Thursday, November 20, 2008

Birthday Cake

Mike's and my somewhat belated birthday cake. I made it this morning, all from scratch and using John and Joy Lynn's eggs. Notice the sweetpeas are GA Tech colors.

Mike's Favorite Pork Tenderloin

I made a discovery tonight: citrus juice makes meat more tender. It's probably something the whole world has known forever, but I didn't. And I learned all by myself.

I had some extra drink garinshes left over from the party last weekend. And it was time for us to have a roasted pork tenderloin. So here's what I did:

1 lime, cut into pieces
1 orange, cut into pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup (depending on taste) soy sauce
1/2 - 1/2 cup (depending on taste) teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
  1. The night before, in a Pyrex dish, squirt all but a few pieces each of lime and orange juice onto the tenderloin.
  2. Leave everything in the dish, even the lime and orange peels.
  3. Add 1/2 of the soy and teriyaki sauces to each side, flip, and add the rest to the other side.
  4. Rub the dry ingredients into each side of the meat.
  5. Cover and refrigerator overnight.
  6. Set the loin out on the counter about 1 hour before cooking to get the chill off the meat.
  7. Put the loin fat-side-up in a roasting pan (I think the Pyrex dish would do, but thanks to Mom, we have a beautiful new roasting pan I was dying to use), pile the orange and lime peel pieces on top, and put into the cold oven.
  8. Set the oven to 350 degrees and cook for about 75 minutes, or until the interior meat temperature reaches 160-170 degrees.
  9. Pull meat out of the oven and let it rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.

This dish also makes your kitchen smell GREAT. I mean, Williams Sonoma, Fresh Market great. And you can't beat it for casual, fancy-pants presentation. Eat the roasted citrus if you want to, but we just kept it around for garnish and flavor and because it smells good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Crock Pot Candy

My good friend Dave at Fondren gave us this recipe. You could sit in front of the TV and do some major damage on these babies. Before you even get started, it might be a good idea to buy an extra roll of wax paper - you will be suprised how many pieces it makes.

Also, you might want to pick up some of those little paper candy cups from Michael's before you get started. That way you'll have an idea of how big you'd like the final product to be, in case you want to "fancy" them up.

1(16oz.)jar salted peanuts
1(16oz.)jar unsalted peanuts
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips( 12oz. milk chocolate chips)
1 bar german sweet chocolate, broken in pieces
2(1 and 1/2-lb.)pkgs white almond bark, broken in pieces

  1. Layer all ingredients IN ORDER LISTED in a large slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 3 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE LID .
  3. After the 3hrs., stir. The almond bark will appear unmelted, even after 3 hrs. After stirring, it blends in well.
  4. Do not cut the heat off while you drop the candy by teaspoons onto wax paper.
  5. Makes about 150-160 pieces of candy

The dropping process takes a long time. Turn on the radio and prepare to boogie down. Also, it takes about 30 minutes for the candy to set up on the wax paper, so it's not possible to pick up the wax paper on its own: the candy will all slide to the middle and make a big mess. I learned to do it this way:

  1. Line the entire kitchen table with towels (so the heat from the candy won't melt wax from the paper onto the table and mess up the finish).
  2. Turn a large cookie sheet upside down on the counter next to the crock pot.
  3. Put a sheet of wax paper on the underside (the top, now that it's turned over) of the cookie sheet.
  4. Drop the candy onto the paper.
  5. Then take the cookie sheet with the paper over to the kitchen table.
  6. Slowly and carefully slide the paper from the sheet onto the table.

This way you free up counter space and have enough room to hold all the candy pieces.

Whenever I make this recipe, I can't help but think how nice it would be for a party such as a shower or wedding reception. You would be the most popular and loved person at work if you brought these and put them on the conference table.

Malibu Italian Surfer / Peacock Paradise

Next time we have a party, this drink must be in the pitcher!

1 ounce coconut rum
1/2 ounce amaretto
1 splash cranberry juice
1 splash pineapple juice
Ice cubes

Build over ice in a highball glass.

But you know I'll have to spice it up. The pitcher version will have pineapple chunks and maraschino cherries in it. And I might try some tonic water. Blue curacao will definitely be added.

And the name will be Peacock Paradise.

Photo courtesy of Malibu Vacation Rentals.

