Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Chicken and Rice Casserole

This versatile casserole is great as a family meal, it's delicious to serve to guests, and it makes a popular take-along for a potluck. Whatever the occasion, you'll get compliments on this chicken and rice casserole. It's easy to make and easy to love.

I received an email today from a friend about the importance of buying American made products. One of the local products I support is rice. I appreciated the reminder about buying other kinds of goods, and given a choice, I will always buy products made in the U.S.A. Jobs of all kinds depend on our support. Since my brother is a rice farmer in Arkansas, I am devoted to buying and using Riceland rice. We can support farmers and other workers by checking the label before we buy.




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Chicken and Rice Casserole

1 - 1 1/3 pounds chicken breast, cooked and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (10.5 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 1/4 cups uncooked long grain white rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
4 ounces shredded mild cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place chicken in baking dish. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions, celery, and garlic. Saute until tender. In a large bowl, combine chicken soup, chicken broth, rice, salt, pepper, and oregano. Pour mixture over chicken, stir slightly. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil. Sprinkle cheese over top of casserole, then return to oven without foil for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Collecting vs. Hoarding

I believe there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding. So far I haven't fallen over the line into the abyss of hoarding, but I can see how it could happen. Collecting is fun. It starts with only one item. It's usually an item you love very much, maybe you even treasure it. Someone knows how much you value your whatcamacallit thingamabob, and they see another similar one. They immediately think of you and buy the new item as a mate for your first one. A collection is born. Many collections start something like this, innocently enough, but after a few years a collection could take on a life of its own.

One thing that makes collecting enjoyable is the hunt. Your collected item might be unique. It might not be easy to find, so you search. It's like finding Easter eggs. If you find one you're not going to leave it in the grass, you're going to put it in your basket with the other eggs. In fact, you'll keep piling those eggs in the basket until maybe the handle breaks off. That might be considered hoarding. It's too much of a good thing. Some people may define collecting as organized hoarding, but I think collections are much more.

Over the years I've collected a few different things, and none of them have broken the handle of my basket -- yet. I once collected teddy bears, then angels, then rabbits. A person only needs so many teddy bears, angels and rabbits, then enough is enough. My more recent collections include cookie cutters, Fiesta ware, rolling pins and cookbooks. My justification for these later collections is that they are useful in more ways than just the enjoyment of the hunt.




One of my cookbook collections is the Southern Living Annual recipes. The first year for these cookbooks was 1979, and it has been published every year since. I don't have a bookshelf wide enough to hold the complete collection, so I keep the older ones on one shelf and the more recent ones on another. I didn't start collecting them in 1979. I started this collection a few years ago, and it was interesting to look for and find all the years to complete the full set.




I love searching these cookbooks for recipes. If it's worth cooking, Southern Living will have a recipe for it. The 2015 version will be released on December 1, and I'm sure the new volume will be as excellent as its predecessors.

I enjoy my collections, but I do have one bit of advice for those who might want to begin a collection -- be sure your basket has a strong handle.






Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mini Chocolate Cream Pies

These bite-size chocolate cream pies are the most decadent little yummies ever. My sister and I made these for a shower we were hostessing. I could have scarfed down the whole tray before any guests arrived, but I used some restraint and saved them to serve at the shower. There are a few different steps to make these, but they are well worth it. If everything is made in advance these can be put together in a few minutes when needed. We cut the crust for these with a tiny square cookie cutter, but I have an itsy bitsy flower cutter I think I'll try next time. My version of the recipe is below, but the original can be found at  Food Pusher.








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Mini Chocolate Cream Pies

Crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening (Crisco)
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Add butter, cut into flour mixture until it is like coarse meal. Add shortening, cut in until well blended. Stir in water. Gently work the dough into a ball. Place dough in the middle of a piece of floured wax paper. Sprinkle flour over dough, then cover with another sheet of wax paper. Roll dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Use small cookie cutters (square, round, flower, etc.) to cut out dough. Place dough cut-outs on prepared baking sheet. Prick dough a few times with a fork. Bake for 11 - 13 minutes or until browned on the edges. Cool completely before adding filling.

Chocolate filling
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk
14 Dove Dark Chocolate Promises, unwrapped and chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and egg yolks. Pour milk mixture into sugar mixture, whisking until smooth. Cook on medium heat, whisking constantly, being sure to keep the bottom and edges of pan scraped, for about 7 - 9 minutes until mixture starts to thicken. Remove from heat and immediately whisk in chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Transfer hot filling to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, allowing the wrap to rest in contact with the filling. Refrigerate until cool, about 1 - 2 hours. Once filling and crusts are cooled, fill a pastry bag with the filling. Using a star tip, squeeze about 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons filling onto each crust.

Topping - Stabilized Whipped Cream
1/2 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder
2 tablespoons cold water
1 cup whipping cream
pinch salt
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Grated chocolate or toasted coconut for sprinkling

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water to soften. Scald 2 tablespoons of the cream then pour over gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Refrigerate until mixture is the consistency of an unbeaten egg white, about 10 - 15 minutes. Then beat mixture with a whisk until smooth.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whip beater, whip remaining cream and sugar just until soft peaks form; whip in the gelatin mixture, stopping to scrape the bowl twice, then whip about another 10 - 20 seconds. Fill a pastry bag with topping. Using a star tip, squeeze about a teaspoonful of topping over the filling. Sprinkle with grated chocolate or toasted coconut. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



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Monday, August 3, 2015

Brown Sugar Carrots

These Brown Sugar Carrots are a side dish that covers all the bases.

  1. They are easy to make.
  2. They cook in 10 minutes.
  3. They're colorful on a plate.
  4. Kids will eat them.
  5. They're good for you.

That list addresses some of the most important issues cooks deal with. When cooking for a family, we need recipes that are quick and easy. The food needs to look good, which is sometimes all it takes to entice a child to try it. Of course, a top priority is to serve foods that have good nutrition for our kids. This recipe makes enough for a small family, but if you have more than 3 or 4 people to feed it would be a good idea to double it.









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Brown Sugar Carrots

12 oz. sliced carrots
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, cook carrots in boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender; drain. Add butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper. Gently stir until butter is melted and brown sugar has dissolved.





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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Basic Biscuits

There are dozens of recipes for biscuits. Many Southern biscuits are made with buttermilk and have a soft tender texture. Some types of biscuits also have cheese or herbs added. Biscuits are a quick and easy bread to make. This recipe is a basic biscuit made with regular milk. They're equally good with butter, jelly, or gravy whether you're having them for breakfast or any other meal.






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Basic Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (Crisco)
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add shortening and cut into dry ingredients with a pastry blender until mixture is blended into fine crumbs. Add milk, stirring until dough is formed. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead several times. Roll dough to 1/2-inch thick and use a 2 1/2-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out dough. Place biscuits 1 inch apart on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until browned.






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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.







Print Recipe

Pecan Coconut Bars

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

Filling
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.








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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.





Print Recipe

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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