Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Marbly Chocolate Goodness!

This stuff is too good for your own good. I made this yummy chocolate concoction this week to give away as Christmas cheer, but so far only one person has benefitted: moi!

I found this recipe in a recent Southern Living magazine and couldn't resist its promise of chocolate decadence. A caption on the recipe reads, "The hardest part about making Salty Chocolate-Pecan Candy is waiting for the chocolate to firm up before devouring it." Obviously the person writing this caption wasn't just a creative writer hired to make the recipe sound good but had devoured his/her own prodigious share of this candy.

It's really quite easy and the results are spectacular!

Here's what you need:

1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
3 (4-oz.) bars bittersweet chocolate baking bars
3 (4-oz.) white chocolate baking bars
>1 teaspoon coarse sea salt*
(*3/4 tsp. kosher salt may be substituted.)

Here's what you do:

Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.

Line a 17- x 12-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper (I used my DeMarle silpat). Break each chocolate bar into 8 equal pieces. (You will have 48 pieces total.) Arrange in a checkerboard pattern in jelly-roll pan, alternating white and dark chocolate. (Pieces will touch.)

Bake at 225° for 5 minutes or just until chocolate is melted. Remove pan to a wire rack. Swirl chocolates into a marble pattern using a wooden pick (I used my Pampered Chef cake tester).

This was lots of fun! And isn't it beautiful?!
As much as I love chocolate, I could see this as a
wallpaper in my kitchen...except I'd always be craving
chocolate....wait! I already do that!

Sprinkle evenly with toasted pecans and salt.

Chill 1 hour or until firm. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 month. (Candy will soften at room temperature)

Not only does this taste fabulous, it looks spectacular! Pretty on a plate:

Wait a minute! I need to get a little closer to that chocolate!

MUCH better! Now all this raving about Salty Chocolate-Pecan Candy is
more than I can handle. I'm off to dig some out of the refrigerator for
a late-night snack. Don't tell anyone....oh, and if you are one of the people
I was making this to give, I'm sorry. I couldn't keep from eating it all!

This recipe found in Southern Living, OCTOBER 2007 and at Southern Living Recipes online.

Pretzel Wreath

My kiddos and I spent part of an evening last week cooking in our pjs and this is what we made:

This recipe came from the Pampered Chef Holiday Guide 2007. Its easy and fun. Give it a try. Tie a ribbon and bow on it, put it in a pretty goody bag and give them as gifts.

Place almond bark or confectionery coating candy in a bowl. Microwave according to package directions until melted and smooth.

Dip rounded bottoms of 5 minature pretzels, one at a time, into bark; shake off excess. Lay pretzels onto Parchment Paper (I used my Demarle silpat) in a circular pattern with sides touching and rounded sides toward center.

Repeat with 5 more pretzels, placing directly on top of first circle in a staggered pattern. Decorate wreath as desired with nonpareils or colored sugar. (I used Pampered Chef's sweet caramel sprinkle)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Let Me Tell You About Rachel!

Now those of you who know me IRL, probably think I'm going to tell you something about my sister (which come to think of it, would probably make a good post). But actually, I'm going to tell you about my friend, Rachel and a really great book she recently wrote.

Rachel Masters (or Rachel Gustafson, as I knew her) is a friend of mine from my college days. She was the editor of our University Yearbook, and I served as Assistant Editor under her. In the photo below,we are pictured at Homecoming 1992. She went on to marry her college sweetheart, Darren (standing behind her in the photo) and they now have 5 children.

Not long ago, Rachel contacted me and told me about the cookbook she has written. I was excited when she said she was sending me a copy of it! I proceeded to put it to use and have been enjoying it for about 3 months. This isn't your ordinary cookbook that leaves you feeling guilty for not spending hours laboring in your kitchen to place a gourmet meal in front of your family. Nor does it leave you wondering where in the world you are going to find the long list of unusual ingredients needed for each recipe. No, this is a Mom's cookbook, written by a real mom for real moms everywhere.

