12/31/13

My Favorites From 2013

Yesterday I posted the most viewed recipes by my readers of 2013 from several categories. As I was compiling the numbers, I was surprised to see some of my own favorite recipes did not make the cut. Social media is probably responsible for some recipes having a disproportionate number of views because on sites such as Facebook sometimes many people see what is posted and other times it seems hardly anyone does. There are also those times that another blogger with a large following might take notice of a particular recipe and share or promote it so that it receives a great deal of views, which is much appreciated, but there are other posts with equal merit that get buried with little notice from anyone. I couldn't let this year come to a close without giving a shout out to a few of my own favorites.


Chocolate Pecan Pie




Honey Tea Bread




Baked Rice Krispie Chicken





Caramel Coconut Pie





Dipped Chocolate Chip Heart Cookies




Pecan Lemon Loaf





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12/30/13

Your Favorite Posts 2013

Regardless of what The Rolling Stones and others have said on the subject, time is NOT on my side. Yet another year will be finished in a few hours, sigh. I have found time to be a cruel enemy who moves swiftly to cause all manner of unpleasant circumstance to the victims. These quickly passing years remind me how precious each day is to spend with our families. Just yesterday I had babies, but today they are grown. So goes another year.

Thank you for taking some of your time to read my blog and for your comments and emails to let me know what you think about the recipes, crafts, and whatnot that I post. Here are this year's top two posts for each category below.


2013 Favorite Breads







2013 Favorite Main Dish







2013 Favorite Side Dish







2013 Favorite Soups & Stews







2013 Favorite Desserts








I look forward to sharing more good food in 2014 and trying to stay one step ahead of TIME.





12/26/13

Pineapple Shrimp Stir-Fry

After the rush of all the holiday cooking many are looking for some easy meals to prepare so there will be more time to spend with the family. This recipe was found in a children's cookbook, so you know it's going to be simple to make, but it will also please grown-up tastes. Pineapple Shrimp Stir-Fry comes from one of my granddaughter's favorite cookbooks, Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Meals for Kids.




Pineapple Shrimp Stir-Fry

1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup julienne cut carrots
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (8 oz.) can pineapple chunks, drained
2/3 cup sweet and sour sauce
Hot cooked rice, if desired (I used Royal Blend Texmati quick cooking)

Heat a nonstick wok over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add carrots and bell pepper, cooking and stirring 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are pink and vegetables are crisp-tender.
Add the drained pineapple chunks along with the sweet and sour sauce, cooking and stirring 2 to 3 minutes longer or until pineapple is hot. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.




This is a colorful and healthy family meal, and it is a speedy one to get on the table. Maybe there's even a youngster at your house who would enjoy being the sous chef for this family fare.


12/23/13

Christmas Crack

Christmas Crack is what my daughter's family calls this sweet treat that is only around the house during holiday time. Her version of the recipe came by way of her sister-in-law Kim, but I have seen many similar recipes posted on other blogs. I did some checking and possibly the original came from Trisha Yearwood, but Trisha's is made with saltine crackers, while Kim uses graham crackers in this recipe. Either way, I'm sure this stuff is equally addictive, so beware!



I spent a couple of days last week at my daughter's house and watched as she made several batches of this to give away to neighbors and co-workers. She had a regular assembly line going in her kitchen, boiling, spreading, cooling, breaking, then packaging. The batches that weren't cool enough to break up before bedtime were broken up and packaged before she went to work the next morning. She speeds around the kitchen like she's riding a Ducati, I wish I had her energy level.


Kim's Christmas Crack

Graham crackers (about 16 whole)
2 cups (4 sticks) butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a half sheet pan (18 x 13-inches) by covering with aluminum foil, then coating lightly with nonstick cooking spray (or line pan with parchment paper). Lay the graham crackers out in a single layer on the prepared pan, breaking as needed to fit the pan; set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the butter and brown sugar. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil, then cook 3 minutes longer. Pour this mixture over the graham crackers. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven. Sprinkle immediately with the chocolate chips. Spread the melted chips in a layer over the top. Place the pan in refrigerator until hardened, then break up into pieces.


