Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Pecan Coconut Bars

Cookie bars are less fuss to make than either drop cookies or roll and cut cookies. These Pecan Coconut Bars are made in two steps, but each step takes just minutes to prepare. If you're looking for a treat to serve at a shower or other gathering, the rich taste of these bars won't let you down. They can be cut into 16 squares, or for a more dainty dessert cut into smaller squares. These are pretty when placed in paper liners on a tray.

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Pecan Coconut Bars

6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the crust - In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter, sugar, and salt. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour, stir until combined. Pat the dough out flat into the bottom of an ungreased 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake 14 - 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make filling - In a medium bowl, beat eggs slightly with wire whisk. Add vanilla. Gradually stir in brown sugar, just until blended. Add flour and salt; mix well. Stir in coconut and pecans. Spread mixture evenly over baked crust. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until lightly browned and filling is set. Cool for 10 minutes, then loosen around the edges with a knife. Allow to cool completely, then cut into bars. Makes 16 bars.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Brown Rice Casserole

The name of this casserole is somewhat misleading, as the recipe contains no brown rice. The recipe ingredient is actually white rice, but I suppose the name happened because the rice looks brown when cooked. Regardless of the name, this is a very delicious side dish. I've been making this family favorite for a number of years. I don't know where the recipe originated, perhaps with the soup mix company. The recipe was given to me by my niece Kristy.

If you make this once, I am quite certain your family will ask for it again.

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Brown Rice Casserole

1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef consommé
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 (4 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/3 cup butter, cut in pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a baking dish with a light coating of cooking spray. In the baking dish, combine beef broth and consommé. Add rice, soup mix, and mushrooms. Mix by stirring gently. Top with butter. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed.

As always, my recipe was prepared with Arkansas rice in support of our rice farmers.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Calling Dr. House

A couple of days ago I made a pork tenderloin. I love pork tenderloin for two reasons. One, it is delicious. Two, it slices uniformly, therefore making a beautiful presentation. But, unfortunately, pork tenderloin is not without its drawbacks. One of them is that I fear all pork. It's a groundless fear, kind of like the fear of a monster lurking in the dark closet or under the bed. I have feared monsters like that many times, but not once have I ever seen one.

I don't have photos of this last tenderloin because I didn't intend to write about it. I was using a new recipe from a usually trusted source, but when it comes to pork I don't trust anyone. The recipe clearly stated to cook the tenderloin for 15 minutes, then let it rest for 10. Fifteen minutes? Who is she kidding? I questioned the time in my mind, but set my timer anyway.

When I heard the timer beep and opened the oven, seriously, the pork looked raw. I quickly closed the oven door, having flashbacks of my health textbook from school. The fear of trichinosis flooded through me. This recipe author must be trying kill me. I suddenly remembered one of Dr. House's tidbits of wisdom. "Everybody lies." Is this what he was talking about? I got my meat thermometer and tested the pork. It wasn't even close to being done by my standards.

Photo source http://mbti-in-fiction.tumblr.com/post/31591750919/greg-house

I cooked the pork for more than twice the recommended time in order to get a thermometer reading that allayed my fears. It turned out to be quite delicious, even if I did overcook it according to the professional's recipe. The flavor was enhanced with the seasoning Herbes De Provence. I really should make it again and share the recipe, but I'm not sure who is right about the cooking time. Should the pork really only be cooked for 15 minutes as the renowned expert indicated, or is my extended cooking time correct?

Does anyone else have this fear of trichinosis from pork, or is this a crazy obsession of mine? The health books warned us about it as school children. I even saw the episode of House where the patient's life hung on a thread because of trichinosis. After ruling out lupus and a hundred other diseases, House finally had his revelation. The only answer was trichinosis. The right medicine was administered just in time to save the patient's life. And how did the patient get trichinosis? The poor girl had a pulled pork sandwich once at a picnic.

Do people actually get trichinosis from pork now? I've never heard of a single case (except the one Dr. House cured). Every time I cook pork, though, I hear the word 'trichinosis' being whispered by a villainous voice into my ear. Seems like there must be more immediate things I should fear other than this obscure disease, but few come to mind so readily.

I highly suspect if I were to actually become infected with trichinosis my doctors would probably never get it diagnosed before it got me. It just doesn't seem like the kind of ailment they have on their radar. Like the team of television doctors, they would have to schedule various tests and rule out a myriad of other diseases before trichinosis was considered. Of course, my symptoms would be atypical, confusing everyone all the more. Not to mention, my hospital doesn't even have a Dr. House. I think I'd better rely on my meat thermometer. It doesn't lie.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Apricot Fried Pies

Sometimes I'll see a display of fried pies somewhere and succumbing to nostalgia, buy one. It's usually pretty disappointing because it seems no one can quite recapture the taste of the pies the little bakery in our town made years ago. I remember how hard it was to decide which kind of pie to buy when I went there, everything was so good. I know apricot, peach, and chocolate were my top three. I by no means have their recipes, but by making fried pies at home, I can get closer to that long ago taste and freshness that I remember.

