Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coconut Pecan Frosting

I'm feeling lazy today so I'll share the recipe for Bourban Dinner Rolls tomorrow (it's not a complicated recipe but I have to type in the whole thing). Instead I'll share a quick frosting recipe to go with the chocolate cake from yesterday. This is a really easy recipe and will taste like it took forever to make.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
1 cup sugar
1 cup evaporated milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream
3 large egg yolks
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/3 cups flaked sweetened dried coconut
1 1/3 cups chopped pecans
Combine sugar, milk, egg yolks, and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until the mixture is thickened and bubbling gently around the edges. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut and pecans. Let cool until spreadable. This keeps, refrigerated, for about 1 week. Soften before using.
Alt ingredients - 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 3 egg yolks, ½ cup butter, 1 t vanilla, 1 1/3 cup coconut, 1 cup chopped pecans.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Devil's Food Cake

After reading Joanne Fluke's Devil's Food Cake Murder, I had my husband copy some recipes before sending it back to the library. Not knowing that there were several pages to each recipe, he copied the pages and away the book went. This weekend when I decided to make her Devil's Food Cake recipe I discovered I had the list of ingredients and the first little bit of instructions. I believe this cake had multiple layers to it but what I got was still a decent chocolate cake. It was denser than I expected and think I will use AP flour instead of cake flour next time.
I had to guess on the cooking time but it came out nicely, I also used a 9x13 pan and I believe the recipe is for round pans so that you can make layers.

Devil's Food Cake
1 cup water
3/4 cups butter (or Nucoa)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used 3 TB cocoa powder and 1 TB oil)
1 teas instant coffee or espresso
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teas baking soda
1/4 teas baking powder
1/2 cup unsweeted cocoa powder
2 eggs at room temp (set in hot water while preparing ingredients if cold)
2 teas vanilla
3 cups cake flour or 2 1/2 cups AP flour
Combine water, butter, 1/2 cup white sugar and brown sugar in saucepan. Break up chocolate into pan. Heat on Med High heat until chocolate and butter melt. Remove from heat and add instant coffee. Let cool.
Prepare 2 9"round pans or 1 9x13 pan by oiling and flouring the pan.
In a large bowl or mixer, mix 1 1/2 cups white sugar, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Alternate liquid from saucepan with flour. Mix until combined. Pour into pan and bake at 350.
For 9x13 pan bake 35 - 45 minutes, 2 9" rounds should be checked at 25 minutes and baked until center is firm (test with toothpick - if it comes out clean, cake is done).
We frosted with peanut butter frosting. When I get the book back I will double check her instructions against the ones I made up and see if there's anything I should change and I will share her frosting recipe for the cake.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Egg Fu Yung

For me, Egg Fu Yung is not really a recipe but more a concoction. It's an asian inspired omelet that is served with a sauce. I use almond sauce and add a little more soy sauce to taste. The sauce is salty which goes well with the eggs and veggies. You can make the omelets in pancake form or like scrambled eggs depending on your mood.

Egg Fu Yung

2 eggs per person
vegetables - bean sprouts, onions, peas, corn, carrots - whatever (canned, fresh or frozen).

Scramble eggs in a bowl. Pour a pancake sized amount into hot oiled skillet. Top with veggies and let cook until partially set. Flip and cook until completely set and browned.
Serve with sauce.

I like sauted onions so I sauted the onions. Mixed six eggs with 1/3 of a can of peas and 1/3 can of corn (drained). When the onions were how I liked them then I poured over the eggs and scrambled the whole thing. The flavor is nearly the same but it's not firm while the pancake method actually makes something that can be eaten by hand.

Almond Sauce
2 tbs. butter
1 cup milk
1 tbs. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. onion powder
Almonds, chopped
Melt butter in sauce pan. Add cornstarch to cold milk. Add to butter with other ingredients except almonds. Heat until thick over medium heat. Top with almonds.

(Omit the almonds if desired for the eggs)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

Making your own chocolate syrup is almost easier than buying chocolate syrup. One thing I have learned, however, is that this is not a recipe that does well when doubled or tripled. I think the sugar doesn't dissolve enough or something because when I attempted to triple the recipe it turned out gritty and not very good. I love this recipe because it is simple. It comes out just like Hershey's syrup so it's great on ice cream but makes great chocolate milk. You end up with about 1 cup of syrup with this recipe and it stores easily in a glass jar in the fridge.