Rachel's ideas for the cookbook started several years ago. She was tired of trying to think of what to cook for supper every night and came up with the idea of a rotating meal plan. After writing down MANY meal ideas, it made sense to go one step further and make grocery lists to accompany them. That worked for a while, but the frustration continued when she couldn't find the recipes that went with the evening's meal plan. That led her to believe that it would be worth the time and trouble to compile the meal plans, grocery lists AND recipes together in one book. So, over the course of two years, among homeschool lessons, children's naptimes, helping her husband build their log cabin, and other continuous interruptions, Rachel compiled and revised a 250-page book. -excerpt from Rachel's website

Yes, you heard right! This cookbook gives you 13 weeks of meal plans. Each week not only includes a menu for 5 meals, but also provides a grocery list, all the recipes necessary AND a timetable for when to do each cooking task during the day. I have found this cookbook to be so helpful! Rachel has done all the legwork and taken the frustration out of putting a meal on the table. Of course, my family's tastes and preferences vary some from Rachel's so as I am preparing for a trip to the grocery store, I may pencil in a different side dish or a variation that we prefer and adjust the grocery list accordingly. Preparing for the gorcery store is easy. I make a copy of the grocery list, mark off the items I already have, slip the list into my purse and I'm off!

I have shown this cookbook to several friends and family members and all have been excited about this find! It would be a great gift or even stocking stuffer for those moms on your Christmas list. You must go check out her website, order a few and tell her I sent you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Boiled Peanuts!

I am one of those people that loves the markers of seasons. By that I mean, I love all the things that happen every year at the same time. For example, I love that the Bradford pears are one of the first trees to bloom each March, marking the beginning of Spring and I love that we get to pick strawberries every April marking summer's approach.
We are experiencing one of those season markers right now. Our house smells like peanuts, because we boiled a big pot of them last night. Before moving to SE Alabama, I didn't know a whole lot about peanuts, but I have learned a lot since. Did you know that peanuts grow underground? At harvest time, a machine digs the plants up and turns them over in the field. After 2 or 3 days of drying in the field, a harvesting machine separates the peanuts from the plants and loads them in "wagons" that are hitched to trucks.
We are definately in peanut farming country here, so peanuts seem to effect many parts of our life. Our house is located just 1/2 mile from the peanut coop. Every fall, harvested peanuts are brought in the peanut "wagons"to the coop and attached to "blowers" for curing. Hot air is forced slowly through the wagons during this process. This makes a loud, but low (in pitch) humming type noise. There are many of these running at the same time, so we hear them day and night during peanut season. I have fond memories associated with the sound of the blowers, because my son was born during our first peanut season here. When I would be up to feed him at night, I would hear the almost hypnotic, comforting sounds of the peanut blowers down the road. Every fall, the event of the season is the Peanut Festival. This rivals most county fairs, is attended by just about everyone and climaxes with the Peanut Festival Parade through downtown.
Anyway, all that to say our neighbor gave us fresh peanuts yesterday and we took on the task of pretending to be natives: We boiled them! Boiled peanuts are a favorite snack of this region and we are in full agreement! We have enjoyed the taste of them every fall since we have moved here. But this time, we boiled them ourselves. It was fun and they were tasty. Now, our house smells like peanuts marking the beginning of Fall. It may still be terribly hot and humid and so far no leaves have changed colors, but we know Fall is on its way, because the peanut harvest is beginning.
Here is a recipe for boiling peanuts that I found on the internet:

2 pounds fresh raw peanuts in shells
3 tablespoons salt or to taste

Wash peanuts well. Place them in a huge cast iron pot or the biggest pot you have. Pour in enough water to almost fill the pot. Add salt and stir. Cover and cook over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat only enough to prevent water from boiling over. Add water as needed to keep peanuts under water. When adding water, increase heat to high until peanuts are boiling again. Boil for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Test to see if they are done by spooning out a peanut, cooling briefly, opening the shell and biting into one. Boiled peanuts should be soft, not crunchy or hard. Drain, rinse well and cool slightly before serving. Store in plastic bags in refrigerator or freezer.

