Monday, November 23, 2009

Requested recipes :)

When you've got a house full of guests for the holidays, lunches can be a challenge. Here are two sandwich fillings that are very popular in our house and that often get requested for parties, etc. The first is my grandmother's recipe for pimento cheese spread. The secret is in the cheese you use, so if you want it good and cheesy, make sure to read my notes at the end. The second recipe is my "famous" chicken salad recipe that has grapes and pecans in it. It's always a hit and usually requested for "tea sandwiches" as well as other events. Enjoy and let me know what you think if you try them!

Pimento Cheese

8 oz Cheddar cheese
8 oz Sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz Velveeta cheese
1 dash Salt
1 dash Pepper
1 1/2 tbsp Sugar -- or substitute 2 pkts Splenda
1 cup Mayonnaise
4 ounces diced pimento -- undrained

Shred cheese. Mix mayo, salt, pepper and sugar together to blend. Add pimentos with liquid to mayo mixture. Fold in cheese. Refrigerate for 2 hrs or overnight for best flavor.

From Betty Wood Calvert

Christi's notes: I normally try and get Cracker Barrel cheese, 1 block extra sharp and 1 block sharp. They are 10 oz. each so I just use the full amount plus 8 oz of Velveeta. This makes a drier" mixture, but we like it a little less creamy. If you want it more creamy, increase the mayo to 1 1/4 cups or so.

The Velveeta shreds better when very cold so I usually freeze it for 15 minutes before shredding for best results.

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Chicken Pecan Salad

Serving Size : 8

2 cans chicken in broth -- drained (9.75 oz each)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery -- diced
2/3 pound seedless green grapes -- sliced in half
1 cup pecan halves -- toasted and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill -- chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a large bowl, mix sour cream and mayonnaise until throughly blended. Add salt, pepper and dill. Fold in chicken, celery, grapes and pecan halves. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours or overnight to blend flavors. Serve on a bed of greens, or as a sandwich on croissants with fresh fruit. Wonderfully refreshing!

You can use fresh poached chicken instead of canned if you prefer. When I make this for large groups the canned is easier, but the poached is better tasting. I would do 4 chicken breasts to substitute.

The fresh dill really does make a difference, but if you just CAN'T do fresh, substitute about 2 tbsp dried.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sharing another Thanksgiving recipe: Cranberry-Orange Relish (LC)

My husband loves cranberries and several years back, when we were "doing Atkins", I needed a way to create our traditional Cranberry-Orange Relish without all the sugar that traditionally was used. So I came up with the following recipe which substitutes sugar-free orange marmalade for most of the sweetening and Splenda for the rest. It is now a favorite even for those who aren't watching their sugar intake!

Cranberry-Orange Relish (LC)

12 ounces fresh cranberries -- (1 bag) well washed and patted dry
1/2 cup sugar-free orange marmalade
1/2 cup Splenda granular

Either in a meat grinder or in a food processor chop the raw cranberries. Transfer to glass or ceramic serving bowl and add the marmalade and Splenda. Cover with plastic and let stand for 24 hours. Refrigerate after that; this will keep for 2 weeks. Leftovers can be combined with mayonnaise and used as a dressing for leftover turkey sandwiches.

"3 cups"

Sharing my recipe: Pecan Bacon Cornbread Dressing

Every year the debate rages... Which dressing to make, "regular" (ie. plain bread) or "cornbread"... I say, make both! I love cornbread dressing, but also my grandmother's "regular" (and oyster version) dressing, so I make the cornbread and let Grandma make the "regular".  Here's my favorite cornbread dressing recipe:

Pecan Bacon Cornbread Dressing

1 package jiffy corn muffin mix
1 egg -- for cornbread
1/3 milk -- for cornbread
4 slices white bread
8 bacon slices
5 tbsp butter
3 c chopped onion
2 c chopped celery
1 c chopped shallots
4 tsp dried rubbed sage -- or 4 tbsp fresh chopped sage
1 tbsp dried thyme -- or 3 tbsp fresh chopped thyme
4 c chicken broth
1 1/2 c pecans -- toasted, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs -- beaten

Prepare and bake 1 8x8" pan of jiffy corn muffin mix according to package directions, using 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk. Allow to cool throughly. (Can be done 1 day ahead)

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F. Cut corn bread and white bread into 3/4-inch cubes. Place bread cubes on baking sheet and toast until dry but not hard, about 15 minutes. Cool. Transfer to large bowl. Butter 11x13x2-inch baking dish. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels; reserve 1/4 cup bacon drippings in skillet. Cool bacon and crumble. Add butter to bacon drippings in skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery and shallots; sauté just until pale golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in sage and thyme. Add to bread cubes in bowl. Mix in pecans and crumbled bacon. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Stir 1 1/2 cups chicken broth into dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs. Moisten remaining dressing with remaining 1/2 cup chicken broth. Transfer to prepared dish. Bake dressing in covered dish alongside turkey for 1 hour. Uncover dressing and bake until top begins to crisp, about 5 minutes longer.



Saturday, October 10, 2009

And the winner is...

And the winner is...Eva!

"Daily entry:
I would like to try the fajitas
shopgurl101 at gmail dot com"

Congrats and thanks to all who entered the giveaway and I hope that if you were not chosen as the winner you'll still consider picking up a copy of this fabulous cookbook for yourself! It is available in bookstores nationwide now and I've even seen it at the “warehouse” clubs (Sam's, Costco, etc.) as well as on Amazon. It's a great book and we've really enjoyed the meals we've had from our gourmet session so far.