The pies I made today are apricot, but any dried fruit you like will work. The pastry is the same no matter what filling is used. The best advice I can give is to be sure to roll the dough out thin, no thicker than 1/8-inch, as the self-rising flour puffs a little when it fries.

Apricot Fried Pies

1 (6 ounce) package dried apricots, soaked in water overnight
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

To soak, use just enough water to cover apricots. After soaking, pour apricots and remaining water into a medium sauce pan. Add sugar and cinnamon. Cook and stir over medium -  low heat until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool.

2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (like Crisco)
1/2 cup ice water
Oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Add egg yolk and shortening, mix using a pastry cutter until mixture becomes crumbly. Add ice water, stir until dough forms. Pour dough onto a floured surface and roll to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into 6-inch rounds. Place 2-3 tablespoons filling on each round. Fold over and seal edges by crimping with a fork moistened in water. Place pastries on a parchment paper lined tray and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Pour oil 1/4-inch deep into heavy frying skillet. Heat to medium - high. Place a few pies at a time in the hot oil and fry 2 -3 minutes on each side until browned. Drain. Makes 8. Can be glazed or dusted with powdered sugar, if desired.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob fresh from the garden is one of those delightful tastes of summer. The way I have always cooked corn on the cob is to boil water, drop in the ears of corn, and cook until they look done. This year I found out the way I've always done it is not the right way. There's a much better way to cook fresh corn on the cob. There's actually a recipe for corn on the cob. This recipe is very, very good, and it's simple, too. Where have I been all my life? Did everyone else except me know that a little sugar and lemon juice in the boiling water makes the best corn on the cob?

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Corn on the Cob

2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
6 ears fresh corn

In a large pot, add enough water to fill pot about 3/4 of the way to the top. Add sugar and lemon juice; stir to dissolve sugar. Cook over high heat until the water boils. Drop in the ears of corn. Cover pot and remove from heat. Leaving the pot covered, allow to stand for 10 minutes. Remove corn from hot water and serve with butter or as desired.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Garlic Jar

For almost two years I have been searching for a garlic jar. The search is finally over. I bought a garlic jar, but not before looking at many jars. I found some that were almost the right jar, but not quite. I didn't want just any garlic jar. I wanted THE garlic jar.

In order to fit my requirements, the jar of my dreams had to be big enough to hold several bulbs of garlic. Not one or two, but several. That meant many of the jars I found were nixed because they were much too small.

My ultimate jar also had to be the right color. A lot of garlic jars are a generic white. Others are colored or decorated, but are often in drab colors. I wanted a jar that would coordinate with my Fiesta ware. I have a number of Fiesta ware pieces of various colors in my kitchen, so the jar didn't have to be a particular color, it just needed to jive.

The jar I was on the quest to find also had to be pretty. I wanted something with a little style. I didn't want it to look like it rolled off the assembly line in the company of 600 trillion other identical jars, all headed to stores in the U.S. on a slow boat.

Meet the ultimate garlic jar. It's the right size (4 bulbs will fit), it's the right color (chartreuse), it coordinates very well with any of my Fiesta ware, especially the citrus colors, and it's pretty (notice the shape, the wheat detail, and the handle on top). We were meant for each other.

The search is over, thanks to Daisy at Friesen Art in McPherson, Kansas. I don't personally know Daisy, but I do know she makes beautiful pottery, and she shipped this jar to me super fast. In my search for "the jar" I came across her shop accidentally online. She has other beautiful pieces too. I wanted to tell everyone about Daisy since she connected me with just the right garlic jar. Look her up sometime at www.friesenart.com, and maybe she can help you meet the jar of your dreams too.

P.S. Daisy didn't ask me to write this post, and I didn't tell her I intended to. She does great work, though, and she deserves some applause.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

From 0 to 10 in the Blink of an Eye

Birthdays are the happiest of occasions, but wow, do they ever creep up. Our Landon celebrated #10 this year. He's on his way to becoming such a hard-working, responsible young man. He has become a terrific basketball player over the past year (could it be because I practice with him?). I was sure he would ask for a basketball-themed cake this year. So sure, in fact, I had been saving pictures and ideas for a basketball cake for months. My guess was a little off. When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted, he didn't hesitate to answer. It had to be John Deere with lots of green icing. So John Deere it was. I was even able to make John Deere cookies to go with the cake, thanks to Amazon Prime. My tractor cookie cutter arrived in plenty of time, even though it was ordered at the last minute. Whew, that's not the first time I've been saved by two day shipping.

Keep in mind, I'm quite an amateur cookie and cake decorator, but I'm posting my pictures as ideas for other amateurs like me.

I'm not going to blink again because I know next time I do he'll be 20.