Chocolate Syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
Boil water. Add cocoa and sugar. Heat until dissolved, stirring constantly.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Easy Drop Cookies

Rarely do I come across a recipe that I have to rush home and make. There are some out there that I dream about or crave but usually they are complicated beautiful recipes that I will probably never make. This one was an exception. After reading about this recipe on Mystery Lover's Kitchen Blog, I started planning it out. I knew I had the ingredients but I was sure I would only have 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. This recipe halved so easily that I think it will be our new favorite cookie.
It's so easy and takes a minute to throw together. The only disadvantage to this recipe is it requires sitting in the oven overnight. It was worth it. I wasn't sure how it was going to work but it did. This morning we had crisp chocolatey cookies sitting in our oven when last night there was chocolate chips and nuts covered with raw egg white. (I ended up skipping the salt because I forgot to add it)
Most people who bake should easily have these ingredients in their pantry. I think this will be fun to try with different chips and a variety of nuts.
Half this recipe made 8 cookies but I think I could have gotten 9 nice cookies since the dough does spread a little.

Easy Drop Cookies
2 egg whites, beaten
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and drop by teaspoons on foil-covered baking sheet. Put cookies in the oven and turn the oven off. Let the cookies stay in overnight or for five hours.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Caramel-Pecan Sauce

This is a great easy sauce for desserts. I still haven't had time to do much baking this week but I just found an easy cookie recipe that I might be trying tonight to share with you tomorrow. We're changing routines from summer to school and that always requires adjustment.
This sauce is great on ice cream or on warm chocolate cake.

Caramel-Pecan Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
In medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except vanilla, mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Cool about 15 minutes or until thickened.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hot Buttered Rum Sauce

Things are crazy here in Pullman. WSU started a new year monday which means the tide has turned and we have to adjust. I'm sharing this sauce recipe - it's quick and easy and tastes great on ice cream (try it over chocolate - so good).
I just got a couple of recipes for homemade sweetened condensed milk - one with dairy and the other dairy free. I think I'll try this recipe with them and get back to you.

Hot Buttered Rum Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup dark rum
2 tsp. vanilla
In medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in rum and vanilla.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peaches and Cornbread

This wasn't a perfect experiment but it used the last of my peaches making it difficult to try it again. The taste was really good but the cooking was difficult. However, I thought I'd share the idea for those who want to continue experimenting. I believe my biggest problem was using the entire batch of cornbread, cutting it in half would have saved a lot of headache.
I've shared cornbread recipes before so I won't give you the instructions here - I just used the recipe on the back of the cornmeal bag.

Peaches and cornbread
1 batch of cornbread batter (use recipe on back of cornmeal but double sugar and use 1 stick butter)
Peaches - about 2 pounds frozen
1 cup sugar
2 teas cinnamon

Melt stick of butter in a casserole dish (I used a 9" round dish). Swish butter around pan and pour remaining in cornbread batter. Layer peaches over butter, sprinkle on sugar and cinnamon. Mix in bowl.
Spoon 1/2 of cornbread batter on peaches (full batter was far too much). Bake at 350 for up to an hour.
(I baked this at 450 and it nearly burnt the outside and left the inside doughy so a lower temperature would have faired better.)
Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I know that I usually hold off my experiments until I have them nearly perfected but this recipe was really tasty once I removed the top half of the cornbread. The cornbread absorbs a good deal of peach juice which makes it moist and tasty but the peaches were still moist. This was not a good fruit year here in Washington so there wasn't extra peaches. I may try this with canned fruit and share again. However I loved the idea behind this experiment. Cornbread can easily be made gluten-free and accented the peaches perfectly.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Sauce

My friend over at Mrs. Undomestic was talking about making your own pancake syrup. I love making syrups and fun little sauces. It's an inexpensive way to add more pizzazz to pancakes, ice cream, whatever and it's fun to experiment. Many of the sauces/syrups I make last a long time in the fridge, however sauces like this one do have a tendency to crystalize if left too long. It's easy to fix - just heat up the sauce in the microwave until all the sugar melts but over time that too will alter the composition of the sauce. The real solution - use it up.