OAMC (Once-A-Month cooking) isn't a new concept in our house. Back when I was working 60+ hours a week as a corporate trainer, it's the only thing that kept my husband and I from having to eat out every meal! Once a month we would set aside a weekend to cook and we really enjoyed not only having hot meals from those sessions, but the fun of being in the kitchen together and sharing time was a double blessing. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. It's also great for gifting. For instance, when my sister had her baby (my niece, who's now almost 4!) I was able to gift she and her husband with several weeks worth of meals so that when the baby arrived she didn't have to worry about cooking, just thawing and reheating. I know her husband said it was wonderful to have :)

Whenever I start an OAMC (or, in this case, a two week session), I always start with setting up a spreadsheet of ingredients I will need for my session. I include EVERYTHING on this list, including things I KNOW I have in the pantry/fridge/freezer. I include a column to check off the items as well so that I can just go through the grocery/warehouse store and pick things up as I go. One of the wonderful things about THIS book is the pre-made shopping lists at the beginning of each session section. It makes list-making a breeze! Because I have already made up the spreadsheet for the two week gourmet session, I thought I'd share it with you here but please feel free to take it and make it your own. It's an MS Excel document, so you will need to have that to open it, but once you have the basics, it's easy to plug in your ingredients and go. Of course you also need to have the recipes from the session and I will share a couple of our favorites with you below, but one of the other wonderful things about this book is that it has an “assembly order” for each session. These list the process steps you will take to make the dishes so you don't have to figure out what to chop when or how much needs chopped vs. diced, etc. This makes the process MUCH easier and saves you time and calculations. Whenever I do an OAMC session on my own, that's one of the steps I have to take time to work out and believe me, it is time consuming! After coming home from the store, here are some photos of the ingredients that I placed out on the table to make prep much quicker and easier. Of course I put the refrigerator items away so they didn't get too warm, but having the shelf-stable ingredients out and at hand is a time saver.

Pantry ingredients:



Frozen items:


Canned & Dry Goods:

This session has a total of 14 dishes (two weeks worth) BUT some of the recipes serve more than 4-6 people, so we were able to divide a couple of them to make a couple of extra meals, giving us a total of 18 dinners from this session. We've only tried a few of them so far but all have been very tasty. Our favorites of those we've tried have been:

Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms

This is the “pre-freezer” shot:

And the finished roasted pork:

And the plated dish:

and the Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue

Heading to the freezer:

On the grill:

And the plated final dish:

Both of these dishes were great, but for very different reasons. The pork roast was definitely comfort food and perfect for company. We served it up with some buttered noodles and it was very tasty. The barbecue was tangy and slightly spicy (never spicy enough for my chile-head hubby, but enough for most normal people) and was great served with steamed jasmine rice and some Asian veggies. Even my 1 year old like it. I'll share those two recipes below. I also loved the Uptown Joes which are a nice take on sloppy joes with a little tang from the mustard in the mix.

Our only disappointment was in the Chicken-to-Go recipe. I think the fault lies with me in my preparation of this dish and not in the dish itself, but will share my thoughts anyway. The recipe calls for 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, sliced into ½ in. strips. I think we had larger than normal chicken breasts in this case which gave us a whole lot of slices. This in and of itself would probably not have been a problem since we did have plenty of breading, etc. to use for them, but... When you serve this recipe, you use a “round crusty peasant loaf” of bread which you put the chicken strips into. Either my loaf of bread was too small (possible) or I had too many chicken strips but they barely fit into the loaf (as in I crammed them in to make them fit) and then they never got crispy or heated all the way through. So we ended up removing them from the loaf and heating them on a cookie sheet in the oven, but by that time they were gummy from being stuffed into the loaf and just didn't crisp up at all. Meanwhile the bread dried out and was inedible. Flavors were good, but execution was poor in this case. We'll give it a try again in the future and probably just bake the chicken separately from the bread so that it gets crisped up from the start. If you pick up a copy of this cookbook and give this recipe a try, I'd love to hear your experiences with it so I'll know what to do differently next time...

Now for the recipes! As promised, here are two of the recipes from this session, the “Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms” and the “Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue”

The Recipes:

Pork Roast with Apples and Mushrooms

1 tbsp dried thyme
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 3-4 lb boneless pork loin roast

2 tbsp butter*
½ cup apple juice
¾ cup chicken broth
¼ cup dry sherry

4 small cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges (2 cups)*
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms*

(* indicates item is not used until serving day)

Combine the thyme, salt and pepper. Package in a sandwich bag. Combine the sauce ingredients and package in a 1-quart bag. Place the pork loin roast (still in it's store packaging) in a 1-gallon freezer bag, tuck in the bag of spices and the sauce bag, label and freeze.

To serve, thaw the roast. Rub the roast with the thyme mixture. Place the roast on a rack in a shallow roasting pan and roast in a 325ºF oven for 2 hours, or until the meat registers 160ºF on a thermometer.

Transfer the meat to a platter and keep warm by tenting it with foil.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter. Add the apple juice, chicken broth and sherry, then add the apple wedges and cook and stir until golden. Remove the apple wedges from the skillet with a slotted spoon, reserving the pan juices; keep warm. In the same skillet, cook the mushrooms until tender.