Gorilla Bread

It's a cold, cold, clear morning. The sky has ranged from Easter egg purple to an aquamarine blue, and the thermometer says it's 37 degrees outside. My nose is numbing up as I sit here on the couch, and I'm encouraging Dante to curl up closer to my side while wondering if I'm brave enough to start the gas logs (I grew up with old-school wood fires.... all the technology kind of scares me).

This is one of my favorite recipes, especially if I'm going to visit someone overnight or if I'm having overnight company. The first time I made it, the recipe turned out great, but since then I've rather lost my mojo: the biscuits don't seem to get done. The culprit might have been my old oven at the old house. It became squirrelley toward the end of our stay there, and I haven't tried the recipe again since we moved. But since Mike's parents are coming in a couple of weeks for Thanksgiving, I figure I might have to try again.

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen
Paula's Home Cooking
Episode: Bed and Breakfast with Jimmy Carter

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
2 (12-ounce) cans refrigerated biscuits (10 count)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (I use pecans, of course.)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon.
  4. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over low heat, stirring well; set aside.
  5. Cut the cream cheese into 20 equal cubes.
  6. Press the biscuits out with your fingers and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar.
  7. Place a cube of cream cheese in the center of each biscuit, wrapping and sealing the dough around the cream cheese.
  8. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nuts into the bottom of the bundt pan.
  9. Place half of the prepared biscuits in the pan.
  10. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, pour half of the melted butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of nuts.
  11. Layer the remaining biscuits on top, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar, pour the remaining butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of nuts.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes.
  13. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.
  14. Place a plate on top and invert.

It helps to freeze the cream cheese for a couple of hours before cutting it: makes the stuff more manageable. And sprinkling sugar and cinnamon near the sink helps keep the mess down.

After it has cooked, if the biscuits aren't done, just spread them out on a cookie sheet and finish cooking them until done. At least that's what I did. The sugary syrup around them might burn on the sheet, so once they're done, just take up the biscuit and scrape the burnt stuff down the disposal. Nobody will ever know. Trust me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Our friends John and Joy Lynne brought us these, freshly hand-picked and farm-raised. I am enamored.

Shoyu Chicken or Spare Ribs

This is one of my favorite easy recipes: the flavor is incredible, and it makes your house smell good. The only hard part is being able to get in the kitchen by 4 in the afternoon to have it ready when Mike arrives home. Jessica C. told me last night about cooking chicken in the crock pot, and I don't see any reason why a crock pot wouldn't work in this recipe.

I actually had thought about doing this in a crock pot once before, but I had read that slow cookers are only good for dark meat. What the heck - just be sure to cover the meat with water or other liquid (so it won't dry out) and only include the meat of the chicken in the pot; remove the skin and bones first. You might end up with chicken hash, but hey, it will be damn good hash.

And Mike loves the name, Shoyu (pronounced "Show-you"): he usually pats me on the butt and says, "Show me what?"

2 lbs chicken or spare ribs
½ cup shoyu (soy sauce)
¼ cup sugar (brown preferred)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
crushed or grated ginger
2 Tablespoons vinegar or wine

  1. Combine the above ingredients and pour over the chicken or ribs.
  2. Place in a Pyrex dish, covered, in 325 degree oven for 2 hours.
  3. Turn meat over after 45 minutes.

Pretzel or Graham Cracker Crust

I'm not sure where I found this recipe. It's not one I made up on my own, but I've seen it in several different places. The idea for pretzel crumbs was mine, though I'm sure others have come up with it before me. I figured, hey, I like salty AND sweet. I bet this would be great at the bottom of a pie. And it remains my favorite crust for key lime pie.

1 cup graham cracker crumbs or pretzel crumbs (a food processor really helps with this!)
3 tablespoons white sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Mix graham cracker crumbs with sugar and melted butter.
  3. Press into 9 inch pie plate and bake for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool.

Ugly Dip

Another hit of last night's party was some homemade salsa. I remember the first time I ever enjoyed this dish: Mike and I were dating, and he took me to a friend's dinner party. Instructed to bring a dip, he made this recipe, and I distinctly remember riding in the truck after he picked me up, carrying it in a hot pink plastic bowl in my lap. We still have that bowl.

Since then, Mike has made the dip several times, but since it's a time-consuming labor of love, and since he wanted it for last night's party, this was my first time to make it. The recipe comes from Sugar Beach: A Cookbook by The Junior Service League Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Mike's mom Judy had inscribed it "Merry Christmas, 1984," and the front page has "Granddoll's" (Mike's mother's mother) written in pencil. I never met Granddoll, but I can't help but think we would enjoy each other.