I'm not sure how many packages were made, but here are some of them waiting to be whisked away to the lucky recipients. If you live in the Little Rock area and received one of these bags, you'll probably be needing the recipe for Christmas Crack so you can make more.


12/21/13

Christmas Pretzel Rods

My wish is that no one is as far behind as I am when it comes to being ready for Christmas this year. Yikes, I still have some shopping to finish! There are also gifts to wrap and lots of goodies to make. Most of all I probably need to chill out and remember that everything doesn't have to be done perfectly. Not everything we do for family and friends has to be fancy to be appreciated, and this little treat is simple, but one most everyone will love.



These dipped pretzel rods make a colorful sweet and salty snack, and making them won't add to the holiday stress level. I have made similar dipped pretzel rods for other holiday occasions, and the directions for how to put these together can be found here.


After dipping just add some colorful Christmas sprinkles and let the candy coating dry. Even if everything else about the holiday has me running in circles, at least I can count on this no-stress treat.

12/16/13

Baby Shower DIY Gifts

A baby shower is such a fun way to help a new mother-to-be prepare for the birth of her wee one. Seasoned parents know how much "stuff" it takes to welcome a baby into the world, and most new parents can use a little help getting started. Baby needs bottles, gowns, crib, booties, carseat, highchair, stroller, diapers, blankets, and the list goes on and on. Something that is nice to do at a baby shower is to add some home made items to all the store bought gifts.



All babies spit up occasionally, and it seems mine were much more prone to losing mouthfuls of milk when I was wearing my best clothing. I learned quickly to always be prepared, and I think these DIY burp cloths make great shower gifts for new parents.



I recently made some burp cloths for a baby shower using these prefolded diapers.




I cut a strip of minky fabric 5 1/2 inches wide x 18 inches long for each diaper, then pressed under a 1/2-inch seam allowance on each long side of the strip.



Then I centered the fabric strip, right side up, over the diaper and stitched close to the edge down each side of the minky strip.




I finished the top and bottom edges with a zigzag stitch.




Then I embellished the burp cloths with ribbon trim of various types and widths.




Some of the burp cloths have a ribbon border all the way around and others are trimmed with ribbon along the sides of the minky strip and across the top. There's really no right or wrong way to make these. They could be done in colors especially to match nursery decor or made with other types of fabric. I like the handy size of the prefolded diapers and the softness of the minky fabric.



Another cute and easy DIY shower gift to make is a taggie blanket for baby. I used the remainder of my blue and yellow minky fabric to make two taggie blankets to go with with the burp cloths.


To make each taggie blanket, cut two squares of fabric. I made mine 14 inches square. Each taggie blanket needs twenty 5-inch pieces of ribbon. The ribbon should be folded in half and pinned to the right side of one of the squares of fabric, as shown in the photo. Space the ribbon out evenly, leaving about 3 inches on each corner. Stitch the ribbon in place, then sew both squares of fabric together, right sides together, leaving an opening on one side to turn. Turn the blanket to the right side and stitch up the opening.



This makes such a sweet, soft little blanket for the baby to cuddle up with. Neither of these baby shower projects require a great deal of sewing skill, and they make cute, personal gifts for a new mother and her precious baby.


12/10/13

Crock Pot Cornbread Dressing

The traditional fare for many holiday times is turkey, and that was the choice for my family this year at Thanksgiving. I also sometimes serve turkey at Christmas or other occasions when I am cooking for a group. An essential side dish for turkey at my house is the cornbread dressing. I know there is a debated "dressing or stuffing" issue, but I'll let someone else argue the points, I'll just say this cornbread dressing is what my family prefers.

This dish is so easy because all the prep work can be done ahead, and all there is left to do on the big day is stir it together and turn on the crock pot. On a day when you need the services of an air traffic controller to get everything in and out of the oven efficiently, using the crock pot for a side just saves a bit of sanity for the cook.