This recipe was given to me by a friend ages ago and really got me into making canned sauces and syrups. This sauce makes 1 jar so I don't go through the canning process since I just keep it in the fridge. If you want to save this on the shelf or give it as a gift, pour the hot sauce into a hot jar and top immediately. If you worry about the seal not taking - boil for 10-15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Sauce
1 cup brown sugar
3 tbs. butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
Place 1st 3 ingredients in microwave safe bowl, microwave 3-4 minutes uncovered, checking periodically until bubbly. If overcooked will taste burnt. Add milk and peanut butter. Keep in glass jar in fridge.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cinnamon Coffee

Last night I was finishing up Joanne Fluke's Devil's Food Cake Murder when I came across her recipe for cinnamon coffee. Her recipe used a perculating coffee pot and sounded so tasty. We have a french press so I had to modify. The result was a tasty evening drink. I will share her actual recipe when I have a chance to try it at my dad's house. The recipe calls for plain 'ole coffee but I found the last of my Tecchino French Vanilla so I thought I'd try that.

Cinnamon Coffee
2 TB Tecchino French Vanilla
2 TB brown sugar
1-2 teas cinnamon
French Press

Boil water to fill French press. Add ingredients to press and fill with hot water. Stir and let sit. Press out coffee grounds.

Serve with a touch of milk and a dollop of Cool whip and enjoy. Our French press made enough for 3 1/2 large cups of coffee (so probably 5 regular servings).
The whole family drank it up with lots of yums and exclamations (my son actually finished off the pot).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kitchen Inventory

For many years, I was a stay at home mom who took on work as it came. This worked well for our rural lifestyle but when we moved to the "city" things changed. I worked part-time for a year or so and then was offered a full-time job. At this time, both my husband and I worked full-time so the household division stayed the same. In December 2010,my husband lost his job. He tried working but couldn't get anything permanent. He became a stay at home dad. This was a great opportunity for us but shifting the household duties to my husband wasn't as smooth as I had expected. One big problem we discovered was the kitchen responsibilities. The kitchen has always been my domain and I gladly passed it over to my husband. He's a wonderful cook and has his own plans for kitchen experiments. That wasn't the problem - I hadn't given up the shopping. Within a couple of months neither one of us knew what was in our refrigerator or pantry. During this time, my mom moved from the farmhouse she shared with my aunt to a place near us. The farmhouse has kitchen storage, a pantry off the kitchen, a pantry in the basement and more. She had created a second pantry in the basement (third for the house) and they had a broken freezer she called the dry storage (flour, etc protected from mice). My aunt had been getting a monthly senior food box for the last few years and my mom was a Costco shopper. When she moved, she had several truck loads of food she didn't even know she had. She mentioned doing a database so she could keep track of the food she had, shopping lists and sales/coupons. I'm not as tech-savvy as my mom but she had a point. When we moved to the city, I had written in a notebook everything we had in our kitchen. It was an ineffectual system because there was no real way to change the pages without writing them over and I didn't take the time to put them in the computer. So, I took time to go through all the food in our kitchen and list how much we had and where it was located. It wasn't a perfect list but a good start. Then I took some time to put all the food in an Excel file. I tinkered and came up with a great system. I created several columns - food item, areas they are and where I last purchased the item and for how much. The food items I broke down into several categories - Meat/Proteins, Dairy (and dairy substitutions), Grains/Starches, Vegetables, Fruit, Condiments, Misc and Spices. I put spices at the end because it was a much longer list than everything else. I, also, put a special little section at the end of the spices for my extracts. Then I created the columns - Refrigerator, small freezer, big freezer, left cupboard, right cupboard, pantry and misc (for those things that sit on the counter or the spice shelf). The last column for where I purchased and for how much was an afterthought. I had just done some shopping and in an effort to stay in budget I had written the prices on my list. I shopped with a calculator so I could keep track of how much I was spending - the prices were important because I would find better deals in various parts of the store (for example, I picked up bacon with the breakfast meats to find less expensive and better looking bacon in the meat department). I could subtract the price of the original item and add the new price so that my amount stayed fairly accurate. In the end, I spent less than my budget, missing one item on my list (not available) and picking up a handful of things not on the list that we needed (like bread). Adding those prices to my list helps me when I go to a different store. The prices might not stay the same next month but I have a better idea of what they could be. Now, the last note I would make is that with every item, I listed the number I had and attempted to make notes as to size. I printed the list out and attached it to a clipboard with a pen. It takes less than a minute to make notes about what we used during the day so that our inventory stays current. I have also made notes about foods I canned, foraged or was given, as well as things that I don't want to replace when they run out. This keeps things clear for both me and my husband. He can grab the list and see if we are out of something so I can swing by the store on my way home. There's no confusion about where the item should be. We can see that the new chicken was put in the big freezer not the small one by where we marked it on the list. Shopping days will mean being vigilant but it's not a hard task to prevent future chaos and lost foods.
If you are interested in a pdf example - let me know. I can't figure out how to post one here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