"Excellent, but UGLY!" (I don't agree with this statement at all - I think it's actually a very nice looking salsa. It just needs a good stir every now and then.)

4 large tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
4 green onions, minced
1 (4 ounce) can jalapenos, drained and finely chopped
1 (4 1/2 ounce) can black olives, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 teaspoons vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix all ingredients and chill overnight.

  2. Serve with tortilla chips.

  3. Serves 10.

Lou Baughman

You know I can't follow a recipe to save my life. I had some fresh cilantro out in the yard, and as the weather is about to kill it off, I harvested as much as I dared, chopped it up, and dumped it in the dip. To me, you can't get too much cilantro in salsa. For more green, I also added a small can of diced roasted green chilies. Since we were serving more than 10, I added a few tomatoes and green onions, used a large can of black olives, and added jalapenos and the jalapeno juice to taste. I love the spicy! And lime juice is a must.

To chop olives, tomatoes, and jalapenos, I used the small chopping plate on the Vegetable Chop and Measure from Williams-Sonoma. The olives and jalapenos, I just dumped in the chopper and closed the lid. The tomatoes took the longest: I peeled them, then sliced them in half. I then sliced thinly those halves to result in a cubing effect when I put them in the Chop & Measure.

Crab Casserole

Last night Mike and I had a party at the new house. So much to celebrate, so many good friends with whom to share it! The theme was cookout and cocktails; we had grilled burgers and hot dogs, chips, dips, boiled peanuts, trash, brownies (courtesy of John's wife Joy Lynne), and chocolate chip cookies. But the real star of the show was Mike's bar. I think the favored drink of the night was a Malibu Italian Surfer: coconut rum, amaretto, pineapple juice, and cranberry juice. I might have to start keeping pineapple juice in the house for just such an occasion.

Jessica, this one's for you. I hope it's the recipe you wanted!

This recipe came in what probably turned out to be my most-used wedding gift. A dear friend of mine, Nash, made a recipe binder for me entitled The Peacock Personal Cookbook. It has page protectors, and yes, I have spilled an entire stick of melted butter on the pages and marveled at how easily it all wiped off. The recipes that Nash included (since its reception, I have added lots of pages, recipes, and memories) are a compilation of those of her best friend, Ann, who lives in Palo Alto, California. Per Nash, these recipes, "[she] wasn't able to ruin, no matter how hard [she] tried... All will really work and are easy to master."

This is elegant and easy. A good tossed salad and some high class French bread and a dry white wine helps make this a meal to remember.

1 cup milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1/4 pound saltines, crushed
1 pound crabmeat
2/3 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 Tablespoon mayonanaise
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire

Taste as you go, in case this is too highly seasoned for your individual taste. You may want to decrease or omit an undesired condiment.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add milk to well-beaten eggs.
  3. Then add crushed crackers and crabmeat; then the melted butter, mayonnaise, and seasonings.
  4. Bake in buttered casserole dish until golden brown.
  5. Serves four.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Daisy's Chocolate Bread Pudding and Hard Sauce

Our grandmother's cook Daisy was wonderful. She never used measuring cups, and her fried chicken and apple turnovers were the benchmark to which we mere cooking mortals strive to match. She was legendary in the soul-food kitchen, and she had a wonderful intuition. She was the lady who taught me that horsetails in the sky meant warmer weather would come, and blackbirds flocking meant it would get colder. When she met me as a babe in arms, she told Mom, "When God made that baby, He broke the mold," and no matter how hard my mom tried, I'm her only child.

When she started working with Mom's family, Daisy was 45, but she didn't think anyone would want to hire her, so she told Cha-Cha she was 40. Later, at what we thought was her 60th birthday party, she let the cat out of the bag that she was actually 65!

When Cha-Cha died, Mom and I went to Daisy's house to tell her. Daisy was laid up in a hospital bed, her hair neatly braided, the sheets cleanly folded into hospital corners around her. Sister and the family took such good care of her. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn't very lucid. But when we told her about Cha-Cha's death, she smiled big (with her eyes still closed) and said, "Them n-----s took Miss Charley home." I hadn't cried yet until then, but Daisy's calm, prophetic statement and reassurance made tears just fall out my eyes.