This recipe has been around for a long time, and I'm not sure of its origin, but whoever the bright chef was that thought of using the crock pot for this dish has my applause.







Print Recipe

Crockpot Cornbread Dressing

1 (9-inch) pan baked cornbread
8 slices day old bread
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 teaspoon sage
2 (10.75 oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth
4 eggs
2 tablespoons butter

In a large bowl, break up and crumble breads together. Add salt, pepper, onion, celery, and sage, mix well. In a separate bowl, mix soup, broth, and eggs together. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, mix well. Pour mixture into a crock pot that has been prepared with nonstick cooking spray. Dot the top of the mixture with the butter. Cook on LOW for 4 hours or on HIGH for 2 hours.

If desired, this recipe can be halved and baked in the oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Quick prep tip:
Bake the cornbread a few days in advance. Prepare the dry ingredients together the day before you plan to cook the dressing and refrigerate. When needed, mix together the soup, chicken broth, and eggs to add to the already prepared dry ingredients, then dot with butter.

Cornbread recipe can be found here.



This recipe was shared with my friends at:
Saturday Dishes

12/6/13

Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

We have some of that winter weather here in Northeast Arkansas today that is accurately described in the song as "frightful." The precipitation started as sleet, so ice accumulated on everything, then snow fell afterward. All the schools are closed, but my grandson's school is having their first Cyber Day today. Apparently this is a new idea to have online assignments for the students when school is dismissed for bad weather so the school day can still be counted. Oh well, that kind of takes the fun out of having a snow day, doesn't it?




I decided to do some baking today just in case we lose our power later. I baked a couple of loaves of this Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread first thing this morning. This is a recipe that I posted way back when I first started my blog, and it is a favorite of mine. Even though some types of banana bread don't appeal to me, I love this recipe made with cream cheese and toasted pecans.

Print Recipe

First toast the pecans:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spritz a baking sheet with cooking spray. Chop enough pecans to make 1 cup. Now spread them on baking sheet and toast them just until they become aromatic, about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they are easily scorched. Remove from the oven and set aside.


Cream Cheese Banana Nut Bread

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas (1 1/4 pounds unpeeled bananas, about 4 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed of mixer just until blended. Add mashed bananas to the mixture. Stir until blended. Stir in toasted pecans and vanilla flavoring. Divide the dough between the two prepared pans and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent over browning if necessary. Cool bread in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, cool for 30 minutes on wire rack before slicing.




This bread would also be great baked in smaller pans and would make adorable holiday gift loaves.



These purple pansies look shivering cold today on my front porch. I'm content to stay inside and bake until this freezing weather moves on.

12/3/13

Chocolate Pecan Pie

As do many food bloggers, I have a weakness for collecting cookbooks. One of my favorite collections is from Southern Living, and I keep looking for the few missing years I need to complete my annual recipes collection. I love browsing and comparing recipes in these classic cookbooks, and I found a wonderful pie recipe in my 1998 Southern Living Annual Recipes Cookbook recently. This is a Chocolate Pecan Pie, and it is the best pie I have ever stuck a fork in!






Print Recipe

Recipe adapted from Southern Living

Chocolate Pecan Pie

1 single pie crust, either homemade or purchased
4 large eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate; fold edges under, and crimp.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then add corn syrup, melted butter, sugar, brown sugar, bourbon, flour,  and vanilla. Whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Stir in pecans and chocolate morsels. Pour into pie crust. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 1 hour or until set.

The pie crust recipe that I used can be found here. This is a terrific pie crust, just be sure to follow the directions about chilling before rolling it out. It must be COLD to roll out easily, and it will be a perfect match for this pie.







We enjoyed this Chocolate Pecan Pie last week for Thanksgiving, but I know I will be making it again for Christmas and maybe for New Year's too.