The photos in this post were taken by
Old Shoe Woman and shared on Flickr.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blueberry Lemon Iced Tea

A friend called last week saying since she was out of town and the blueberries on her bushes were ready to pick, I could come pick them. So, I told her I would pick all the blueberries I could, freeze them and give her half. I've been twice this week and plan to go at least 1 more time. After picking them, I rinse them in my sink, place them on paper towels to dry, put them in freezer bags and freeze. My new favorite use for blueberries is Blueberry-Lemon Iced Tea. This recipe was in this month's Southern Living and I have used it 3 times so far with plans to make more soon. I hope you enjoy it!

Bring 1 (16oz) pkg frozen blueberries (I use fresh) and 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and pour through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl, using back of a spoon to squeeze out juice. Discard solids. Wipe saucepan clean.

Bring 4 c water to a boil in the same saucepan; add 3 family size tea bags, and let stand 5 minutes. Remove and discard tea bags. Stir in 3/4 c. sugar and blueberry juice mixture. Pour into a pitcher; cover and chill 1 hour. Serve over ice.

(I have subsituted Splenda for sugar and its just as yummy.)

Makes 5 cups. Prep: 5 min., Cook: 10 min., Stand: 5 min.,Chill: 1 hour

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tomato Season Means Tomato Sandwiches

For the first 25 years of my life, I never heard of a tomato sandwich. Then I moved to North Carolina and someone asked me if I wanted one.

"A what?" I asked.
"A tomato sandwich," was the reply in a matter of fact tone as if I should know what they were talking about.
"Do you mean a sandwich that just has tomato on it?"
"Yes, of course," they said.

Well, I wasnt' afraid to try it, because I happen to love tomatoes. And sure enough, a sandwich made up of a couple of good slices of tomatoes and a little dab of mayo was pretty tasty. Now I look forward to the time of year when tomatoes ripen and I can savor the yummy southern, summer delicacy of a tomato sandwich. I took this picture of the one I had a couple of days ago. It was my first of the summer. I did a little jig in my kitchen cuz tomato season is here.

I know that some of you readers from other non-south portions of the world may read this and think we're nuts down here. We're not, we just love our fruits and veggies. I'll let you know how the tomato-and-watermelon salad tastes (I found the recipe in the Southern Living magazine) when I make it next week. Oh, and last week at a VBS family night gathering, someone brought bananna and mayo sandwiches. Haven't tried that one yet. Don't know if I will. :)

Almond Cappucino Pie!

This is a yummy and easy pie! I lessened the calories by using sugar free, low fat and "lite" ingredients. I haven't found a low calorie substitute for the crust yet, but every little bit helps.

1 (small) pkg instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 c. milk
2 t. instant coffee granules
1 c. cool whip
1/2 t. almond extract
1 oreo crust

Here's how to put it together:

Dissolve coffee granules in almond flavoring and milk.

Then, add pudding to milk mixture.

Fold in Cool Whip.

Get one of these yummy pie crusts! There is nothing like it!

Pour into crust. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hot and Sweet Green Beans

This is a Paula Dean recipe. I've adapted it a tad.

4 cans french style green beans, drained
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 T. chili powder
10 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spoon green beans in a 13x9x2 inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and chili powder. Sprinkle evenly over green beans. Place bacon slices, in a single layer, over sugar mixture. Bake for 45 minutes or until bacon is crisp.

Diabetic Fruit Salad

My mother introduced me to this salad. None of us are diabetic, but we look for ways to cut back on sugar.

1 (15 oz) can fruit mix, well drained
1 c. seedless green grapes, halved
1 c. seedless orange, peeled and cubed
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 T sugar substitute (I use Splenda)
1/2 t. vanilla

In medium bowl, combine fruit. Mix lightly, cover, refrigerate until serving time.

In chilled bowl, beat cream at high speed, scraping sides of bowl often until soft peaks form (1 min). Gradually add sugar substitute and vanilla. Continue beating until peaks form (1 min). Cover. Refrigerate until serving time.

To serve: Combine chilled fruit and whipping cream. Mix lightly.

