Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lovin' This Weather . . .

It has really put me in a cookin' mood.  Lately I have made all sorts of stuff.  I am in the mood for this wonderful apple cake, too.  I haven't made it in probably a year at least!  Why I don't know because it is so good.  It has a caramel glaze over the top of it, then you cover it with either pecans or walnuts!  Ooh, baby, you will love this one.  I am not posting that one today, though.  Don't fret I will get to it.  So please keep checking back, okay.

Sometimes I feel so greedy when I wish that I had a bigger kitchen.  I mean there's people who don't even have a home and I complain that my kitchen isn't big enough.  I just like to spread things out when I am cooking!  I definitely know how to make a mess let me make that perfectly clear from the start!!  I don't mind the cleanup either, but I do like to have room.  I have what I refer to as my "woman cave" right off of my kitchen and if I was to give that up I could have a really big kitchen.  I just love my small space where it is though.  It's cozy, I have a coffee table there filled with cookbooks and candles and just some stuff that I love.  So I am torn on what to do.  Plus, it would be another expense right now and I don't want that either.  So I guess for now, I will just quit complaining or dreaming I should say and be happy with the layout the way it is for now:)

On to some food.  I love taters!  Boiled with just butter, roasted, baked or whatever I eat them any 'ol way. Last night I made baked pork chops and boiled red potatoes with onions and fresh green beans.  It was really good, but the potatoes were out of this world if I must say so myself!!  The ingredients are few, but the flavor sure isn't lacking.  Oh, and if you don't care for onions this dish is not for you. I like to use vidalias for this dish if you can find them, but yellows onions will work as well.  The vidalias are sweet and cooked with that butter, oh man, once you try it you're hooked! Be sure to look at the pics below and see the color that the onions need to be to get that caramely flavor that you are looking for in this dish.  Is that even a word, caramely?  Well, it is now.  As the onions cook down they will turn brown after about 25 minutes and get almost sticky.  Be sure when you transfer them to the potatoes scrape as much as you possibly can of that sticky stuff from the bottom.  I use a cast iron skillet to cook the onions to get a more uniform heat and they won't burn as quickly as they would in a thinner fry pan.

Boiled Potatoes and Onions

7 or 8 red skinned potatoes
1 very large onion or 2 medium onions diced
1 1/2 sticks of butter (not margarine)
salt & peper to taste

Do not peel them!!  You want that skin on there.

Look at those onions swimming in all that butter . . .

They are getting there, but not quite yet . . . you need to have some patience with this process, ha!

Check this out!!  Golden brown and cooked to perfection . . . man, oh, man!!

See the chunks of potatoes in there that is what you are hoping for at the end.  Mashed just wouldn't taste the same . . . 
Place potatoes in large pan and cover with water.  Cook over medium heat until soft.  Use a fork to test the center and potato should fall apart easily.  Meanwhile, grab a cast iron skillet or another heavy pan and place 1 stick of butter in a begin to melt it.  Add the onions and cook over medium to low heat stirring frequently.  Cook until golden brown (see photo).  When the onions have reached that golden brown color remove from the heat. Drain the water from the potatoes and return them to the pan.  Add the remaining 1/2 stick of butter and using a potato masher mash the potatoes gently.  By gently I mean you don't want mashed potatoes you want chunks of broken potatoes.  Carefully add the onions and stir lifting from the bottom to incorporate the mixture.  Add the salt and pepper to your own taste.  I prefer a little more salt than most people so I can't tell you how much to add.  Again, these guys go with anything, so I hope you try them soon and if you have any questions just let me know . . .

Monday, September 19, 2011

What a Weekend . . .

We as a family had so stinking much fun.  I went and had lunch with my favorite little guy on Saturday at Whataburger and the whole time we talked about all the fun we had had the night before at the fair.  We took just him on Friday because it was cool and drizzly out and just thought it would have been too much for Kennedi.  The place was really sparse with people.  Which when it came to riding the rides was wonderful because he was able to get off and get right back on!!  He rode some of the rides probably 10 times at least.  It is so much joy just watching the excitement on his face getting on and off the rides.  If he had been just a tad taller he could have ridden some other ones, but next year will be a different story . . .

