Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mom's Red Beans and Rice

Some recipes are best labeled as family traditions and this is definitely one of them. My mom always makes this after we have ham because it's the best and most delicious way to use up those leftovers. The original recipe for this dish came from a plate my Nana had and we haven't changed it in all the years it's been made, with one exception: Mom and I add red pepper flakes. It just isn't red beans and rice if it isn't spicy, right? So, my suggestion to you if you have leftover ham from Christmas: make this. Make it now! And serve it with cornbread. You'll love it, I promise!

Mom's Red Beans and Rice
*From Nana and Mom

1 pound red beans
1 quart water (32 ounces)
1/4 cup celery leaves (just cut off the tops of a bunch of celery and chop)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon tabasco sauce (a couple of shakes)
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 onion (or sub 1/2-1 tablespoon onion powder)
2 cups chopped or shredded ham

Place beans in water and soak overnight or until the beans have expanded. Remove all unexpanded beans and place the rest in a large pot or dutch oven. Pour in the water and add onion or onion powder.
Add tabasco sauce.
Then add red pepper flakes.
Stir in salt and add the chopped celery tops.
Finally, add in the ham.
Stir well and simmer on low heat for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until beans are softened.
With a potato masher, mash the beans until the mixture is thickened. If it seems too thick, add in a little more water.
Cook on low heat for another 1/2 hour or until you're ready to eat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn. Serve over white rice with cornbread and enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sweet Potato Casserole

My mom makes such amazing sweet potatoes, so when I decided to make my own sweet potatoes, I opted to try a different recipe. You just can't match Mom's recipe, so why try? This one is from the Pioneer Woman and it's wonderful. Shocking, I know. I've already made it 3 times and it's always a hit. A big bonus is that it's incredibly easy to make. My one change is the amount of sugar, which I've cut down to 3/4 of a cup because, let's face it, sweet potatoes are sweet-it's all in the name!

Sweet Potato Casserole
*From the Pioneer Woman

4 medium or 3 large sweet potatoes (I always use 3)
3/4 cup sugar (the recipe calls for 1 cup, but I add a little less)
1 cup milk
2 whole eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup flour
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) butter, cold

Wash sweet potatoes and bake in a 400º oven for 40-50 minutes, or until fork tender.
When they are finished cooking, slice in half and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl or baking dish.
Add sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt.
Mash with a potato masher until smooth, or to the desired consistency.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add brown sugar, pecans, flour, and cold butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash ingredients together until combined.
Spread sweet potatoes in a 11/2 to 2-quart baking dish and top with brown sugar and pecan mixture.
Bake in a 400º oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Aunt Elaine's Meatballs

I am so lucky to have married into such a great family. My husband's relatives are all so wonderful and funny and sweet. I've felt welcomed since day one, which is a nice change from the drama I have in my extended family. Hubby's family understands that family is family and you love one another regardless of their shortcomings or eccentricities (not that Hubby's family has any of those-they are perfect in every way! Hi in-laws!). I particularly love getting together with them over the holidays. They do a girls only gift exchange between the 11 of us in the area, the conversation is always fun and lively, and the food is great. This recipe is Hubby's Aunt Elaine's meatballs. These were delicious and she was so great to give me the recipe, which I made for our smaller family get-together. Thanks Elaine!

Aunt Elaine's Meatballs
*From Aunt Elaine!

1 package Aidell's Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs (from Costco)
1 jar chili sauce
1 can jellied cranberry sauce
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
A couple shakes of horseradish, to taste
Pinch of salt

Add meatballs to the CrockPot and turn it on high. In a medium bowl, add chili sauce, cranberry sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, and horseradish.
Stir well to combine.
Add sauce to the meatballs.
Stir to coat.
Cover and cook on high until the meatballs are heated through. Serve and enjoy!

Honeyed Curry Chicken

All this holiday eating has me craving lighter, healthier fare. This dish was the perfect one to satisfy that craving and a huge bonus was the aroma of the curry. It made for a wonderful break from the sugary smell of baking. We served this delicious dish with edamame, which was also yummy. The original recipe was from Fix-It and Forget-It, a slow cooker cookbook, but I adapted it for the oven. This one will definitely be a permanent fixture in our menus!

Update: We tried this with chicken tenders and it was so yummy! More delicious glaze equals even more delicious chicken in my tummy.

Honeyed Curry Chicken
*Adapted from Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 chicken breasts
Add honey, mustard, salt, and curry powder in a medium bowl and mix well.
Melt butter in a saucepan and add honey mixture, stirring to combine.
Place chicken in a lightly greased baking dish. Spoon liquid over each piece of chicken.
Cook at 350º for 30-40 minutes, basting the chicken every 10 minutes with the sauce mixture in the baking dish. To caramelize, place chicken under the broiler for a few minutes at the end of the cooking time. Make sure you watch it carefully. Enjoy with edamame!
*To make in the CrockPot, add chicken to the slow cooker and top with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until chicken is just tender.