To serve, place the slices of pork roast and apple wedges on individual plates. Spoon the mushroom sauce over meat.

Serves 12-14

Freeze in: 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag; 1 quart Ziploc freezer bag; 1 Ziploc sandwich bag.

Spicy Korean Pork Barbecue

1 lb pork tenderloin, cut into ¼ in. slices
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp Thai chile paste
½ tsp ground ginger (or 1 tsp grated fresh)
1 tsp dark sesame oil
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp chopped garlic

With kitchen shears, cut the tenderloin diagonally across grain into ¼ in thick slices. Combine the pork with the remaining ingredients in a labeled 1-gallon freezer bag and freeze.

To serve, thaw the pork and marinade and prepare a grill. Place a wire grilling basket on a grill rack. Remove the pork from bag; discard marinade. Place the pork on the grilling basket, coated with nonstick cooking spray. Grill 5 minutes turning frequently, or until you reach the desired doneness.

Summary of Processes: Cut pork diagonally across grain into ¼ in slices.

Serves 4

Freeze in: 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag.

My Results:

The Pork Roast:

First observation... The Pork Roast recipe doesn't specify, but you need to keep the 2 tbsp butter for the sauce SEPARATE from the other ingredients so that you can melt it during the sauce-making. Instead of “Combine the sauce ingredients” it should say “Combine all sauce ingredients except butter”... so make that adjustment if you try this dish. I always advise reading completely through a recipe before attempting it and since I did that was able to catch this, but thought I'd let you know so you don't accidentally incorporate it into the other ingredients in the first steps. Other than that, the recipe works great and tastes great as well. My apples weren't “small” but were what I would consider “medium” sized and I only needed two to make the two cups of wedges so we used the extra two apples to make apple crisp for dessert :) This was a great recipe and one that I would definitely make for company in the future!

BBQ Pork:

This was our favorite so far. We don't have a grill basket and I didn't feel like firing up the outside grill (we use charcoal, not gas so it's a little more work...) so instead I used our indoor grill pan to make this dish. It grilled up perfectly and was super tasty. Recommend serving it with some steamed rice and veggies for a complete meal. Super yummy!

So those are two of the 14 recipes in just this ONE session of the cookbook. I hope you'll give them a shot and let me know how they turn out for you!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Giveaway week continues! Q&A with the authors...

Ok, as promised, giveaway week is continuing here on my blog... For details about the giveaway and how to enter, refer to this post: It's Giveaway Week! Depending on how this giveaway goes, I've got some future ones planned as well, so be sure to pass the word and get folks entering!!!

Now onto today's content! Today I'm posting a Q&A with the authors of the book along with their bios so you can get to know them a little better. I've been familiar with these two authors for many years as I've used their original book quite a lot. In fact, I'm going to have to buy my fifth(!) copy of the book soon since I've given my own away so many times! Three of the authors favorites mentioned in the Q&A are in the gourmet session we just completed, so be sure to check back tomorrow when I'll be posting more about our own experiences with OAMC and this book...

Without further ado, here's the Q&A and bios:

Q&A with Mary Beth and Mimi on
Once-a-Month Cooking™:

You were the first to publish a book about bulk freezer cooking, and many others have come after you. How did you think of this concept—and what made you feel it would work for so many women?

Mary Beth:
Mimi developed this method at a time when we were writing articles together. She wanted me to call The Denver Post to see if they wanted us to write an article about it. I thought Mimi was crazy, and asked her to call. When the paper sent a reporter and photographer to her home within a week to do a food feature, we knew we were on to something. We’ve found over the years that Mimi’s three reasons for creating the strategy—to save time, money, and make possible good times at the table —resonate with most families.

Mimi: As a mother of three young children, I wanted to streamline my life without taking away from the things I loved. At the time, I was working with Hmong refugees in Denver, trying to sell
their handwork.

I studied my days by writing down how I spent my time in 15-minute increments.
And I found I was wasting the most time in the kitchen. I remember the day I decided I would cook until I ran out of the food I had on hand. I put all the dishes I had prepared on the dining room table. When I counted 30 meals I was ecstatic, because I knew I didn’t have to cook dinner again for a month. Every month for the next year I used the method, once for me and once with a friend, so I was able to perfect it. If someone was having a baby, I’d say “You buy these groceries, and I’ll prepare you a month’s meals.” It became the gift I gave my friends.

What are your top three favorite recipes in the new Once-a-Month Cookbook Family Favorites—and why?

Mary Beth:

1. Country-Style Ribs (This slow cooker entrée provides great aroma-therapy!)

2. Corn Soup with Basil, Avocado, and Crab (This delicious soup proves that frozen entrees can be both elegant and delicious.)

3. Penne in Cream Sauce with Sausage (My son Drew keeps asking me when we’ll have this one.)


1. Lemon Chicken (It’s so fast and tasty! Great for unexpected guests; it can be on the table in ten minutes.)

2. Uptown Joes (Great for picnics or ballgames in wide-mouth thermos.)

3. Beef Pot Roast (I love this one for its smell. There’s nothing like coming into a house that smells good.)

What wisdom could you offer to the busy woman who has never tried this method?