On Sunday after church we came back home and picked up Candi and the baby and then met Tyler and the Winners' at the fair.  And it all started again!  He was just so happy to be there.  I do remember as a child when our county fairs came to town what a big deal that was.  We never had a lot of money so some years my brother and I got to go and some years we didn't.  Once we got there I don't think he was too happy to have to stand in line this time, though :(  It was a gorgeous sunny day and there were thousands of people out with their families.  All in all it was a fun, fun day and I can't wait until next year to be able to do it all over again!!

The smell of the food at the fair is just indescribable!  Everything smells so wonderful you just want a bite of everything!  I only had a couple of things this year and didn't  try anything new.  They did have okra this year which was a nice treat.  The difficulty for me is in the choosing on what to have.  I actually went with a hotdog and I also had a corn dog.  My stomach is really messed up today for some reason and I wonder if it is because of the food.  I don't eat like that at home and I think my insides are telling me not to do it again.  I hate this feeling . . .

So, on a happier note, last weekend my hubby needed just a quick snack.  I went and investigated what I had in the fridge and came up with my Artichoke Flatbread!  It would great while watching a movie, playing a game or just to nibble on while curled up with your favorite book.  It's super simple and can be made in a jiffy.

Artichoke Chicken on Flatbread

1 Flatbread
3/4 diced chicken  (*see note below)
3/4 cup alfredo sauce (or more if you want)
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/2 cup diced artichoke hearts
2 tbsp. minced pepperoncinis
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
a pinch of red pepper flakes

*For the chicken I have used frozen fajita meat or the roasted chicken that you buy at the deli.  You could also just use a chicken breast that you have cooked at home yourself

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place your pizza stone in the oven for heat up.  Take out a flatbread and lay it on your cookie sheet.  I make my own alfredo sauce before I prepare this (takes about 5 minutes to make).  I have posted the sauce recipe on another blog and it is so worth making your own!  The taste is no comparison to the jarred stuff.  Drain the artichokes and dice them into small bite size pieces.  Do the same to the chicken.  Drain the juice from the olives and set aside.

Once it is ready to be assembled layer the alfredo sauce, the chicken, the artichokes, the peppers and the olives.  Cover with the cheese and sprinkle on the seasoning to your liking.  Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil if you want (I do!) and then carefully slide from pan onto the hot pizza stone and let cook for only about 6 to 8 minutes or until cheese has melted. If you do not have a pizza stone your cookie sheet will work.  I think I may have mentioned this before, but if you do not have a pizza stone they are a wonderful investment!!  It can be used for so many things.  Enjoy . . .

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fall, Fall, I Love The Fall . . .

It's my favorite time of the year!  I love the changing of the cooler weather to the changing of the leaves.  To me there's nothing beats a big 'ol pot of something simmering on the stove and steaming up all of my windows.  It just gives me such a feeling of HOME!  I love being home so much that really there's no place I'd rather be!  I enjoy going on a short vacation, too, don't get me wrong, but as Dorothy would say there's no place like home, that's for sure.

I am so very fortunate to be able to stay home with my precocious little granddaughter, Kennedi!  She makes me smile from ear to ear everyday!  Her laughter, just her sweet lil' spirit and her needs make me feel so blessed to be able to nurture her and to love her!!  I always tell my friends who don't have grandkids that I just don't know where that kind of love comes from.  It's truly amazing and is just something you have to experience for yourself.  I pray for all moms to become grandparents one day!!  But, I do know grandparents who are not thrilled at all with the idea of having their grands around.  Not sure how they got to that stance, but I am so happy that my God has blessed me beyond anything I could have ever imagined with my grandkids.  I used to wonder why I only two and then it's like God spoke to my heart one day and said, " some will never have any".  And from that day forward I have never felt the need to have anymore. If I do they will certainly we welcomed, but for now I am content with the two that I have!

