, his brother and his sister.

As she went about her housework she proceeded to question him as to exactly where he would be playing, what he would be doing and with whom. TJ politely answered her questions but Frona soon realized that it sounded as if he might be eating something. When she looked up she saw him pull something out of his pocket and pop it into his mouth. She was appalled!

"TJ! What on earth are you eating out of your pocket?" she demanded to know.

"Pudding, Mommy." TJ's reply was somewhat muffled by whatever it was he had in his mouth and Frona once again demanded to know what it was he was eating.

"Pudding, Mommy! It's pudding!"

When she was certain that he had indeed said 'pudding', Frona decided that young TJ had a smart mouth. Who on earth would put pudding in their pocket?

"Young man, don't you be smart with me!"

"No, ma'am. I'm not! It really is pudding!" TJ said, and he went on to tell her how the mother of one of his friends offered him something called bread pudding and that it was delicious and he could even carry it in his pocket! He went on to show Frona the small piece that remained and even let her taste it. That's when she told TJ that he could go play, but only after he returned to his friend's house and asked his mother for that recipe. It ended up being a great way to use bread that was too stale for sandwiches and it took very little sugar to make this special treat for the entire family.

And that, my friends, is how bread pudding became a favorite of my family. You see, Frona was my grandmother and TJ my uncle. Mama Jones shared this story with me the first time I made bread pudding for her. She came up with the sauce recipe elsewhere and made it occasionally to serve over the pudding.

My best advice is this: If you want to eat it with the sauce, you're better off to put it on a saucer or in a dish as opposed to in your pocket. ; )

Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 or 4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 can evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed) + 1 can of water
1 teaspoon vanilla
Stale bread

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a 13"x9" metal or glass cake pan.

In medium size mixing bowl, use a whisk to beat two eggs just until well mixed. Add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat with whisk until thoroughly combined, then add milk and vanilla. Whisk together then add can of water and mix again.
Tear bread into small chunks and drop into milk mixture.

Add bread, stirring occasionally with a spoon or spatula (not the whisk), until most (but not quite all) of the liquid is absorbed.

Pour into greased pan and spread it out evenly.

Put in 350* oven. Pudding is done when it no longer 'jiggles' when touched in the center.

Depending upon the staleness of the bread, this can take anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. Cut into squares, drizzle with sauce and serve warm or cold.

Vanilla Sauce
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons margarine
App. 1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla

In 2 quart saucepan combine sugar and flour. Drop margarine in small pats on top of mixture.

Add boiling water and set over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to bubble around the edges. Turn heat to low and continue to cook and stir until all sugar granules are dissolved. Remove from heat and add vanilla.

If sauce becomes too thick as it stands, you may add a little more water to thin.
Store leftover sauce and pudding in refrigerator.

Tips and Tricks
*The staler the bread, the better. Also, the more buns and crusty bread, the better. We love this made with wheat breads, hamburger buns and hot dog buns.*
*When you're down to a couple of slices of bread in a loaf or a couple of buns in the package and you know they're just a little too stale to enjoy, put them in the freezer. Whenever you have a couple slices more, add them to the package. You'll be amazed at how quickly you can accumulate enough stale bread to make a batch of bread pudding!*
*The amount of bread you'll need depends upon how stale it is. The staler the bread, the more liquid it will absorb, therefore the less bread you will use.*
*If your bread isn't quite stale enough and you really want a pan of pudding, all you have to do is put the slices and buns on cooling racks and leave them out for a few hours. Doesn't take long to make bread go stale!*
*Bread pudding made with bread that's too fresh really isn't all that great, in my opinion. So be patient and let the bread go stale. The drier, the better.*
*Many recipes say that if you're baking in a glass dish you should drop the temperature by 25*, however I have never done this for bread pudding. Just bake it at 350* and it will be fine.*


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pumpkin Log

There are lots of recipes out there for pumpkin logs or rolls. Whatever you may call them, they're all SO delicious and they're definitely a staple of the fall menu around here. I found this version in an old church cookbook and I've been using it for a couple of years. Haven't really taken the time to tinker with the ingredients much to see if there is something I might add or change to make it any better because it's pretty good just the way it is. : )

Pumpkin Roll

For the cake:
3 eggs
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup flour

For the filling:
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened to room temp.
2 tablespoons margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
Extra powdered sugar for sprinkling.

Heat oven to 375*. Lightly grease a 15" cookie sheet (the kind with shallow sides) or jelly roll pan. Line pan with waxed paper and then lightly grease the waxed paper. (Waxed paper should go up the sides of the pan as well as over the bottom.)

Combine all cake ingredients and spread evenly on waxed paper lined pan. Bake at 375* for 15 minutes. While it's baking, spread out a piece of cheesecloth or a linen towel and sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar. When cake is baked, immediately turn onto the towel (waxed paper side up) and peel off the waxed paper. Roll up in the towel (like a jellyroll) and cool on a rack for 1 hour.

Combine all filling ingredients. Unroll cake and spread on the filling evenly.

Re-roll the cake, minus the towel (of course!).
Wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill until time to serve.