PW's Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon rolls are the traditional Christmas morning breakfast in our family, but the maker of the cinnamon rolls (one of my aunts), moved out of state. We were left cinnamon roll-less, so I decided to make Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls. And I'm in love! I cut the recipe in half, which made 4 pans of rolls. Hubby took one to work and his fellow deputies scarfed these instead of the stereotypical donuts. In fact, one of them, a self-proclaimed cinnamon roll connoisseur, raved about these rolls and requested another pan, just for himself, for his birthday next month. I love feeding those guys-they are so easy to please! Pioneer Woman warns her readers that declarations of love have occurred when people make these rolls, so it's a good thing I'm already married!
Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls
**This is the original recipe, which I cut in half.

1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
8 cups (plus 1 extra cup, separated) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
1 tablespoon (heaping) salt
Plenty of melted butter (*next time I will just use softened butter because melted=mess)
2 cups sugar
Generous sprinkling of cinnamon

Maple frosting:
1 bag powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat to just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and allow to cool for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but not hot, sprinkle in both packages of active dry yeast. Let this sit for a minute, then add 8 cups of flour. Stir mixture together, cover and let rise for at least an hour.
*You could also use a bread machine for this part. Just add wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and yeast in that order and use the dough setting.

After rising for at least an hour, add one more cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir mixture together. (At this point you could cover and refrigerate the dough until you need it-overnight or a day or two. Just watch it to make sure it doesn't overflow the pan. If it starts to, just punch it back down.)

When you're ready to prepare the rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rectangle. Roll the dough thin, while maintaining a general rectangle shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter then sprinkle 1 cup of sugar and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon over the dough.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough toward you in a neat line. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seam it.

Spread 1 tablespoon melted butter in a 7-inch round foil cake or pie pan. Begin cutting the rolls 3/4 to 1 inch thick and arrange in the butter pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20-30 minutes, then bake at 375º for 15-18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all frosting ingredients and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Enjoy!

*If you want to store some of the pans, cool and cover tightly with plastic wrap, then cover with foil and freeze.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oreo Truffles

When Hubby and I got married last September, a few of my aunts came up early to help us with last-minute wedding details. My Aunt Kris (who is one of my heroes-there is nothing she can't do!) made us Oreo truffles the first night of her visit and I think Hubby seriously considered leaving me for her.
Not really since she's married, but that was probably the only thing stopping him! Oreo truffles are the most addictive treat I've ever had and have occupied my sugary dreams since Aunt Kris made them for us. I tried making them for Mother's Day, but the chocolate coating was a bit of a flop. Now that I'm more confident in the kitchen, I thought I would try them again. Success! Do I have any cookie bits in my teeth?
Oreo Truffles
*From Aunt Kris!

1 package Oreo cookies (you could mix this recipe up and use mint Oreos-yum!)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
10 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate (I used Baker's, Aunt Kris used Ghirardelli's)

Crush Oreos in a food processor.
The crumbs should be this consistency:
Reserve 1-2 tablespoons of crumbs for topping the truffles. Mix in cream cheese. You can either do this in a bowl with a spoon, or use the food processor, which is what I did. One less bowl to wash!
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll cookie mixture into 1-inch balls and place on the baking sheet. Refrigerate until the balls become slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
Melt chocolate according to package directions in a medium-sized bowl.
Roll Oreo balls into the chocolate using two forks to coat.
As you lift it out of the chocolate, allow much of it to drip off while moving the ball from fork to fork. This will stop excess chocolate from pooling under the truffle. Place the truffle back on the baking sheet and sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs while still soft.
Reheat chocolate as needed while doing this step to keep it nice and melted. Refrigerate completed Oreo truffles for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Enjoy! (And thanks Aunt Kris!)

Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings

Hubby and I love chicken and dumplings. It's such an easy dish in the CrockPot, which allows me to just dump in the ingredients and go. This dish is a Mexican spin on chicken and dumplings. It's warm and comforting, spicy and delicious. One of the best things about this meal: it's essentially a one pot dish. So, if you have some cooked chicken on hand and a desire for a hearty and yummy meal, try this one!

*Sorry about the picture quality. Winter means running out of natural light a lot faster!

Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup flour
1 can (14.5 ounces) chicken broth
1 jar (15 ounces) salsa verde
1 can evaporated milk
5-6 cups shredded cooked chicken

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat butter over medium-high heat in an ovenproof skillet or 5-6 quart Dutch oven. Whisk in flour to make a paste.
In a large bowl, mix evaporated milk, broth, and salsa verde. Whisk mixture into the roux.
Whisk quickly to combine and then simmer until it reaches sauce consistency, whisking frequently. Stir in chicken and heat through, cover and keep warm.
Heat oven to 400º and adjust oven rack to lower middle position.

For the dumplings:
Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted and the mixture is steamy. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, green onions, and cilantro together in a medium bowl with a fork.
Stir in milk mixture to form a smooth, firm dough.
Pinch off ping-pong-ball-sized pieces of dough and drop into the chicken mixture.
Return chicken to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cover and transfer to the oven and bake until dumplings are heated through, about 15-20 minutes.