Fall also brings those wonderful fairs, pumpkin patches and Halloween . . . Do you see where I am going with all of this?  It's right back to the kids and home again.  It's just weeks of memories and hot chocolate and long walks in the pasture.  I asked my grandson the other day that when he's older what's the one thing he thinks he'll remember about coming to gigi and papa's house.  He said, "all the fun".  That's what home is . . .  a place where you can have fun!  I told him what about the smells.  He immediately knew what I was talking about and said, "oh, yeah, it always smells like somethings cooking!"  What joy that brought to my heart!  Almost everyday when my daughter-in-law comes in the door the first thing she says is, "Oh, my gosh, it smells so good in here!"

I guess the legacy I want to leave for my family is my cooking.  Not sure if a legacy can be food, but I am going to say it anyways.  So many of our favorite memories have been shared over a meal.  We eat all of our suppers at the table with no TV and we just discuss what we did that day or any thing we want too.  It is my favorite time of the day!!  Sometimes there's laughs and sometimes it is even quiet, yes, quiet!!  Kennedi usually has something to say though, especially if her papa is joinng us!

I found out last night that she loves pork roast and gravy.  Man, she ate quite a chunk!  I was definitely impressed.  I haven't had pork roast in quite awhile so I decided to throw one on yesterday while she was napping.  I have no idea how she slept through with the smell of those onions browning for that delicious gravy.  I served it over rice and had roasted asparagus with it.  Now the asparagus was a different story!  She did eat the crunchy part of the tops, but didn't like the stalk part.  I think it was just hard for her to chew that's all.  She did manage to lick the salt off, ha!

This recipe is very simple and is made all in one pot.  When you see the chicken broth don't fret, it just gives it added flavor.  It is super simple and I hope you will be serving it up to your family in the near future.  If you have a favorite and would like to share it I certainly would like to try it, too . . .

Pork Roast and Gravy

2# pork roast
1 large carton of Swanson chicken broth
2 cups of water
1 medium onion diced
1 tbsp. dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste

In a heavy dutch oven heat about 1/3 cup of oil.  Season the roast with salt and pepper and then roll in flour to coat all sides.  Once the oil has been heated carefully place roast in and brown on all sides.  Once it has browned remove to a plate.  At this time if you need more oil for browning the onions add a tad more.
Add the onions and cook stirring often until they are browned.  Once they have browned add about 2 tbsp. of flour to the mixture and cook the roux until it has turned slightly brown this usually takes about 5 minutes or so.  Add the broth and the water whisk until well blended.  Allow to cook over low heat for about 2 1/2 hours or until fork tender.  During cooking process flip the roast with tongs to keep it from sticking and this will also allow even cooking.  Once it is done I leave it sitting in the pot until ready to serve.  It can be reheated very easily.  To serve it I slice it into 1/2 thick slices plate it and then pour the gravy over it.  This great for mashed potatoes, but our family favorite is serving it over white rice!  I hope you enjoy it . . .

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What's Your Favorite Soup? . . .

Well, I have several, but in my top 3 is definitely Beefy Tomato Macaroni.  My whole family loves it and I make it probably three or four times a year.  It is so simple and can be made in less than a couple of hours.  I have also used ground turkey and it turns out wonderful for all of those health conscious cooks out there.

I just love the simplicity of soup, the health benefits and the aroma that engulfs every square inch of your home as it simmers all day.  Maybe it is an old wives tale, but I do believe that a bowl of homemade soup helps you feel better when your ailing.  I don't remember my mom making too many soups.  I know she made a beef soup and chicken noodle soup, but that's it.  I have several soups that I make and I am also one who makes the year round.  My Aunt Pat, who sadly is no longer with us, was the same way.  We both agreed that if you want chicken and dumplins' and it's 100 degrees out . . . make it!!  I do the same with chili.  Who says it has to be cold to have a bowl!

This soup is great for game day if you are having friends or family over.  I serve it with homemade bread, corn muffins and just plain ol' bread and butter.  My recipe is plain and simple, but you doctor your soup up anyway you want, too.  So what is your favorite soup? . . .