12/1/13

Downeast Seafarer's Sauce aka Blueberry Salad

This colorful side dish is one I served at my Thanksgiving meal this year, but anytime is a good time for a Blueberry Salad. I started making this for Thanksgiving several years ago at the suggestion of Dianna, the building principal at the school where I worked, because most of my family refused to eat any version of cranberry sauce. She gave me the recipe, and I have been making it ever since.



Print Recipe

Downeast Seafarer's Sauce aka Blueberry Salad

2 cups blueberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
In a saucepan combine blueberries, water, and sugar. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Add:
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 cup water
Cook over medium heat until thickened.
Remove from heat and add:
1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 (6 oz.) package raspberry gelatin dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
Mix all ingredients and pour into mold or serving dish. (Can also be made in a 9 x 13-inch pan). Refrigerate until set.

Topping
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Combine cream cheese and sour cream (or yogurt) in a mixing bowl. Beat together until combined and creamy. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread over blueberry sauce as desired.





This recipe makes a lot, so it can be cut in half if you don't need to serve a crowd. The topping can be spread over the top like a frosting, but I'll bet you'll tempt more guests into trying this dish if you don't completely hide those colorful blueberries. Let some of those pretty blueberries show through and entice some of the picky eaters at your house to try a taste. My cranberry sauce haters are all converts of this appealing blueberry dish.


11/27/13

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and readers. 




My wish is for you to travel safely, to eat well, 
and to enjoy your families during this holiday. 
May we also remember 
to include the lonely and less fortunate in our abundance.

11/26/13

Orange Sour Cream Poppy Seed Cake

Most of my holiday cooking consists of traditional dishes my family requests from year to year, but I like to slip in a new recipe among the old favorites to add some variety. This year I baked up this Orange Sour Cream Poppy Seed Cake as a new addition to the dessert table. This is an easy cake to make ahead with a wonderful orangey glaze that soaks into the warm cake.


Recipe adapted from Land O'Lakes

Orange Sour Cream Poppy Seed Cake

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup light sour cream
1 egg
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon poppy seed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup orange juice

Glaze
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan by greasing or with nonstick cooking spray (I used a small Bundt pan). Combine sugar and butter in mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add sour cream, egg, and orange zest. Continue beating until well mixed. In a separate bowl combine flour, poppy seed, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Reduce the mixer to low speed and gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the orange juice. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 45 - 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Glaze - Combine powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl, beat together until smooth. Drizzle glaze over warm cake. Cake can be served warm or cool.

This recipe suggested an 8-inch square baking pan for the cake, but I had a new Bundt pan and just couldn't wait to try it out. My SIL Karen is a pottery hobbyist and made a beautiful Bundt pan for me to use in my baking.




This was my first experience in baking with a pottery piece, so I had to do a little research in advance. I found it is best not to expose these pieces to any extremes in temperatures. The information I read suggested ingredients should be at room temperature, and the oven should not be preheated prior to baking. One other instruction I found about baking with pottery was not to use cooking spray, but to grease the piece with oil. I'm no expert, as I've only baked in my piece once, but all went well with this cake. One thing I noted was it did seem to take much longer for the cake to release from the pan after baking than with a metal pan.



The sour cream, orange juice, and orange zest all combine to make this a flavorful cake, but I think the orange juice glaze is what puts it over the top.








11/25/13

The Prep in Preparation

A cook knows the prep work is the key to any successful meal, but it is especially important when planning for a large holiday gathering such as Thanksgiving. I tend to get a bit anxious about getting everything done, but I have found my very best friend in meal planning is my list, actually several lists. Over the years I have served many holiday dinners, so I have many of the menu lists I have made for those occasions. Not only is it fun to look back over the lists and remember and reminisce about what was served, those lists are invaluable in helping me decide what to cook for the current holiday. Once I get a new menu list made, then I can make the dreaded shopping list. My next list is the prep list, or the order of getting things done.