I found this recipe in the My Sweet Vegan cookbook. My son loves rootbeer and the idea that it can be an ingredient in nearly anything (he created a rootbeer float hamburger when he was ten that was really good). After making this and talking about a Rootbeer cookie recipe I had found, my son declared I was the best mom in the world.
These cupcakes have a nice rootbeer flavor that mellows as the cupcake cools. The flavor is almost like rootbeer hinted chocolate even though there is no chocolate in these. The recipe has a vanilla frosting but we used Coolwhip to save time.
The recipe is dairy free but you can use real milk if you so desire.

Root Beer Float Cupcakes
1 cup root beer
1 teas apple cider vinegar
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup oil
½ teas vanilla
2 teas root beer extract
1 1/3 cup flour
½ teas baking powder
¾ teas baking soda
Oven to 350. In large bowl, combine root beer and vinegar. Let sit for a moment. Add sugar and oil and whisk vigorously until slightly frothy. Add extracts. Add dry ingredients. Pour into muffin tins. Bake 18-22 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes and move to wire rack.

Vanilla Frosting: Cream 1 cup shortening with 3 cup powdered sugar. Add 2 tb soy milk and 2 teas vanilla.
Mix until thick and creamy. Frost cool cupcakes.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Berry Pudding Cake

We went blackberry picking this weekend. Normally we come home with gallons of berries that have turned into soup because they are so juicy and it's rather hot when we pick. Those berries are often run through a jelly bag to get out any debris and I use it for jelly or berry flavored desserts but I never get to make berry filled desserts. This time the picking was really slim and the berries a little drier so what I came home with actually resembled berries. With so many recipes to choose from I opted to try a berry cobbler called Berry Pudding Cake. It's a sweet contrast to the more tart berries. The cake was rather tasty but didn't come out as pudding-like as I thought it would. It could be because the berries were drier but I think I liked it just a touch drier than I expected because it was easier to eat. I will share that any berries with flour on them that do not get covered with batter will most likely still have flour on them when you take the dessert out of the oven. It didn't ruin the cake by any stretch but I thought it took away from the beauty of the berries peeking through the cake. I wish I had taken a picture to share with you. You can use any berries but I recommend adding more sugar if you use tarter berries. My family thought this could have been a little sweeter but no real complaints. We served it with Cool Whip because I happen to find a tub in my freezer.
Berry Pudding Cake
4 cups berries - Spread in greased 9x9 pan.
2-3 TB sugar
2 TB flour
Combine and sprinkle over berries.
1/3-1/2 cup sugar
3 tb butter, soft
1 egg
¼ teas vanilla
Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and vanilla.
1 cup flour
1 teas baking power
1/3 cup milk.
Beat well and drop by spoonfuls over fruit and spread evenly. Bake in 350 oven for 30-40 minutes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chex Mix

Figured I'd round out my Thanksgiving week with a holiday favorite - chex mix. I know the recipe is often included on the box and easy to access but I hate the whole multiple open box problem so I figured out a recipe using the entire box (just 1 box) of cereal. Growing up my parents made chex mix the "proper" way with 1/3 wheat, 1/3 corn and 1/3 rice cereals. We always picked out the wheat because it was harder than the corn or rice. Eventually my mom stopped using the wheat chex. Now I just buy rice chex (or a generic version like crispy hexagons). I make it in the oven. I tried the microwave version once and didn't like the way it cooked.
Often times I skip the nuts and when we were gluten free I found this a great way to stretch a bag of pretzals (a bag of GF pretzals makes 2 batches of chex mix).