Beefy Tomato Macaroni Soup

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1 (28 oz. can) Hunt's Diced Tomatoes (do not drain)
3 of the (28 oz. can) of water
1 large onion diced
3 heaping tbsp. beef bouillon
1 tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. garlic powder
pasta of your choice (I prefer lg. elbow or noodles)
1 tbsp. butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven brown the meat until well done along with the onion.  Season with the garlic powder and the salt and pepper.  When good and brown add the tomatoes and the three cans of water.  Sprinkle the bouillon in and stir until dissolved.  Add the parsley and allow to cook for about  hour on medium to medium low heat. After about 30 minutes taste and make sure your seasoning is good if not add more salt or whatever you may need.  After the fire has been turned off add the tbsp. of butter and allow to melt without stirring.  Let's just say it's the icing on the cake!!  Before serving give it a quick stir to blend it in.  Just adds such nice flavor to the soup.

When soup is ready, bring some salted water to a boil.  I do not cook the noodles or the macaroni in the soup because it will completely change the flavor of the soup with the starch that cooks out of the pasta.  Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to individual serving bowls or add it to the soup itself.  Be aware though, if you add it all to the soup and it is not being eaten at that setting it will soak up a lot of juice and when you reheat it the very next day there won't be much juice.  I always add it to individual bowls and then if I need more pasta the next day I just follow the same process.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Where Does The Time Go? . . .

I have always heard that the older you get the faster time flies, well, trust me it does!  This might sound silly, but really it seems like yesterday I was in high school and now I have grandson who's in second grade!!  I guess with Facebook and being connected with old friends from elementary school to high school really turns back the clock for me.  Gosh, I can remember conversations with friends in high school and even silly things from elementary school.  I love it, too.  Just seeing the different paths we each took and how different our lives are is amazing to me.  I have several friends from elementary school and also, some high school friends, too, on Facebook.  My very best friend from high school was Kathy Underwood.  Man, we would walk the halls every morning.  It was so much fun.  We also had a couple of classes together, too.  I recently reconnected with her via Facebook and was just thrilled when I saw her invite!!  We're all grown up now and when I talked to her on the phone it was just like old times.  Her voice was the same and everything.  I really enjoyed her friendship and so glad she found me!!  Not sure why I even blogged about this, but it was just on my mind . . .

It's Friday and it is straight up noon.  The baby is taking her nap and I decided while I have a couple of minutes I'd slip another recipe in here for you.  You may have made these lil' sandwiches before, but if you haven't please give them a try.  I recently made them for a pool party we had here at the house and they are always a huge hit.  I make them the day before and just place them in the fridge until I need them the next day.  I am sure you couple probably use any sort of lunchmeat you wanted as well as the cheese.  I chose honey baked ham and swiss cheese.  But I bet roast beef and maybe some gruyere would be quite scrumptious!  And of course they made with those delectable King's Hawaiian Buns.  I seriously could eat the whole package by my self, well, maybe not the whole package, but it would really darn close!!

Try these out for any occasion you may be having and I don't think you will be disappointed!  If you try something different write me back and let me know what you tried and what you thought . . .

Hot Hammies

1 pkg. King's Hawaiian Buns
1 lb. thinly sliced honey ham (or meat of your choice)
12 slices of swiss cheese (or cheese of your choice)
1 stick of melted butter
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1/2 tsp. ground mustard

Remove buns from package and place some ham and a slice of the cheese in between each bun.  Place the sandwiches into a baking dish.  Combine all the other ingredients, whisk lightly and simply spoon over the sandwiches.  Allow to sit overnight or at least a few hours if using the same day.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes or until you see the cheese start oozing from the sandwiches.  Serve immediately and enjoy . . .

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Are Vacations Really Ever Over . . .