When Daisy died, her sweet family had us sit with them at the funeral. It was a beautiful celebration and an interesting social study: her family was wearing all white, and white Mom and I were wearing all black. But all the women of the congregation, including us, were wearing hats. Mom was overcome with grief and leaned over to my shoulder. A nurse in a starched white uniform came over with smelling salts and a handkerchief.

At the end, the family (including us, we were OK not to go, but Sister wouldn't have it - she considered us family, just like we consider her) got up in a line and paid respects to Daisy on the way out the front door to the congregation singing, "I'll Fly Away." Mom leaned over and kissed the sweet, familiar cheek of the woman who had so much influence on her and who helped raise her. A hush fell over the church: it is a superstition in that society that to touch a dead body is to risk having your soul taken.

Mom and Cha-Cha would follow Daisy around while she cooked in the hopes to get her recipes, so they're a little disjointed. But they're treasures, and I'm happy to share them.

12 slices white loaf bread
1/4 cup milk
2-3 Tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 eggs
1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
1 stick butter (for hard sauce)
2-3 cups powdered sugar (for hard sauce)
Scant teaspoon vanilla (for hard sauce)
Bitters to taste (optional - my only personal addition)

  1. Shread bread (with crust: I pull out the food processor to be sure there aren't any lumps) and cover with milk to soak for 15 minutes.
  2. Mix cocoa with 1 cup sugar and add to bread/milk mixture.
  3. Slightly beat 2 eggs and add to chocolate mixture. Mix well.
  4. Add remaining cup of sugar to mixture and mash up with your hands well.
  5. Melt butter and pour enough in pan to "grease every spot in the pan really well."
  6. Pour rest of butter in chocolate mixture.
  7. Add evaporated milk and stir well.
  8. Pour mixture in greased pan.
  9. Place in cold oven and turn to 350 degrees (I like my pudding set a little more, so I check it every 10 minutes for 30-45 minutes).
  10. After 20 minutes, shake the pan to see if it's set.
  11. Cream stick of butter
  12. Add powdered sugar to thick icing consistency
  13. Add scant teaspoon and / or bitters for flavor.

Whenever we finish off a loaf of bread, I save the heels in the freezer. Same for odds & ends in burger or hot dog buns until I have enough bread for this dish. The bitters idea came to me while reading the label on the bottle of Angostura Bitters that we bought in St. Lucia.

Spinach Madeline

Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without this staple in our family. I hear that some families have green bean casserole; I think I could count on one hand the number of times I've even eaten it! So I guess you could say this is our version of the green bean casserole classic.

2 - 16 ounce (32 ounces total) packaged frozen chopped spinach
8 Tablespoons margerine or butter
4 Tablespoons flour
1 cup (8 ounce) evaporated milk
1 cup vegetable liquor
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 (12 ounce) roll Jalapeno cheese* (or another spicy version of cheese), cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Red pepper to taste
1 roll Ritz crackers for topping (optional)
1 stick butter or margerine for topping (optional)

  1. Cook spinach according to directions on package.

  2. Drain and reserve vegetable liquor.

  3. Melt margerine or butter in saucepan over low heat.

  4. Add flour, thinning until blended and smooth, but not brown.

  5. Add onion and cook until soft, but not brown.

  6. Add evaporated milk and liquor slowly, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.

  7. Cook until smooth and thick; continue stirring throughout.

  8. Add seasonings and cheese; stir until melted.

  9. Combine with cooked spinach.

  10. This may be served immediately or put into a casserole and top with buttered bread crumbs.

  11. The flavor is improved if the batter is done and kept in the fridge overnight.

  12. Serves 10-12.
*Mom almost assaulted the guy at Kroger when he said Kraft no longer makes the rolls of Jalapeno cheese. We have neighbors who wrote and called the Kraft company in protest. Now I use pepper jack cheese, but it doesn't come in 12 ounce packages - usually it's either 8 ounce or 16 ounce. I usually buy the 16 ounce and have just a little left over for scrambled eggs later. It depends how much you like spicy: I bet you could even do just regular swiss or mozzarella and optionally add jalapenos on your own.

Even better than buttered bread crumbs, I like to do Mom's version: take one roll of Ritz crackers, mash them up with my hands while they're still in the tube, melt 1 stick of butter or margerine in a bowl, and stir in the Ritz. Makes the best topping ever!