Even preparing two of any entrée at one time will show you how much time this technique can save! In the beginning, try this technique with a friend who can help you with the many tasks, even just answering the door, the phone, taking care of the kids, and making sure the ingredients are ready. The first time you try this, I’d recommend trying the free, downloadable one-week cycle from our website or a two-week cycle from the book to get used to cooking in bulk. And don’t try to shop and cook on the same day if possible, to conserve your energy.

You say that anyone with a side freezer can implement the Once-a-Month Cooking plan—how do you make it work?

Mary Beth: I’ve frozen even the month’s-worth of entrees without a separate freezer. But I have to clean out the freezer before my cooking day, and I freeze most entrees in plastic bags, which can be squished flat or wedged into corners.

Beyond the obvious rewards of reducing food prep time, hassle, and grocery bills, what are you hoping Once-a-Month Cooking Family Favorites will do for busy families?

Mary Beth:
My hope is that this technique will make it possible for families to spend more meals together around a table. The family dinner is a simple concept with profound, measureable advantages for children and parents. We relinquish it too easily to busy schedules. I want other families to discover that a warm meal and good conversation are simple, valuable gifts that anyone would enjoy. Mimi: and I truly believe there isn’t any other family activity that is more meaningful or productive.

Author bios:

Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson's original bestseller Once-a-Month Cooking™ started the bulk freezer cooking phenomenon from recipes made for their own families. Both live in Colorado and continue to share a passion to help today's cooks save time and money while building family relationships over delicious meals.

Mary Beth is the creator of the website, providing tools on creating a home full of
acceptance and creativity. She is also the former media director for MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers). Mimi travels extensively to regions like Jordan, Ecuador, and Rwanda, and teaches Once-a-Month Cooking principles and benefits internationally.

Find out more at the official Once-a-Month Cooking website, or join our bulk freezer cooking discussion on facebook.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Giveaway week!

For those who follow me on Twitter (@scrapcatb) you may recall that several weeks ago I posted a note that I had been selected to do a review and giveaway of a new Once A Month cooking book. Well, this is the week! This past weekend hubby and I spent our Saturday testing out one of the two week cooking sessions that are in the new book:

Once A Month Cooking Family Favorites

This is a GREAT book by the authors of the original Once A Month Cooking book, Mary Beth Lagerborg & Mimi Wilson. (You can still purchase the original book here) Family Favorites contains several "once a month" cooking plans with shopping lists, preparation steps, complete recipes and suggestions as well as a few two-week sessions which are great for smaller families, those short on time to do a big session or those who have never done once-a-month cooking before and would like to give it a short trial before jumping in with both feet. There is even a great "gluten-free" two week cycle in this book for those who are living the GF lifestyle!

Hubby and I decided to give the "Gourmet" two week session a shot this time and I'm very happy so far with the results. I'll be posting a couple of the recipes and my reviews of them during the week so you can see what our experience was like, but the publishers of this great book have generously given me an EXTRA copy of the book so I can do a GIVEAWAY with you, my blog readers!

Giveaway details:

The giveaway starts TODAY, October 5th and runs through Friday, October 9th at midnight central time. There are 5 different ways to enter (two which can be repeated daily), but you MUST do the first one before any of the others... Here's how to enter:

  • To receive 1 daily entry Visit the book's page on, click on the book picture to take a look inside and browse to the index. Then choose one or two recipes you'd like to try and post a comment here listing which one(s) most interest you. This is good for 1 entry each day as long as you post a different recipe or item you'd like to try each day.
  • For 1 additional daily entry Tweet about this blog and the giveaway from your Twitter account and then post back here linking to your tweet.
  • For 1 additional entry, grab my blog button and place it on your blog or homepage, then post a link here letting me know where the button is on your site.
  • For 1 additional entry, blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back here then post a comment below with a link to your blog post.
  • For 1 addtional entry, follow me on Twitter then post a comment with your twitter username for verification.
This giveaway will end at midnight CST on October 9th when a random number generator will pick the winner of the giveaway. I will post the winner's name on Saturday, October 10th and will contact them via email (so make sure your comment links to your email!) to confirm.

As I mentioned, this is a GREAT book and the first recipe we tasted last night was delish! Tomorrow I will be posting a Q&A with the authors of the book as well as a little background into our experiences with OAMC and then during the week I will share with you photos, recipes, tips etc. from our review of this book. Be sure to tell all your friends and keep checking back for more!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Toot Toot! Tooting my own horn!

Well, this past Sunday was a great day at the Kendall County Fair here in South Texas... Our annual fair runs Thursday through Monday each year and each year I tell myself I'm gonna enter something in one of the categories. Well, this year I finally did it! It was the weekend of my little girl's first birthday (Happy Birthday E!!!) and we had a bunch of out-of-town company, so what better time! HAHA! But while I was perusing the calendar of events for the fair, thinking I would take all the out-of-town family to the fair on Sunday (Saturday was the big birthday bash), I noticed that there was an apple pie contest on Sunday afternoon with entries due by 1pm that day.

Now, I have been making Pennsylvania Dutch apple pie using a recipe from my grandmother for years now and have always gotten rave reviews, but most of those tasters were family and friends, so could I actually do any good in a contest? For anyone who's never made a pie in this style, it is not a "two-crust" pie like so many we see here in the south, but rather a "crumb crusted" pie with a streusel-type topping instead of a pastry crust on top. That in and of itself makes it a slight bit different than most apple pies served here in South Texas, so I wondered whether or not that difference would be good or bad when put up against some of the best pies in the county. Seems that it was a good thing in this case since I actually WON! Yes, my pie won the blue ribbon in the apple pie contest, beating out 9 other pies for the best of show. I can hardly believe it! This is the first time I have entered anything into the fair, so I am super pleased with my results. And there were sure some tasty looking pies up there! So, even though you won't find this pie recipe in ANY cookbook other than mine, I thought I'd share the photos and recipe with you, my friends in the blog-i-verse... Hope you enjoy them!

Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Pie

Serving Size : 8 Yield: "1 pie"

Pie Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup lard
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter -- chilled & cut into pieces
  • 1/8 cup ice water -- to 1/4 cup

Pie Topping:

  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter -- chilled & cut into pieces

Pie Filling:

  • 2 lbs tart apples
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For pie crust: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and sugar. Pulse to combine. Add lard and pulse 4-5 times. Add cold butter, a few pieces at a time, pulsing 1-2 seconds per addition. When butter is all in, add just enough water to cause crust to form a ball in the food processor. Form dough into a disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days prior to use. When ready to use, roll out crust and place into a 9" pie pan.

For topping: In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour and brown sugar. Pulse in butter until cornmeal consistency. Set aside.

For pie filling: Peel, core and slice apples thinly. I prefer to use a mix of two different kinds of apples rather than one, usually choosing one apple that holds it's shape and one that bakes down a bit more. Toss apples with lemon juice in a large working bowl. Combine flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in another small bowl and then slowly toss with apples. Allow to set 5-10 minutes then place into unbaked pie crust. Any juice in the bottom of the bowl should be poured over the apples in the pie. Next, crumble topping over pie, patting lightly to adhere to apples. Bake at 375° until done (about 40-45 min or until golden brown). Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or sliced sharp cheddar cheese.

My additional notes: Now, some of you are gonna say... "Lard! Ugh!" but to you I have to say that the half-butter, half-lard crust is key. Nothing else flakes like lard and unlike crusts made completely with lard (and yes, there are quite a few recipes out there!) this gets the flavor of butter but the flake of the lard. And chilling the dough is KEY. Without chilling, you won't get the flake. Also don't over-process your dough. Over-processing it will result in a tough, chewy crust rather than a light flaky one. I also ALWAYS use two different kinds of apples. One that bakes down mushy like a Braeburn or Macintosh and one that holds its shape better like the granny smith. This gives the best of both worlds with some apple texture and some soft "gushy stuff".

I also used fresh ground cinnamon. It's really a snap to make if you get yourself a coffee grinder and dedicate it to spices only. If you aren't a coffee drinking household, let me advise you to STILL get a dedicated spices only grinder and keep one for coffee grinding as well. They're inexpensive and great to have on hand for those last minute coffee drinking guests. Don't do to your poor mother(in-law) what we did! My poor mom came to visit and we didn't think to mention that since we aren't a coffee drinking household (but do have a maker for guests), we only use the coffee grinder in our pantry for grinding dried hot peppers (hubby's obsession). Poor Mom! She really got a spicy cup of coffee the first time she used the grinder! Since then we've purchased a second grinder for coffee only and keep the "spice grinder" in the spice cabinet so as not to confuse people!

Ok, now on to the photos...

Here's a picture of the prize winning pie along with my application and recipe card just before I took it to the fairgrounds for judging:

And another one with a better shot of the overall pie:

And here are the distinguished judges! Two of the county sheriffs and one of the ladies auxiliary members. Officer Serna (on the left) also had the fair court duchess and princess to help him judge :) I could tell the girls were just too upset to have to help with this one! :)

And here is a photo of the three winners along with the Kendall county fair court for 2009-2010. Yep, that's me on the far right...

And finally a picture of the duplicate pie along with the ribbon and trophy I won. I baked two and took the best looking of the two to be judged, so my poor family didn't miss out at all...they just had to eat the less-pretty pie...

Next year I'm going to skip the apple pie contest, but I'm sure going to enter at least one of the other categories! This was too fun! Hope you'll give the pie recipe a try and let me know what you think... Back to posting recipe trials from the cookbooks soon!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Super Easy Blueberry Cobbler

Got a big container of ripe plump blueberries from Costco the other day and then forgot about them...when I remembered them stashed in the fridge, I thought I'd better put them to use right quick! And what better or quicker way to use them than in a great blueberry cobbler.

I've been a blueberry fan since I was a little bitty girl. My parents tell stories of me picking blueberries from the backpack carrier when I was a tot and entertaining the other harvesters since my mom wasn't aware I was eating them until she took me down to find me covered in blue mess. But here in Texas we don't get a lot of blueberries since they don't do too well in our heat. So when I get a nice box of them from anywhere, I LOVE to use them well.

This recipe is one of the easiest I've ever made for blueberry cobbler. It's from the cookbook How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and comes together super quick and super easy. I really like this cookbook for it's explanations as well as it's recipes. Here's a link to it on Amazon:

The Recipe:

Blueberry Cobbler

Makes 6 to 8 servings
Time: About 1 hour

My friend John Willoughby found this recipe in a southern boardinghouse about ten years ago. I've since made it dozens of times, and it's always been a hit. I love this with blueberries, but you can make it with any fruit you like.