I suppose they are to some extent.  My thoughts on this subject are, if you enjoy doing what you do everyday it can be a vacation!  I try not to let the world control my moves.  You know the economy, TV, other interests, I just do what I have to do daily and don't worry about other things.  Therefore, my thoughts and actions are for that very moment.  If it is just relaxing by the pool, a walk to the pond, reading a new cookbook or simply swinging on my front porch it is "my" vacation from the world I guess you could say. I know you have those same moments you may just look at them differently.  I also try to make the best of a situation even if it is a bad one.  There is always that rainbow that comes through at the end!! My friend Trina said, "You haven't posted anything in a while."  I told her I was on "vacation" . . .

I find so much relief from the everyday grind in my kitchen!!  Whether it's cooking for my family or a friend or I just feel like it . . . it's relaxing to me.  I have a friend, oh, my gosh, cooking scares her!!  To me its never a challenge because if you mess it up big deal you just start all over.  I love my friends reasoning, "if it can't microwaved or come in a box they don't eat it!"  Every time I think of her saying that it cracks me up.  If I served my family something from a box they would leave home!  Hmmm . . .

Last night for supper I made my hubby's favorite . . . chicken fried steak, milk gravy and red skinned mashed potatoes.  And let me tell you that man can eat!!  My sweet daughter-in-law says it's the best!!  Every southern cook I know has made this dish and every one has their own family recipe. The following recipe is my own and do feel free to add your own touch to this.  There's no right way to do this . . . it is just the way your family likes it and that is what is important.

I use cube steak, because it is cheap and always tender and that makes a great chicken fried steak.  Why make it if you can't chew the darn thing!!  After all it is meant to be savored and enjoyed.  I prefer minimal ingredients just kosher salt, coarse black pepper and garlic powder.  I take the meat out of the refrigerator (this time I cut them into steak fingers), place it on wax paper, season it on both sides and let it sit out on the countertop about 45 minutes before frying it.  Don't let the resting amount of time scare you I've cooked it for years and yet to have harmed anyone!!

Do you have a cast iron skillet?  If not, goodness, you need to run out and find you one real quick!  I couldn't live without mine.  They make the best fried chicken, pork chops, cornbread, man, the list goes on and on!  I even bake my pineapple upside cake in one.  But if you don't have one your regular frying pan will work.

Okay, here's what I do.  I put my flour in a dish and then in another dish I beat 2 or 3 eggs and set them side beside.  Once I have checked the grease to see if it is hot enough (you should hear a sizzle when you drop a pinch of flour in it) I then begin adding the meat.  First, I dip it in flour and coat well, then the egg and then back into the flour mixture.  At this point gently, so you don't get splashed on with grease, place the meat into the frying pan.  I generally don't add to many pieces at a time so it doesn't get crowded.  This also allows for even cook time.  Don't flip the meat over until you can see that it has really browned on the edges.  Once, this batch is done I move them to a pan that has a cooling rack (the kind you use for cookies) and place them into in a 200 degree oven while the remainder cooks.

While the meat is frying up I have the potatoes going as well!  I love red skinned mashed potatoes.  I only use butter and salt and pepper . . . never milk!  I know a lot of people use milk, but I never have.  I cook them until they are very fork tender.  I drain them and add my butter, again, you add as much as you want, and the same goes for the salt and pepper.  There's no secret recipe, it's just what you and your family like.  I never ever use a mixer to mash potatoes.  I guess I like the lumps!!  I use a hand potato masher.  I can't tell you  how many I have gone through in my lifetime.  Once I have them mashed I just set them aside covered.

Oh, man, the gravy!!  All I can say is if you are a beginner at making gravy it will be hit or miss.  I sure wish I could say add 1 cup of this and a half a cup of that and be done with it, but gravy doesn't work that way:(  Please never give up!!  It will happen for you just like it did for all of us ol' timers.  Trust me keep trying and you will soon be a gravy master!!  Okay, I'll try to explain it the best way I know how.  Once, the steak has all been cooked, drain off all, but maybe 1/3 cup of the grease.  Place back on the burner and heat it up.  Once it is hot add some flour (here's where you will have to use your own judgement) you want it to soak up the grease, but you don't want a paste.  Stir it around and if you feel you need to add a bit more do so at this point not later.  Season it with salt and a lot of coarse ground black pepper.  Maybe by looking at the photos below you can see what I am talking about.  Allow this to cook until it has some color to it or else it will just taste very floury and you don't want that.  And there's no going back sad to say . . .