Friday, November 7, 2008


Yet another chapter in the Quest.

This morning I used shortening, one full teaspoon of Tony's, and one full teaspoon of kosher salt. The flavor was pretty damn near perfect.

I've been getting frustrated with the kneading process: to make it not stick to everything, I have to use so much flour as to make the biscuits tough. So this morning I had a wild hair and dumped the dough into my KitchenAid with the dough hook on low for 2 minutes instead of kneading with my hands. I had my doubts, but.....

Even fluffier biscuits!

Then I turned them out onto a lightly floured surface, did a few envelope folds, patted it down, and used a big kitchen knife to cut the dough into rectangles, which I believe are much more intriguing than the plain jane every day circles.
I think this is my favorite yet.

Must remember to use the KitchenAid bowl only next time, as using my red bowl just adds another step and another thing to wash.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Made biscuits again tonight. Instead of frozen butter, I used shortening - the other recipe was soooo rich.

And you know what? I like the biscuits with shortening better.

I also used about 1/2 teaspoon of Tony Chachere's and a slight teaspoon of kosher salt. I think next time I'll use a full teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of Tony's. For some reason the new biscuits don't seem so salty.

I have noticed that you can tell if they're going to be good biscuits by how they rise - my fluffiest biscuits rise and lean to one side because they're so high they can't support their own weight.

But the tops still don't look like the biscuit tops at my grandmother's or KFC. Hmm.

So here's my new recipe. All of the procedures are still the same, with the addition of the "envelope fold" when kneading.

2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
1/2 cup shortening, frozen and cut into cubes
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for tops

I think next time, instead of using the 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, I might cut the dough into squares and see if that doesn't improve the appearance.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Varsity-esque Chili for Chili Dogs

Well, Mike and I missed going to Atlanta to see Tech beat up on the 'Noles. It would've been a fun game. Since I was going into Varsity-withdrawals, I decided to do some research and see if I could procure the V's recipe for chili dawgs. It turns out that's a very carefully guarded secret. But I found one recipe on Recipezaar (what a peculiar name) that's pretty close.

This is not really chili - more of a topping for the best chili dog you'll ever eat.

4 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1-2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
6 Tablespoons chili powder
2 cups water(plus more to taste, optional)
1 (1 1/4 ounce) package chili seasoning mix
4 ounces vegetable or olive oil (optional)

  1. Brown ground beef in skillet and drain fat.
  2. Add all ingredients and combine in crockpot, stirring to mix thoroughly.
  3. Cook on high for 2 hours.
  4. Stir well, reduce heat to LOW and continue cooking for 6-8 more hours.
  5. Serves 18-20.

Personal notes:

I had enough ground turkey in the freezer to make this recipe, so to avoid an extra trip to the grocery, that's what I used. To make up for the more lean meat, I upped the onion content to 1 onion and added 1 tablespoon of chili powder because my good friend Linda reminded me that turkey doesn't take on flavor like beef does.

To give it the authentic greasey-spoon texture, I also added 3/4 cup of water and 1 ounce of vegetable oil every hour for 3 hours while I stirred and checked on it.

Goes great with onion rings.

And there are a million ways to cook a hot dog, but here's my new favorite:

  1. In a large stock pot (depending on how many dogs & buns you want to stack up), put enough chicken broth and water to come just under a vegetable steaming basket. (Broccoli? What?)
  2. Put dogs on the basket, cover, and steam for 7-8 minutes.
  3. Using tongs (Watch that steam! It's the most painful burn!), place buns on top of dogs and replace lid on pot for the last 2 minutes or so.
  4. Remove buns, carefully open, place dogs inside, and hand them off to go down the chili/condiment line.

All you need now is an FO.

And for chili storage, use your Pyrex, Ladies. This stuff stains the heck out of Tupperware.

Key Lime Icebox Pie

One of my favorite non-chocolate desserts, this pie is a hybrid of key lime and lemon icebox. I was completely out of eggs, but I had to come up with a dessert for something. Turned out to be pretty good! If you want to make it a true key lime pie, substitute 5 egg yolks for the cream cheese.

1 single recipe regular, graham cracker, or pretzel crust (can make or buy - pretzel is my favorite)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 eight ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup key lime juice (I totally cheat on this one and use Nellie & Joe's bought from the Kroger in Clinton)
1 recipe whipped cream (Cool Whip works too.)