Caribbean Grilled Chicken Thighs

by Southern Living

Prep: 10 min.
Marinate: 8 hours
Cook: 16 min.

8 large chicken thighs, skinned
1/2 c. light soy sauce
1/4 c. chopped green onions
1/4 c. lime juice (about 2 large limes)
2 T brown sugar
1 T honey
1 t. dried crushed red pepper
1 large garlic clove, crushed
lime wedges (optional)
fresh parsley sprigs (optional)

Place chicken in an 11x7 baking dish. Combine soy sauce and next 6 ingredients; stir well. Pour over chicken. Cover and marinate in fridge 8 hours or overnight, turning occasionally.

Grill chicken, covered with grill lid, over medium coals 8 minutes on each side or until done. You can reserve marinade, bring it to a boil and baste the chicken as it grills. If desired, garnish with lime wedges and parsley.

I usually fix more than 8 thighs with the same amount of marinade. For last night's graduation celebration, I made 2 batches of marinade for 28 thighs.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Chicken Ramen Salad

This recipe was given to me by my friend, Lynn. I'm trying to convince her to start her own recipe blog. She has a lot of great ones! In the meantime, I'll post this one for her.

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1/2 cabbage head, shredded
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/8 c. sesame seeds
1 pkg. oriental ramen noodles

1/3 c. oil
2 T. sugar
3 T. salad vinegar
1 packet ramen noodle seasoning

Broil almonds and sesame seeds until light brown. Crush ramen noodles with rolling pin. Just before serving, mix the cabbage, chicken, almonds, sesame seeds and noodles. Add the dressing last. Serve immediately.

It is recommended to chill everything before mixing so the salad is refreshingly cool.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Strawberry Pie

4 T. cornstarch
1 cup 7-up
1 cup sugar
1 small pkg strawberry jello
sliced strawberries
frozen pie crust

Cook pie crust to package directions. Cool completely.

In sauce pan, mix sugar with 1/2 of 7-up. Dissolve cornstarch in remaining 7-up then add to sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Boil and stir until clear and thick. Remove from heat. Add jello.

Place sliced strawberries in cooled pie crust. Pour sauce mixture over strawberries. Refrigerate until gelled.

Strawberry Lemon Surprise Smoothie

Real simple. Real good.

2 cups lemonade
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup strawberry yogurt

Pour all liquid ingredients into the smoothie maker. Add all frozen ingredients. Blend at low for 30 seconds then blend at high until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes 3-5 servings

Strawberry Bananna Supreme Smoothie

April is strawberry pickin' time in our "neck of the woods." This is one of our favorite ways to use freshly picked strawberries.

1 cup strawberry nectar or apple juice
1 cup milk
1 frozen bananna
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup strawberry yogurt

Pour all liquid ingredients into the smoothie maker. Add all frozen ingredients. Blend at low for 30 seconds then blend at high until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes 3-5 servings.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Oreo Balls

My kiddos and I made this yummy treat this week. Its fun for everyone because there are lots of Oreos to munch on during the process.

1. Open a whole package of Oreos and eat one or two.
2. Set aside a few more to eat at various intervals in the process.

3. Crush the rest of the Oreos using food processor.

4. Eat another Oreo.
5. Add an 8 oz package of softened cream cheese to the crushed oreos! Using a spoon doesn't usually work. You have to get down and dirty with your hands to "mush" it all together.

6. Pinch off small portions of the mixture and roll in your hands to make small balls.
Refrigerate or freeze the balls for one hour.

7. Melt almond bark in the microwave until a nice smooth consistency. Sometimes after I melt it, I add a T. of shortening and stir until smooth. This makes it easier to dip.

8. Dip the oreo balls in the almond bark til covered. Place on wax paper til almond bark cools and hardens.

9. Eat and enjoy! And, if you put enough Oreos aside, get some milk and dunk 'em!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Spaghetti Lasagne

Yummy! Yummy! Easy! Easy!