I use only can milk for my gravy, but again here's where you use what you want, too.  I will tell you though, skim milk (which is all I drink) makes horrible gravy.  You can use whole milk and that would certainly work, but skim, no thanks I'd have to pass on that one.  So for one can of Carnation milk I add one can of water.  I have this prepared in a bowl and then I just slowly add it to my roux once it has reached the color I am looking for.  Allow this to cook for about three minutes before taste testing.  At this point and time I  taste it and see if it needs more salt or pepper.  It will begin to thicken quickly and if you have added too much flour, slowly, add more milk to reach your desired consistency.  That is why you pour slowly and stir at the same time.  You may or may not need all of the milk that you had prepared earlier.  If you do add too much milk I would just let it keep cooking until it has cooked down some.  And wah-lah you have gravy . . .

To serve I pile up the mashed potatoes in the center of my platter, ladle some of the gravy on top and stack my steak fingers around the edges for presentation.  Serve a bowl of gravy on the side for dipping that delicious steak in, too!!  I sure hope making gravy doesn't scare anyone it is really easy!!!  Well, trust me back in the day I was scared, too . . . Enjoy!!!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Do You Ever Wonder Why? . . .

I do all the time.  I catch myself daydreaming sometimes about things that have happened, might happen or even things that will never happen.  And I wonder why!  Some things happen in our lives that we will never ever understand why they did.  I daily think of things that have happened and there's no explanation why it did, it just did.  You look at other people sometimes and wonder how they get through things. I have always said it takes a special person to get through that or something to that effect and say, "man, I could never go through what they did."  But I am sure I could.  I always think my little problems are huge until I turn on the news or get a phone call and soon realize that my problem is so very small compared to others.

Two women in the past week have really been on my mind.  One was Catherine Hamil here in OKC that lost her two boys during the last tornado May 24th and then another really young girl only 22 years old in my old hometown, Victoria.  She dozed off and while she slept her two small children and boy (2) and a girl (3) fell into their family pool and drowned.  They showed her picture in the paper and her face was just filled with pain.  I felt so sorry for her it made me cry right in my chair.  It crushed me I was sobbing.  These mom's lives are changed forever.  Their hearts are broken and they will never be repaired.  I don't talk to all of my kids on a daily basis and until all of this has happened I never really thought much about it.  But now there's no wondering why they don't call me and I just grateful that when they get the chance they CAN call me.  These two mom's will never get that phone call.  This is what I mean when I say our problems are small compared to others.  Silly little things sometimes anger us at times and for me it makes me feel like at the time that my whole world is crashing in around me.  It causes my heart to race, makes me think things I normally wouldn't think and I just hate that feeling of uncertainty.  It's the not knowing.

As I get older I tend to look at things a lot differently.  It used to bother me when I didn't hear from someone for a long time or never got a phone call.  Now, that doesn't happen.  Life happens daily for me!  I am happy to have another day and whatever it brings I will deal with it.  Not everyday is perfect for any of us I don't think anyways.  But, I am certain of one thing, I definitely have way, way more good days than bad days.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

I am a private person, I think so anyways.  There's so much I don't say to people.  I wish I could just write all my thoughts down somewhere, but there's not enough paper.  Plus, I would never want anyone to read it if something should happen to me.  I am sure I don't think like you or anyone else does.  Can't explain what I mean by that, but that is the best way I can say it.  There's so many things I like and dislike and I can't say them to people because everyone is so different.  You and I would not and could not possibly agree with everything.  Therefore, we have to keep things to ourselves!  I would not hurt anyones feelings by saying something negative to them, but yet people say things to me all the time.  Not necessarily hurtful things just things that make me say, Wow!   Again, I wonder why.