Chex Mix
1 box chex cereal
1 stick butter
2-3 cups pretzels
2-3 cups nuts
2 T Worcheshire sauce
1 ½ teas seasoning salt
¾ teas garlic powder
½ teas onion powder
Melt butter in glass measuring cup. In large bowl, combine chex cereal with pretzels and nuts. Add remaining ingredients to butter and pour over cereal and pretzels. Spread out in baking dish. Bake at 250 for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

Continuing with the Thanksgiving theme, I thought I'd share how to make mashed potatoes. My husband often refers to these as boiled potatoes which confuses me a little but when he was growing up mashed potatoes were pushed through a ricer so they were smooth. I don't put that much effort into them.
Not all potatoes are the same, each variety has its own characteristics when making mashed potatoes. Russets mash easily and have a more crumbly, gritty texture while red or white potatoes (like Yellow Finns) will have a creamier, pasty texture. They are both great but different and require slightly different finesse.
I use a wavy potato masher. I prefer the wavy to the grided masher because the potatoes don't get stuck in the cross-sections.
Now onto the procedure. If the potato peels are smooth and clean (and the potatoes fairly firm/fresh) I scrub them and boil them, peels and all. Russets will often lose their peels after they boil but if they are getting sprouty and wrinkly, take the time to peel them. If they are firm, you can pull off the peel after they boil or mash it into the dish.
Depending on the size of the potato and the amount of time I have to boil them, I cut them or leave them whole. Obviously, smaller potatoes take less time to cook. If I do cut up the potatoes, I quarter them. Boil the potatoes in enough water or broth to cover the potatoes. My family loves potatoes boiled in corned beef broth (I strain out the seasonings so I can mash the potatoes in the remaining brother).
Boil until the potatoes are soft. Time depends on the potato and the size.
Now if using water, drain into a colander. Return potatoes to pan and mash with masher until mostly smooth. The smoothness will depend on the potato. Slowly add milk, cream or broth to the potatoes until it reaches the texture you prefer. Add butter and seasonings to taste.
If you cook the potatoes in broth, make sure the potatoes are just covered when boiling, allowing the level to drop some as they cook. Don't drain but mash potatoes in the broth. If you are concerned that there is too much broth, drain some into a container so you can add it back. Mash until desired texture. Depending on the broth, your potatoes could have enough flavor that they don't need seasonings. If they come out too dry, add a little milk or extra broth. With the corned beef broth, we leave them as they are because they are full of flavor and just a tad salty.
This is probably not a perfect description of making mashed potatoes but should help you get started. Feel free to ask questions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Thanksgiving pie

I must be feeling the need to return to comfort food and family. I don't know why I have Thanksgiving on the brain but I do prefer finding holiday recipes well in advance of the holiday so I can stock up on ingredients.
I believe I got this recipe from Paula Deen. It's a fun mix of pecan and pumpkin pies. It sounds a little complicated but it's really so easy. You can buy a store-bought crust or try to make your own.
Be sure most of the jiggle has gone out of the pie before removing it from the oven and let cool so that it's good and set before cutting.

Thanksgiving Pie
3 eggs
1 cup dark corn syrup
½ cup sugar
4 tb butter, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teas vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
9 inch unbaked pie shell
whipped cream
oven to 350. Beat eggs well. Beat in next 5 ingredients. Arrange pecans on bottom of pie shell. Pour filling over pecans. Bake 1 hour. Serve with whipped cream.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


This might seem a little early and I feel a little like I'm copping out of a really good blog post but it amazes me how hard cooking a bird can be. Because of their size, cooking a turkey can be rather difficult. There's the balance of keeping the meat from drying out and getting the deep parts of the meat thoroughly cooked.
So while I am still under the turkey influence, I thought I would share how to properly cook a turkey.
A turkey takes a long time to cook - about 1 hour for every 3 pounds at 350 degrees. Keep this in mind when planning your cooking and even when purchasing the turkey. My almost 12 pound turkey took over 3 1/2 hours.
One thing that influences cooking time is what you stuff the turkey with. Dense bread stuffings add to the cooking time. I stuffed my turkey with apples and onions which allow air circulation through the cavities and help the turkey cook faster. I didn't use a bread stuffing, simply because we didn't have any.
If you are not using a bread stuffing, fill the cavity with moist flavor ingredients. Onions, apples, oranges, and celery are all great - they keep the cavities moist and add flavor to the turkey. Adding seasonings like - bay leaves, garlic, fresh herbs also help season a turkey.
Quite often I don't add anything to my turkey aside from what I stuff in it but there are a number of things you can do to give the turkey some extra flavor. One Christmas I marinated the turkey overnight in seasoned champagne. The recipe is here. It was a really good turkey but not enough to keep me doing it year after year. Some people brine their turkey - which means soaking the turkey in a heavy salt water solution, at least overnight. Soaking the turkey in a marinade or solution increases the moisture content in the bird.
Before cooking, you can rub the skin with butter and herbs or pull back the skin carefully and butter/season the meat underneath. Seasoning the skin only guarantees the skin with have flavor but adding the seasonings under the skin gives the meat a chance to absorb the flavor.
To cook the turkey, make sure it's a thawed as you can get. Sometimes we find the center is still a little frozen, this will add to the cooking time but not a big deal (unless you are deep frying and then you may have a problem but I don't deep fry turkeys). Place in a deep roasting pan so that it will catch all the drippings. If the turkey is quite large, lay it breast side down (can for any turkey but I usually save it for the big ones). Cook in a 350 degree oven. About half way through cooking, flip the bird over so that the breasts can brown. Be careful - you may lose the skin during this if you are not careful. You can also start breasts up and rotate more than once. It's best to finish breasts up because it's easier for carving and checking the meat for doneness.
Hope this helps and makes your next turkey cooking experience an easy one.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Turkey Gravy