  • 4 to 6 cups blueberries or other fruit, washed and well dried
  • 1 cup sugar, or to taste
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits, plus some for greasing the pan
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the fruit with half the sugar, and spread it in a lightly buttered 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup sugar in the container of a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and process for 10 seconds, until the mixture is well blended. By hand, beat in the egg and vanilla.
  3. Drop this mixture onto the fruit by tablespoonfuls; do not spread it out. Bake until golden yellow and just starting to brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately.
My Results:

As I mentioned, this is one of the quickest and easiest blueberry cobblers I've ever made and it was heavenly as well. Here's a photo of my ingredients before:

Because this recipe mostly comes together in a food processor, it is very easy. Toss the berries with the sugar and pour into the pan, then pulse the cobbler ingredients together in the food processor, mix in the egg and vanilla and then dollop it onto the berries. Here's what it looked like before entering the oven:

And here it is fresh out of the oven...

Now, the best part of this cobbler is that it isn't too "bready". I like shortcake, but to me cobbler should be less "cakey" and more fruity. And this recipe makes a beautiful cake/bread component along with the wonderfully saucy berries. Even without sprinkling with sugar, there is a sugary crunchy crack to the cobbler topping which is almost like a brulee topping and it is SO yummy! Definitely a do for the we'll try it with our frozen hill country peaches! Hope you'll give this one a try and let me know how it works out for you!

Blueberry Honey Cobbler on Foodista

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Grilled chicken with Korean dipping sauce

As I mentioned, I'm good at doing the recipes, but not so great at getting time to blog them! Here's a recipe from a couple of weeks back that we tried which is a basic grilled chicken breast with a wonderful Korean style dipping sauce. We served this with steamed Jasmine rice and an Asian vegetable medley. Even our little one like this meal! Today's recipe comes from The Best Recipe Grilling & Barbecue from the Cook's Illustrated folks. This is the same book that our grilled pork tenderloin recipe came from. Here's the link for the book:

The Recipes:

Charcoal-Grilled Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

It's imperative to coat the breasts with a little oil so they don't stick to the grill. Note the short brining time here; the chicken will be finished brining by the time the charcoal is ready.

  • 1/2 cup kosher salt or 1/4 cup table salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 ls) tenderloins removed and reserved for another use
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper

  1. Dissolve the salt and sugar in 1 quart of cold water in a gallon-sized zipper-lock plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts; press out as much air as possible from the bag and seal. Refrigerate until fully seasoned, about 30 minutes.
  2. Light a large chimney starter filled with charcoal (about 2 1/2 lbs) and allow to burn until all the charcoal is covered with a layer of fine gray ash. Build a modified two-level fire by spreading all the coals over two-thirds of the grill. Set the cooking rack in place, cover the grill with the lid, and let the rack heat up, about 5 minutes. Use a wire brush to scrape clean the cooking grate. The grill is ready when the coals are hot.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse well under cold, running water, and dry throughly with paper towels. Toss chicken in a medium bowl with oil to coat. Season with pepper to taste.
  4. Cook the chicken, uncovered, smooth-side down, directly over the hot coals until the chicken is opaque about two-thirds up the sides and rich brown grill marks appear; 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until the chicken is fully cooked, about 4 minutes. (If using a glaze or paste, cook for 3 minutes after turning the chicken, brush the glaze or paste on both sides, and cook another minute or so, turning once.) To test for doneness, peek into the thickest part of the chicken with the tip of a small knife (It should be opaque at the center), or check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer, which should register 160 degrees.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Serve hot or at room temperature, with a dipping sauce if desired.

Korean-Style Dipping Sauce

Makes about 3/4 cup
Enough for 4 chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs.

For a Korean-style barbecue, simply divide this sauce in two and dip the chicken into the sauce before grilling. Serve the chicken, sliced, with extra sauce on the side, along with steamed plain short-grain rice and hot Korean pickles known as kimchee. Be sure to use light soy sauce, as the chicken is already well seasoned from the brine. This sauce lends itself best to boneless chicken thighs, as the strong soy flavor is balanced by the richer dark meat.

  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 4 scallions, whites and green parts, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp Asian sesame oil

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve as a dipping sauce with sliced, grilled chicken.

My Results:

So I didn't snap a picture of the chicken breasts and brining ingredients since they're so basic, but I followed the directions for brining exactly and am pleased with how moist the chicken breasts remained during and after cooking. I once again chose to grill indoors mainly because it was 102F outdoors the day we did these and neither of us really wanted to stand out by the grill! Too hot! I have decided that I desperately need a better vent hood if I'm going to do much more indoor grilling! :) Here is a photo of the ingredients I used for the dipping sauce:

You'll notice that I did NOT use reduced sodium soy sauce (lite soy sauce) because I didn't have any on hand, but I would highly suggest it since the chicken was a bit salty with the brining AND sauce. Next time I'll use the "lite"...just gotta get to the Asian market to get some (darn! just HATE having to go there...LOL!) I did follow the directions for this one exactly as well and then followed the note suggestion to divide it in two and dip the breasts in it before grilling. Here's a picture of the sauce before refrigerating:

This was some great chicken! Here's a picture of the final results. This also reheated well the next day for lunch...

Hope you'll give it a try and let me know what you think! And don't forget, you can click on the thumbnail pictures to see it bigger...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Foodie Blogroll!