Place on a plate or tray and sprinkle with powdered sugar before slicing and serving.


*This recipe calls for chopped nuts to be sprinkled on the batter before baking, but due to allergies we are a nut-free family. You may sprinkle on 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts.*

*Okay, so I did mess with the recipe a little. If you aren't a huge fan of cinnamon, decrease cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon. I doubled the amount because we LOVE it. : )*

*Don't use canned pumpkin pie mix as opposed to canned pumpkin.
It just isn't the same and you will not get the same results.
One small can of pumpkin will make at two rolls/logs,
so make one for yourself and another for a neighbor. : ) *

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Not Yo Mama's Beef Stew

It is MY Mama's beef stew though!

I never knew that this was not a typical beef stew until I was all grown up and found out that most people don't use tomatoes and oregano in theirs. It is not a brown-gravy-style stew but it is just as much a comfort food as anything you've ever eaten. Plus your house will smell AMAZING when this is cooking! I am currently on a CrockPot kick, so that's the way I'm preparing this today. You can also cook it on top of the stove. The best part is, you use LEFTOVERS and since the meat and all the veggies are already cooked, you only have to cook it for a short time. Feasibly, you could throw this together as soon as you walk in the door from work and be eating in about an hour.

If you'd like the printable version, click here. : )

Beef Stew

leftover roast beef, potatoes, carrots and onions
2 cans diced tomatoes
broth from your roast or 2 cans beef broth

lg. can of tomato juice
salt to taste

Cut potatoes, carrots and beef into chunks. Place all ingredients in large CrockPot or soup pan.

Amount of oregano and basil will vary to suit your individual taste, but I'd suggest starting with about a 1/2 teaspoon of each. (Err on the side of caution. You can always add more if you want, but you can't take it out if you throw in too much.) If using a slow cooker, you may cook this on low for 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours. Your meat and veggies are already fully cooked, so you're just cooking it long enough to meld the flavors. If you are cooking it stove top, bring it to a boil then reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 30 minutes or so.

*The day you cook your roast and veggies for dinner, be sure to throw in a few extra potatoes, carrots and onions to ensure that you have leftovers. THERE! Two meals covered! :) *

*If you use store bought dried seasonings, you will use a little more than if you use Amish seasonings. I always buy my herbs and spices in Ohio Amish Country and have learned that a little goes a looooooong way. That's one of the reasons I can't give you an ideal measurement.*

*If the broth is too rich to suit your taste, you can add water to taste.*

Best Broccoli Casserole Ever

I love broccoli. My daughter Brie loves broccoli. No one else in this family even likes broccoli.

Well, Phil will eat it if it is smothered in cheese and other things that will conceal the fact that it's broccoli. Therefore, he likes broccoli casserole.

And sometimes....on a really good day....I can convince Perri to eat this casserole, too.

Okay, rarely. Once in a blue moon she will eat it. But it is totally her hang-up and not a reflection on the delicious nature of this dish. ; )

Since this is a fairly straightforward recipe and easy to follow, I am going to forgo the step-by-step pics. I trust your ability to be able to boil, chop, mix and bake without benefit of illustrations. ; )

Just click on the title and you'll get the printable version. : ) The pic on the printable is not a pic of one I made, but it sure looks a lot like it.

Best Broccoli Casserole Ever

1 cup quick cooking rice, cooked to make 2 cups rice
¾ of a large block of Velveeta
32 oz. bag of frozen broccoli pieces (we prefer chopped) cooked and drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ to ¾ cup milk
½ onion, chopped
2 Tablespoons margarine
½ sleeve of Ritz crackers, crushed

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease 13”x 9” pan.

In large saucepan, combine soups, milk and Velveeta. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until Velveeta melts. If too thick, add a little more milk.
In small skillet sauté onion in margarine. Add to soup mixture. Add cooked rice and broccoli pieces. Stir to coat. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle with crushed Ritz crackers. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly around edges and cracker crumbs are lightly browned.

*This is a combination of several recipes plus my own touches, which finally turned it into the broccoli casserole of my dreams. I love this stuff and no one can ever get enough of it, so I guess I did okay. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blubbery Moofins....or Blueberry Muffins

What you call them is up to you. Our little family refers to them as 'blubbery moofins' thanks to an episode of iCarly.

Yes, we are an iCarly family. I'm not ashamed.

Anyway, this particular recipe I have used for years and there is no one in this family who can resist them. Well, except for my son-in-law Josh. And I just have to leave the blueberries out of his and then he likes them just fine.

Yes, blueberry muffins with no blueberries. Go figure.

These are mass produced here on Christmas morning every year. On Christmas Eve I prepare the ingredients for mixing and grease the muffin tins. This keeps it simple on Christmas morning. While they are baking I prepare the oyster stew, which is another Christmas ritual at our house. I'll share that recipe one of these days, too.

If you'd like a printable version, just click here.
(You have no idea how much it thrills me to type that sentence!) ; )

All the ingredients are pictured here:

Christmas Morning Blueberry Muffins

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin and preheat your oven to 400*.