My mom found a turkey in her freezer and gave it to us. We decided that it should probably be cooked so we can make room for future turkeys. For Sunday dinner we opted to have all the trimmings - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, yams and green beans (okay most of the trimmings).
I made the best turkey gravy and wanted to share it. Turkey gravy is one of those things that depends on all the drippings from your turkey so there's no real exact measurings but I will do my best for you.
I do not seperate the fat out of my gravy because I always use a fat anyway.

Turkey Gravy
Drippings from 1 turkey and scrappings (all the little bits of cooked blood, skin, fat and meat from the bottom of the pan) should equal about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup flour
3 cans evaporated milk

Let drippings cool for a really smooth gravy. Pour drippings into saucepan and use a spatula to get all the stuff. Add flour 1/2 cup at a time and whisk. You should have a really thick milky concoction. Set on medium heat and stir with whisk until lumps are all gone (as much as possible). Stir in cans of milk, one at a time until thick and smooth. Cook until a good gravy consistency - will thicken more when cooling. Season with salt and pepper or other seasonings as desired.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Canning Basics

Canning can be intimidating but it doesn't have to be. There are some basic recipes and techniques anyone can do. I don't get too fancy because I just don't feel comfortable moving to the next step but I make beautiful jams and jellies. For me - I can fruit, tomatoes, syrups and jams. I rarely get a spoiled jar and I have only had 1 jar explode on me (it was a very controlled explosion that stayed in the pot of water so I'm not sure it can really be called an explosion).
The big thing to remember is that you have to process your canning jars so they seal properly and when processing everything needs to be about the same temperature. To clarify, to process a jar - you put your food in the jar, wipe the rim, add the lid and the outer ring, set them in water and boil for a certain amount of time (depending on your altitude and recipe). The food in the jar has to be in a similar temperature to the water you put it in for processing. If the food is hot, the water should be hot; if the food is cold, then the water should be cold and brought to a boil after the jars are in. Otherwise, the jar breaks and you lose everything you have just made.
Ball Canning has a great website that offers tons of recipes and a tutorial on learning how to can. I will tell you there are a number of things out there for canning. I have purchased some canning specific items over the years but in the beginning, I used what I had. You need a large pot that will fit the jars in. I use a large stock pot. Even with a canning specific pot, I can only process about 6 jars at a time which is about what I could fit in my large stock pot. Tongs that can grab the top of the jars and pull them out of the water is a must as well. I still use just kitchen tongs instead of the fancy canning tongs. I use a lot of kitchen towels and pot holders to help. The last must have is a good way to put the items in the jar. I used a ladle and carefully added the stuff to the jar. It worked but did get messy. I do love my canning funnel and think it should be the first real canning purchase (after jars and lids). The funnel just makes it all easier but it's not an absolute necessity. Last thing is a wet washcloth to wipe the rim after pouring the stuff in the jar.
I will share that using store bought pectin and the recipes included is a great way to learn how to make jams and jellies. It's user-friendly. I still use pectin and make fancier jams (like apple pie jam which I will share soon.
One thing I do often is can tomatoes. I love canning tomatoes because it's easy. Not everyone will agree with my method and that's okay. It works for me and I have jars of tomatoes that have lasted years with no problem. My secret is to wash the tomato and remove the stem part and sometimes the little blemish on the bottom. If the tomatoes are large then I coarsely chop them, otherwise I leave them whole. Cook them slowly over medium heat (stir to prevent the bottom from burning). When hot and soupy, ladle into hot quart jars and process in boiling water for about 20 minutes. I think the time is 10-15 but I almost always keep them for 20. Remove from water and let dry and cool on counter (on top of a towel).
Another thing to share - I run my jars through the dishwasher as I start my canning recipe so I have clean, hot jars to ladle the product into.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Homemade Mac and Cheese