  1. Dump milk and cream cheese in a mixer.
  2. Slowly add lime juice.
  3. Beat as fast as you can without it sloshing out the sides for 2 minutes (about medium, medium-high).
  4. Pour into a pie crust.
  5. Refrigerate long enough to set (at least 3 hours).
  6. Top with whipped cream.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Whipped Cream

The first time I made this as a married woman, Mike's dad Roy was visiting. He almost got his tongue caught in the hand mixer for licking the beaters before I unplugged it.

8 ounces whipping or heavy cream (1 cup, enough to cover a standard pie very well)
2 Tablespoons sugar, more or less to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. In a deep bowl (to prevent splashing out) add cream, sugar, and vanilla.
  2. With a wire whisk attachment (for a standing mixer) or whipping beaters for a hand mixer, beat on high until desired consistency has been achieved. I think it's about 1-2 minutes, but it's safer to watch it and stop the beaters every now and then to check.
  3. Be careful: if you beat it too long, you'll end up with great homemade butter.

Chicken Spaghetti

Today my dear friend Betsy's daughter Emily is getting baptized. Happy Baptism Day, Emily!

This is one of Mike's favorite recipes. Sure, it's a "can-can" dinner (you basically just open a bunch of cans), but he likes it, it's relatively easy to prepare, and it's even better the second day around! The black olives, artichokes, and mushrooms can be switched around: if you like black olives, do all olives, or two cans artichokes, one can mushrooms, etc. Also, the frozen three pepper blend can be switched our for mirepoix (onions, peppers, and celery), just bell peppers, or anything you like. And of course you can do any of this stuff fresh - it's just easier for me to raid the pantry once in awhile.

1-2 pounds chicken, cooked and picked into bite-sized pieces
12 ounce package spaghetti
2-3 ounces olive oil
1 bag frozen three pepper blend (I get mine from the freezer section of Kroger)
8 ounces Velveeta, cut into cubes
1 can Ro-tel
1 can black olives, chopped (I like to use the Vidalia Chop Wizard)
1 can artichokes hearts, quartered
1 can mushrooms
2 cups shredded cheese
Paprika to taste

  1. If you're going to oven-cook it now (instead of freezing it for later), preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large sauce pan, drop in an ounce of olive oil and the three pepper blend. Saute the peppers for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Start the water to boil for the spaghetti, adding the other ounce of olive oil (to keep the pasta from sticking) and some salt to taste.
  4. While the peppers are sauteeing and the spaghetti is boiling, dump the chicken, olives, artichokes, and mushrooms in a big-ass bowl.
  5. Once the peppers are just flexible (thawed and crunchy/soggy to your taste. Mike likes 'em limp. I like 'em crunchy.), add the Velveeta and Ro-tel to the sauce pan, stirring occasionally until the cheese has melted.
  6. Drain the pasta and add to the big-ass bowl.
  7. Carefully add the hot cheese and pepper sauce to the big-ass bowl.
  8. Let it sit for a couple of minutes: the room-temperature canned items will help to cool the hotter stuff.
  9. Stir it all up and separate it into greased Pyrex dishes. Makes about three 8x8 or two 9x13.
  10. Top with cheese and sprinkle with paprika.
  11. Cook at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until casserole starts to bubble.
  12. Serves 6-10.

I usually keep one in the fridge, and freeze or give the others away. You can add as much more chicken, pasta, or cans for filler if you're feeding more people, but be careful with the Ro-tel. I love spicy stuff, but I tend to get it too hot for some.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chicken and Broth for Pot Pie, Spaghetti, Lasagna, Poppyseed Chicken.... whatever you need cooked chicken for


Basically, take some raw chicken, put it in a pot with your favorite seasonings (celery salt, onion powder, garlic, paprika, pepper, oregano, thyme, rosemary, whatever), boil it for 30 minutes to an hour, let it cool in the water as long as you want to (but less than 3 hours to prevent bacteria growth), and pick it free of bones, fat, skin, and cartiledge. Then use it in a recipe, refrigerate it, or freeze it.
The liquid that's left after you boil a chicken is homemade chicken broth. Drain it, refrigerate or freeze it, and use it in other recipes.