I'm so excited to be added to the Foodie Blogroll! If you're a foodie and have a blog, be sure to add yourself to the blog roll by clicking on the widget in my sidebar! It's a great collection of some of the best food bloggers on the net and I'm really glad to be part of it! Come join us!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tamale Casserole

So I'm good at doing the recipes, just not so good at finding the time to update the blog with my results! So I'll be posting a few of my recent trials today (I hope!) and hope you enjoy reading about them. The first one is a tamale casserole recipe from one of the new cookbooks I picked up recently, Taste of Home's Dinner on a Dime. This recipe came in very handy for using up some leftover ground beef and fresh corn (stripped from the cob) I had in the fridge and hubby really liked it. It makes quite a bit, so if you only have a few people, plan on freezing some for later like we did or plan on feeding a crowd. Here's a link to the cookbook:

The Recipe:

Tamale Casserole

This casserole really heats up dinnertime. It's a family-pleasing main course guaranteed to put a little kick in your menu.

-Kathleen Reid, Petaluma, California

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free milk
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 can (4 oz) chopped green chilies, drained
  • 1 can (2 1/2 oz) sliced ripe olives, drained
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 envelope reduced-sodium taco seasoning
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup salsa
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, cook beef and jalapeño over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the corn, tomatoes, milk, cornmeal, chilies, olives, egg white and taco seasoning until blended.
  2. Transfer to a 13x9x2-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake, uncovered, at 350°F for 40 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with salsa. Yield: 8 servings.
Editor's Note: When cutting hot peppers, disposable gloves are recommended. Avoid touching your face.

My Results:

Well, as I mentioned, I had some leftover fresh corn to use up, so I substituted 2 cups of the fresh leftover for the frozen, thawed. I also didn't use reduced-fat items since I didn't have those on hand but instead used the regular versions. And I didn't have any olives on hand so I left those out completely. Here is a photo of my ingredients, minus the milk, which I forgot to put in the photo:

I used two jalapeño peppers from our garden in this recipe as they were pretty mild. Diced them up without the seeds and cooked them along with the beef until it was no longer pink, then drained as directed. Meanwhile, I combined the milk with the taco seasoning to dissolve it, then added the egg white, then the cornmeal and finally the tomatoes, green chilies and corn. Once the meat was browned, I tossed it with the other ingredients and poured it all into the 9x13-in pan which I had sprayed with Pam, then baked as directed. Here it is in the oven:

And here it is resting for the requested 10 minutes (which was terribly hard since it smelled so good!)

We served it with salsa as suggested, but also sour cream since that's how I like my Mexican food :) Here's it is all ready to eat...

And boy was it yummy! This is definitely a keeper recipe and one we'll likely do for the freezer as well. This would make a great "take to someone in need" casserole as well since it's not only delicious, but really easy to make and relatively inexpensive as well. I believe you could divide this into two 8x8 pans just as easily as one 9x13 and freeze one before baking if you have a smaller family like we do. I purchase disposable 8x8's from the dollar store and could easily see doubling this recipe to make 4 casseroles I could freeze for giving away. Anyway, just some ideas for future use. Hope you like this one and be sure and let me know if you give it a try!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gifts In A Jar

So as promised, here are the recipes and photos from the bridal shower gift I gave my sister this past weekend. I posted the "teaser" photo earlier which showed the four gifts in a jar with the accouterments that made the gift. Three of the jar mixes came from the book The Ultimate Gifts for the Cookie Jar by Lia Roessner Wilson. Here's a link on Amazon:

Along with the three recipes I used from this book, I also used the Mocha Rum Balls recipe I posted about earlier for a total of four gifts in a jar. Here are the three recipes:

The Recipes:

Hearty Trail Mix Cookies

These hearty cookies are filled with natural goodness - oats, raisins and coconut - as well as with a chocolate treat. They're not only delicious, but colorful too. The candies provide a rainbow of color throughout.
Ingredients for the jar:
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup M&M candies
Instructions for jar:
  1. In a 1-quart jar: pack brown sugar in bottom and make as level as possible. Pour sugar over and level.
  2. Pour oats over sugar and level.
  3. In small bowl, combine flour; baking powder and baking soda. Mix well. Gently spoon flour mixture over oats. Level carefully, then tamp down.
  4. Sprinkle raisins over flour mixture. Level and smooth the edges to make them even. Sprinkle raisins on top and press down. Sprinkle coconut over raisins and press down.
  5. Sprinkle candies on top. Press down and place lid on jar.
For the gift tag:

Hearty Trail Mix Cookies
  • 1 egg
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Empty contenst of jar into large mixing bowl. Add egg and softened butter.
  2. Beat on low speed or by hand to blend, then drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
  3. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to cooling rack. (Makes about 3 dozen.)
Colorful Candy Cookies

Colorful cookies are really sugar cookies speckled with colorful, candy-coated chocolate.

Ingredients for jar:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup M&M candies
Instructions for jar:
  1. Place sugar in 1-quart jar and smooth over top to make even.
  2. Spoon brown sugar over and pack down evenly.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour; baking soad and salt. Stir to mix. Spoon over brown sugar in jar; press down evenly.
  4. Pour candies over flour mixture and place lid on jar.
For the gift tag:

Colorful Candy Cookies

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Empty contents of jar into large bowl.
  2. Add butter and eggs.
  3. Beat by hand, so you don't break candies, until dough is throughly mixed.
  4. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until edges are browned.
  5. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, then transfer to cooling rack. (Makes 3 to 3 1/2 dozen).