It's sweltering hot outside and do you know what my family wants to eat - Mac and cheese. No box mac will work for them - it has to be homemade. What we make is nearly as easy as a boxed dish so I don't really mind. I don't bake my mac and cheese like many people do and we serve it just like any pasta dish - noodles with the sauce on the side, unless I'm serving a big crowd and then I mix them together. My son's really enjoying some rice shells we got at the beginning of summer. While the noodles might be gluten-free, the sauce is not. To make it gluten free - use the almond sauce recipe, omit the seasonings and add cheese.

Homemade Mac and Cheese
16 oz bag of macaroni, shells or other small pasta
1/2 stick of butter
1/2-1 cup of flour
shredded cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Melt butter in medium saucepan on a med high heat. Add flour until the butter is absorbed and you are left with a yellow paste (a whisk works best here). Slowly add milk (about 1/2 cup at a time) and stir into the paste until incorporated. It's best to work it until the paste is smooth to prevent future clumps but may not be easy with the first addition of milk. Continue to add milk 1/2 cup at a time and stir until the paste is smooth. At some point the milk will not turn into paste. It should be thick. Add another 1/2 cup of milk to make it slightly thin and stir until it thickens some. Add cheese.
The reason I did not say how much cheese is because this depends on taste and type of cheese. If I use a sharp cheddar, I add about 1 1/2 cups. Add cheese, stir until fully melted and taste. If you use a velvetta like cheese - melt about 1-2 cups in a glass container before adding to the saucepan.
Serve the cheese sauce on the noodles. You can serve with cauliflower or broccoli since you have cheese sauce. We had it this week with salmon patties and the sauce was better than tartar sauce.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cinnamon Pears

I'm still waiting for things to get ready for canning. I'm dreaming of jams and syrups. I may just have to go buy some fruit to start. Hopefully we'll be getting some blackberries soon. I'll let you know as I will probably share blackberry recipes.
This cinnamon pear recipe is the best canned pears I have ever eaten. It's the sort of canned good that makes you sad when you eat the last one and so happy when you find one hidden in the back of the pantry. It's really easy and one of the first recipes I used when I learned how to can. The flavor is a sweet spicy sort of fruit that feels like a dessert.
I think I should probably do a canning tutorial for those who aren't experienced canners (I don't mean experienced like a master canner - just someone who's done more than once).
Canning is actually fairly easy and the recipes I share can be done by anyone with success.
I'm also a lazy canner so I rarely actually peel the fruit. If you don't want to - that's not a problem just make sure the skin is firm and unblemished. It does make a different textured product but that's not a bad thing.
You can, also, substitute apples for the pears.

Cinnamon Pears
2 qt water
1 package red hot candies
4 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 quart peeled and sliced pears
Combine 1st 6 ingredients in large pan. Bring to boil. Add pears and cook until tender. Fill jars and seal while hot. Process in bath 15 minutes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chicken Salad

Ocassionally we get a can of chicken and make chicken salad. Canned chicken can be pricey so we substitute with a couple boneless skinless chicken breast we bake and then chop. I don't use a "recipe" for this salad because it depends on what we have in the crisper and pantry. There's a formula I like and that's what I'm sharing with you. This weekend we ate the chicken salad on croissant with provolone cheese slices and a big slice of tomato.

Chicken Salad

Cold (or room temp-ish) chopped chicken
veggies - sliced olives, chopped celery, finely chopped onions, sweet relish
fruit - halved grapes, dried cranberries
nuts - walnuts, pecans

Mix chicken with mayo and choices from the remaining ingredient list.

Combinations we like - relish and olives; cranberries and pecans; celery, grapes and walnuts

Serve as a sandwich.