Hmm. The more I typed up there, the more complicated it seems. But really, you can use any part of chicken (except neck and guts) and any seasonings you like. Here are a couple of examples:

For a dish I'm going to serve company or send as a gift I'll use:
1-4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (depending on how much I need for the recipe)
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon pepper
1 Tablespoon minced garlic in oil (I keep this store-bought stuff in a jar in the fridge. Don't tell anybody.)
1 Tablespoon celery or onion powder

  1. Put the chicken and spices in a pot.
  2. Cover with about 2 inches of water.
  3. Set it to boil. I let it boil for about an hour.
  4. Then turn off the heat and let it sit in the water for about an hour to absorb the flavors of the spices.
  5. Rinse it off, pick off what little fat there is, and shred the meat into smaller pieces.

Or if I'm doing a chicken casserole for Tuesday night, I might go the more economical route and just boil a whole chicken to include both light and dark meat. Mom turns her nose up at the idea of buying, butchering, or dealing with a whole chicken. I figure it's a money saver, and I'm glad to be familar with what I'm eating.
  1. Be sure to fully thaw the whole chicken either in the refrigerator (slower thaw, more tender meat) or in a sink of moving water (faster thaw, slightly less tender meat).
  2. The gross part: reach into the chicken and be sure to get out all the guts and the neck. If left in, the guts will turn the water brown and might mess with your flavor.
  3. Rinse off the chicken, inside and outside, and repeat steps 1-5 above.
  4. As for picking the chicken, don't be shy. It's dead: it doesn't care. Just jump in there and start pulling off anything that looks like meat.
  5. There are basically 8 parts of a chicken (2 sets of quarters): 2 breasts (white meat), 2 wings (white meat - what you'd get at Buffalo Wild Wings), 2 drumsticks (dark meat), and 2 thighs (dark meat)
  6. Put the meat parts in a clean bowl. Bones and fat go in the trash. You'll be suprised how much meat you can pick off a whole chicken.

Yes, boiled chicken is greasy. Take off your rings before you pick it. But it's a FABULOUS skin moistureizer.

Pie Crust

Up until a few months ago, I scoffed at the crazy people who would do a pie crust from scratch. What? Why would you DO that when you can go BUY one at the Kroger just as easy? That's just crazy.

And then I found this recipe in the September 2008 Better Homes and Gardens, and it all made sense. Yet another recipe I follow to the letter.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shortening
Cold water

  1. In medium bowl, stir together all-purpose flour and salt.
  2. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until pieces are pea-size (or smaller).
  3. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon cold water over part of the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork to mix.
  4. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl.
  5. Repeat moistening four mixture, using 1 Tablespoon of water at a time, until all of the four mixture is moistened.
  6. Form dough into a ball.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to slightly flatten pastry.
  8. Roll pastry from center to edges into a circle about 12 inches in diameter, lightly dusting with flour as needed.
  9. To lie pie in plate, wrap pastry around rolling pin. Unroll into a 9-inch pie plate or pan. Ease into pie plate without stretching the dough. Trim edges of crust to 1/2 inch beyond pie plate. Flute edge as desired.

Notes from personal experience:

If you're going to use this crust for a dessert pie, add about 1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar to each crust you're making (1/2-2/3 cup for a double crust recipe), according to how sweet you want the crust to be. It's basically a short bread recipe.

Cook this pie crust just like you would a storebought one. If you're pre-cooking the crust for a pudding- or cream-filled pie, don't forget to prick the crust with a fork to vent. And if you use a double-crust recipe, be sure to cut holes in the top to vent.

  1. For a single-crust cold dessert pie, bake at 450 degrees covered in a double-layer of tin foil for 8 minutes, then take foil off and bake for 4-6 more minutes, until golden brown.
  2. For a double-crust or other recipe, follow the recipe instructions.

You can double this recipe in the same bowl and just take out what you need, when you need it. It's homemade, so it's not supposed to look perfect.

Latticing a pie is a lot easier than you think it is. Pie dough is strong, and if it breaks, you can hide the break under a lattice. Once you have the bottom crust and filling in the pie and the top crust rolled out to a 12 inch circle, take a knife and slice the crust in about 1 - 1 1/2 inch wide strips. Work from one end of the crust with short strips to the other, with short strips.

  1. Take your first piece, and lay it along one side of the pie.
  2. Take up the piece next to it, slightly longer, and lay it perpindicularly (sp? at a 90 degree angle) with the corner on top of the first piece.
  3. Take up the third, slightly longer, piece. Lay it parallel to the first piece and pick up the second piece to allow it to go underneath.
  4. And so on and so forth.
  5. You kind of have to hold your mouth just right to do it the first time, but it gets easier with practice.
  6. Another benefit to a latticed pie is if you forget liquid (like I did with the chicken broth on the chicken pot pie), you can just pour it into the lattice holes.