Mint Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients for jar:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup mint chocolate chips
Instructions for jar:
  1. Place sugar in 1-quart jar and spoon brown sugar over sugar.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt. Spoon mixture over brown sugar.
  3. Spoon cocoa over flour mixture, add chocolate chips on top and press gently to fit.

For the gift tag:

Mint Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Empty contents of jar into large bowl.
  3. Beat egg with vanilla and butter.
  4. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients in bowl and stir well.
  5. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.
My results:

Ok, I posted earlier about the disastrous first recipe I tried with the rum balls. But the other three were perfect. They worked just as described and turned out very cute indeed.

As you will see, I made the gift tags with the title on the front and the directions on the back. Each tag was die-cut from a paint chip from the hardware store and then embellished with some glittery floral stickers, then tied onto the jars with some pretty white ribbon. The jars were topped with circles of quilting fabric that I cut with pinking shears for a little ruffled edge. To keep the ribbons on the jar, I put a bit of scrapping adhesive on them in three or four spots so they wouldn't slip and slide on the jar rings.

Here are the photos. First up, the Hearty Trail Mix Cookies:

And a peek under the fabric shows the layering with the raisins, coconut and M&M's.

Next up is the Colorful Candy Cookies:

And a peek under the fabric top reveals the pretty M&M's.

Third is the Mint Chocolate Cookies:

Peek under the fabric:

And last but not least, the Mocha Rum Balls posted about earlier:

And just for kicks, here's the photo of the finished gift all together once again. These gifts-in-a-jar sell at craft fairs for around $10 a jar, so this is a great way to save money and have a fun, personalized gift for someone. I hope you'll give these a try and let me know how it works for you. Enjoy and be sure to check back tomorrow for more recipe fun!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sneak Peek

Well, I THOUGHT I was well prepared, but turns out I was wrong... We're out of town this weekend for a bridal shower and to visit family and I thought I had typed up the recipes on my computer so I could post them while we away, but turns out I only got PART of them. So you'll have to wait until we get home tomorrow night to get the actual recipes for this post. I am, however, going to post a sneak peek for what I'll be posting since I DO have the pictures with me! Anyway, here's your sneak peek... This is the gift that I made up for my sister's bridal shower that was yesterday morning. She had registered for cookie sheets, etc. and so I decided to make a "kit" with the cookie sheets, cookie scoop, adjust-a-cup, and a couple of spatulas and then added 4 "cookies in a jar" mixes that are the kind that you just dump into a bowl and add a couple of things to make cookies. So here's the gift photo for which I'll post the jar mixes when we get back home:

I also picked up a couple of new cookbooks on our trip, so I'll have to share about those purchases when I get home as well... one is from the famous Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, Texas! So be sure and check back tomorrow!

Friday, July 31, 2009

If you like Piña Coladas...

Ok, "If you like Piña Coladas And getting caught in the rain. If you're not into yoga. If you have half a brain..." But seriously folks, this pie is a piña colada dessert that's super easy to make and super tasty. This one comes again from that great new Jell-O cookbook we got called: Jell-O Brand Fun and Fabulous Recipes. Here's the link, once again, on

Today's recipe is a great combination of pineapple, coconut, lime, and twist of rum. All the things you'd find in a great piña colada drink, sans the glass :)

The Recipe:

Piña Colada Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

  • 1 pkg (4-serving size) JELL-O Lemon or Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding and Pie Filling
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 3 tbsp rum
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp grated lime rind
  • 1 can (8 1/4 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup Baker's Angel Flake Coconut, plain or toasted
  • 1 baked 9-inch pie shell or prepared graham cracker crumb crust, cooled

Combine pie filling mix, sour cream, rum, sugar, milk and rind in a medium bowl. With electric mixer at low speed, beat until blended and smooth, about 1 minute. Fold in pineapple and coconut. Spoon into pie shell. Chill about 3 hrs. Garnish with whipped topping, fruit and mint leaves, if desired.

*Substitution: Use 1/2 tsp rum extract, increasing milk to 1/4 cup.

My Results:

Again, because I'm trying to keep alcohol out of our cooking right now, I used imitation rum extract as instructed in the asterisked directions. Here's a pic of the ingredients:

I also chose to use sugar-free jello pudding and a graham cracker crumb crust in this pie, both of which were good choices for us, but you can opt for different ones if you like. Following the directions was quite easy except for draining the crushed pineapple. I only "partially" drained it, so my pie was probably a bit looser than intended, but it worked for me. Here's a picture of the pie just before refrigerating it:

I topped it with fresh made whipped cream (about 1 cup of heavy cream whipped up with about 2 tbsp confectioner's sugar until stiff) and then refrigerated it for about 5 hours (which was how long it took for hubby to get home from work and us to have dinner). Here's a picture of the slice of pie ready for hubby's taste test:

Gosh this stuff was good! Hubby liked it so much he declared he would have to finish the rest of the pie for breakfast since we were heading out of town in the morning and he didn't want it to be wasted (he didn't though!) and I loved it as well. I think that I would like it more with the actual rum in it, because the alcohol would give a bit of bite to the pie I believe, but we'll try that some other time. For now, we're very happy with the results and hope that brother-in-law, who's house-sitting this weekend, enjoys finishing it off for us :) Be sure to try this one and let me know what you think and check back tomorrow for a great gift idea as well as recipes since I can finally show you the gift recipes I made up for my sister's bridal shower gift (since the shower's tomorrow)...