There now. The hard part is out of the way. ; )

Mix the streusel in a small bowl, and if you have a MawMaw fork, use it. : )

1/4 cup flour
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons cold margarine

Mix first three ingredients well. Cut in margarine to form a crumbly mixture. Set aside.

In medium mixing bowl combine:
1/3 cup oil
1 large egg
1 cup milk

In small bowl combine:
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Pour flour mixture into milk mixture and stir just until flour is moistened.

Gently stir in:
1 cup blueberries

Spoon into 12 greased muffin cups and top each with streusel mixture.

This shows about how full you want each cup as well as how much streusel you want on top.

Bake at 400* for 20-25 minutes.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes.
Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Here is the finished product:

*And now for a little disclaimer. *
(You knew this was coming, right?)
Do you really think that little, itty-bitty bit of streusel ingredients is gonna make enough of that lusciously cinnamony topping for those muffins?

If you answered no, pull up your pants and go to the head of the class.

I just about double it.

If I actually measured anything I could tell you that I exactly doubled it.
Since I don't, you'll just have to take my word for it.


Tips and Tricks
*If using frozen blueberries, thaw and drain completely.

* Never over-mix muffins. I know it's hard, but you must stop stirring before it looks completely combined and smooth. The same is true of brownies.
It's the best way to ruin them.

Monday, October 4, 2010

YAY!!! I DID IT!!! : )

Thanks to my good friend Knitty over at Lazy Days and Sundays, I am now capable of posting printer friendly versions of my recipes! Knitty sent me this great tutorial and I actually managed to do it! Thanks, too, to Cheryl for being so generous as to post the tutorial in the first place. : )

I just managed to add this printable version of my Banana Bread and Muffins recipe. How cool is that?


Friday, October 1, 2010

Plain and Simple Potato Soup

When it comes to potato soup, I like to keep it simple. The kind of soup I grew up on was not fancy, wasn't 'loaded', didn't contain exotic ingredients and was therefore something you could make on short notice because you always had the ingredients on hand. It is a wonderful comfort food and makes a perfect meal on cool fall days.

If you have ever had Shoney's potato soup, this soup will remind you of it. Shoney's always had the ultimate potato soup, as far as I was concerned. Thick, creamy and flavorful. But if you are one of those folks who doesn't want the more traditional, plain Jane soup, you can start with this recipe and then add the extras to your heart's content! Bacon, cubed ham, rich cheeses, whatever. This soup makes a wonderful meal on its own, or a terrific base that you can change up however you like.

I typically make a large pot of this but yesterday I kept it small. It was one of Brie's cravings and I was only making it for her, but we all ended up having it for dinner. I'd say it would have filled a 2 quart pan, so that is the amount that this recipe will make. You may certainly double, triple or even quadruple it as you see fit.

Started out with these ingredients:

3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 small onion, minced
6 baby carrots, diced
1 stem of celery, chopped
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons margarine
Enough milk to soup to desired level in pan
Salt to taste (I use sea salt)

One of the diced potatoes goes into a small saucepan along with the carrots and celery. I add just enough water to cover it, then bring it to a boil. As soon as it is all fork tender,
I turn off the heat. Do not drain.

At the same time, boil the other two diced potatoes, the margarine
and the minced onion in a larger pan. Again use just enough water to cover. As soon as the potatoes are tender, turn heat to low and using a potato masher, mash until it is relatively smooth. Like this:

Dump the contents of the small pan into the large pan, liquid and all.

Now add the evaporated milk and mix well.
Stir in milk (just the kind you drink, straight out of the jug in your fridge; doesn't matter if it is 1%, 2% or whole...but I don't suggest using skim. It's just not the same.) You want to add enough to bring the level of the soup in the pan up to where you want it.
I think that about 2 to 3 cups would be right, but know how I am about measuring.
Add salt to taste.

Now let that soup simmer over low heat, stirring it often. It will thicken somewhat,
but if you like it really thick and creamy like I do, here's a little trick:

Combine about 1/2 cup of flour with enough water to make it thick but pourable.
Using a whisk to stir constantly, stir this into the soup.
Continue to heat until it is steamy hot through and through.
If it gets a little too thick, you only have to add a little milk to get it back to where you want it.

And now you have this:
*Note: I did NOT thicken this soup yesterday. Brie wanted it as it was. : )
So it does look a little thin, but I can assure you it was quite delicious anyway!

Tips and Tricks
*I always cook the small pan of diced/cubed potatoes, carrots and celery separately because I don't want everything in the soup to be mashed. I used to just cook it all together and then skimp on the amount of mashing that I did, but that just doesn't work well. I decided that dirtying another pan was worth the end result. ;)
*By using the least amount of water possible to just cover the veggies, draining is unnecessary and more of the nutrients and flavor are preserved.
*If you own a heat diffuser, now is a great time to put it to good use! Cream soups are notorious for scorching and sticking to the pan when left unstirred for too long or if cooked over too high heat. A diffuser spreads the heat more evenly and prevents this. I received mine as a gift from a very talented cook (Thank you, Jeanette!) and it's one of the coolest inventions ever! I didn't even know what it was until she asked if I had one. ; )