I put all the pictures at the bottom so it wouldn't be a hassle to follow the recipe instructions:

2. Using a pastry blender or fork, mix flour, salt, optional sugar, and shortening until pea sized or smaller.

3. Sprinkle water and toss, then push to the side of the bowl.
Roll out to about 12-inch diameter.

Wrap pastry around rolling pin.

And transfer to pie plate.

I'm still not great at edging - I bet you can do better than I can.

Prick bottom with a fork.


Chicken Pot Pie

Here's a brand new one, completely off the top of my head. Mom didn't think she'd like it because of the canned vegetables, but the other homemade goodness made up for them.

1 recipe double pie crust (You can buy or make.)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4-1/3 stick butter
1 can cream of celery soup (or cream of mushroom)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 - 2 pounds chicken, boiled and shredded (You can buy or make.)
1 can Veg-All, drained
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  2. Line a standard pie plate with the bottom half of the pie crust.

  3. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the onion until soft.

  4. In a large bowl, mix together the soup and chicken broth.

  5. Mix in to the soup and broth the chicken, Veg-All, and salt and pepper.

  6. Dump filling into bottom half of pie crust.

  7. Pour sauteed onion on top.

  8. Cover with top half of pie crust, either vented or latticed.

  9. Bake for 20 minutes at 375, then bump up the temperature to 425 degrees for 15-20 additional minutes to brown crust and ensure filling is bubbly. If edges start to brown, use tin foil to cover and keep it from burning.

The one I made today fell all apart when I tried to put slices on the plate. But I guess that's part of the fun. It holds its shape once it has cooled down.

It's not as creamy and gooey as Marie Calendar's pies, but I didn't want that stuff in my pie anyway: I wanted to emphasize the chicken and crust. But I bet if you added another can of cream of (insert your favorite here) soup and some more broth, it would be much more, ah, soupy.


Another candy recipe that depends on the humidity. I try not to make this one if it's 60% or more outside. It's by Ann Gilbert, from one of my First Methodist of Canton cookbooks.

2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Karo, light
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 cups walnuts or pecans (optional)

  1. Combine sugar, Karo, and water in saucepan.
  2. Cook to firm ball stage (250 degrees).
  3. Beat egg whites until stiff (in a mechanical mixer with the whisk attachment).
  4. Add 2 tablespoons sugar (to eggwhites) and beat for about 10 to 15 seconds.
  5. Pour syrup into egg white slowly while beating.
  6. Continue beating until candy begins to lose its gloss and will hold its shape (when you turn off the mixer).
  7. Add vanilla (with the mixer) and nuts (stir nuts in with spatula - don't use mixer so you won't release nut oils and screw the whole thing up).
  8. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper (I use two spoons: one to get it out of the bowl, and one to scrape the contents of the first spoon onto the wax paper).
  9. If candy starts getting too hard before you finish, stir in a few drops of water.

A few notes from my own experience:

This is one recipe I follow TO THE LETTER.

This recipe almost requires a mechanical mixer. It doesn't have to be a fancy-pants KitchenAid, but it should be one that can operate without your hands doing any work in the mixing process. Reason being, on step 5, pour syrup slowly, it means SLOWLY, as in try to get the most thin ribbon of syrup coming from the pot into the mixer as possible, while the mixer's going high speed. It should take a long time, and it helps your muscles to prop the pot against the bowl while pouring.

The object of this game is to infuse miniscule bubbles of air into the egg whites and syrup: stiffly beaten egg whites + syrup + air = good divinity.

Seven Minute Icing is a variation of this - it's basically divinity - but I haven't tried it yet. Right now I'm not a master of divinity, and until then, if I'm going to all this trouble, it's gonna produce a candy everybody oohs and ahhs over, not icing that nobody notices.

I'll come play in your kitchen, too!

So yesterday's posts were really long and detailed. I'm just trying to keep all my research in one place. If you want to try one, but a 4 page long recipe for biscuits seems intimidating, I'm always more than happy to come play at your house, or you can come to my kitchen, and we'll cook together.

I'm not saying I'll teach you anything. But we'll have a good time either way.


Made by Lena