Being a list maker keeps me on track with my cooking and helps break a big job down into more manageable smaller jobs. I'm not sure how I became a list maker. I can't remember my mother ever making a list for a holiday meal, but I can also remember lots of times at her house that items were forgotten in the refrigerator and never served, or something was left in the microwave unfinished. We've had some good family laughs about her forgotten dishes.

Some of the most basic prep work for my Thanksgiving meal has been done, for example, my cornbread for the crock pot dressing is ready and in the freezer.


The recipe for my cornbread can be found here.


Another prep task I have completed is my pie crust. My recipe makes three single crusts that can be frozen until ready to use.



After storing each crust individually in zip top bags, I then stack them in this plastic pie keeper to protect them before placing them in the freezer.


I like to have these pie crusts in the freezer even when I'm not planning for a holiday meal. They are quick to make, easy to store, and just about as convenient as a store-bought crust, only better.

My next prep work is to chop the celery and onions I'll be needing later. I also want to bake a Bundt cake today that can be wrapped and frozen. 

My holiday meal still has much prep work needed, but I think this is the time to apply the sage advice, "Plan your work, and work your plan."

What's your best prep advice in preparing a holiday meal?



11/23/13

Blueberry Pineapple Bread

Blueberry Pineapple Bread is one of those recipes that can be served most any time of day. This fruity bread makes a great breakfast, it is a wonderful snacking bread, and most would even find it tempting as a dessert. I've been collecting blueberry recipes for years, and I'm not sure where this tasty bread recipe originated.




Print Recipe

Blueberry Pineapple Bread

2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 (15 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans by greasing or with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy; add sugar gradually, beat well. Add pineapple, eggs, milk, and lemon juice; beat well. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; add to shortening mixture, beat just until blended. Stir in blueberries and coconut. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to cool completely. Makes 2 loaves.



You could halve the recipe and make just one loaf of this bread, but I think you would be sorry if you did, better go ahead and make the whole recipe so you'll have two loaves.
Blueberries + pineapple + coconut = good bread!








11/22/13

Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

The best kinds of food to eat are those that have been planted and grown right at home. This Meyer lemon tart was made with the juice and zest from my recent lemon harvest, and it has a satisfying taste that just could not be duplicated with store-bought lemons.




The recipe I used is one I have adapted from Food Network.


Meyer Lemon Curd Tart

Crust
8 tablespoons cold butter (1 stick), cut in small pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
2 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Additional: 1 pound dried beans

Lemon Curd
3/4 cup Meyer lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Zest of 3 Meyer lemons
1 1/3 cups sugar
5 eggs
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into pats

Garnish (Optional)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
1 pint blueberries

Whipped cream (Optional)

Crust:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the butter, sugar, flour, egg yolk, and salt for about 60 seconds or until the mixture has a grainy texture. Add half the water and pulse again. The dough should start to come together. Add the remaining water only if needed. Dough has reached the proper consistency if it holds together when a handful is squeezed. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and work into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before proceeding.

Next roll the dough out to 1/8 to 1/4-inch thickness. Place the dough carefully in a 10-inch tart pan, cutting the extra dough cleanly around the top edge of the pan. Cover the dough with aluminum foil, gently pressing the foil against the dough all around inside the pan. Fill the foil with dried beans and place in preheated oven. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes, then remove the foil and the beans and bake for an additional 2 - 3 minutes or until crust is golden and crisp. Remove from oven and cool.

Lemon curd:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, sugar, eggs, and salt. Pour mixture into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 12 to 15 minutes until mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 pats of butter at at time, stirring until smooth. Pour the lemon curd into the prepared tart shell and bake in preheated oven about 15 minutes, or until lemon curd has set. Let cool completely before cutting.

Garnish:
In a small bowl, mix together sugar and lemon juice. Gently stir in blueberries. Serve lemon curd tart slices with blueberry garnish and/or whipped cream, if desired.




This amazing Meyer Lemon Curd Tart can be prepared ahead of time and would be a wonderful addition to a Thanksgiving dessert table.