12 oz thin spaghetti
8 oz sour cream
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz cottage cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb ground beef
2 c mozzarella cheese

Cook spaghetti to package directions. Drain and add sour cream, cream cheese and cottage cheese. Mix and set aside. Brown ground beef then add spaghetti sauce. Place a layer of noodle mixture in casserole dish topping with meat mixture; sprinkle with 1/2 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers with remaining noodles, meat and cheese. Cover and bake til bubbly.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tuna Melt

1 (1 lb) loaf French bread
1 small sweet onion, peeled and diced
1 (12 oz)can tuna, drained
2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 c. mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine sweet onion, drained tuna, mozzarella, and mayonnaise. Mix thoroughly. Spread tuna mixture on slices of French bread to form a sandwich. Place sandwiches on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes. Yeilds 8 servings.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Homemade Ice Cream

One of our favorite things about summer is homemade ice cream. We especially love to use fresh fruit. This recipe can be used to make vanilla or fruit flavors simply & deliciously.

Mix in canister till sugar dissolves. :
1 large box instant
vanilla pudding
2 c sugar
5 c milk

12 oz evaporated milk

2 c strawberries or peaches (or other fruit),
then fill canister to fill line with more milk. Chill 1 1/2 hours before freezing.

Hot Fudge Chocolate Cake

A former student of mine, Allyson Parker, gave me this recipe, because it was her favorite. I LOVE it!

2c sugar
2 c self rising flour
1 c water
1/2 c oil
1/2 c margarine
4 T cocoa
1/2 c buttermilk
2 eggs
1 t vanilla

Mix flour & sugar in mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine water, oil, margarine & cocoa in a saucepan; bring to rapid boil. Remove from heat, stir well & pour into flour-sugar mixture. Add buttermilk, eggs & vanilla. Mix well. Bake at 300 for 40 min. in a well greased 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan.

Frosting: 1/2 c margarine, 3 T milk, 2 T cocoa, 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1 t vanilla.

Melt margarine in saucepan. Add milk and cocoa til blended.
Add powdered sugar & vanilla; mix well. Pour over hot cake & serve while warm.

(I serve with ice cream: Yummy!)

Baked Spaghetti

My husband loves this recipe because its how his mother prepared spaghetti. She got the recipe from Virginia Rudd of North Carolina. The crock pot version is a staple in our house. Its great for company too, because its easy, yummy and makes a large amount.

Sprinkle of oregano
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 lg onion, chopped
3T Worcestershire sauce
1 (16 oz.) can tomatoes
1/2 lb. grated cheese
1 can cr
eam mushroom soup
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 t. chili powder
1 (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 (8 oz.) pkg thin spaghetti

Brown beef & onion. Drain; add Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, sauce, tomatoes, tomato sauce, soup, salt & pepper. Cook slowly for 30 minutes. Cook Spaghetti for short time, rinse well & add to beef mixture. Put in 2 casserole dishes, sprinkle w/ cheese. Make sure spaghetti is completely under the sauce. Cover w/ foil. Bake for 30 min. in 350 oven. (Makes 2 9” square dishes). Freeze if desired.

Crock pot version: brown beef in microwave, then add all ingredients except cheese and spaghetti to crock pot. Cook on low for several hours until warm. Prepare spaghetti to pkg directions. Serve with grated cheese if desired.**

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grandma's Strawberry Cake

1 box white cake mix
3 T flour
1 small pkg strawberry Jell-O
¾ cup oil
¼ cup water
½ pkg frozen strawberries, (thawed)

4 eggs

Mix all ingredients except eggs, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Beat well until all ingredients are well blended. Pour into greased & floured cake pans or 9X13 inch baking dish. Bake 350 degrees for 30-35


1 ½ cup powdered sugar
¾ stick butter
½ pkg frozen strawberries (thawed)
Blend powdered sugar & butter. Add enough strawberries till right consistency to spread on cake.

Brownie Trifle

This is one of my Mom's specialties. Its yummy - how could it not be? Its chocolate!

1 pkg brownie mix
(I make my own from scratch)
2 small instant chocolate pudding
1 pkg toffee chips
1 12 oz Cool Whip

Prepare brownie mix & cool. Prepare pudding.

In trifle bowl layer
½ brownies (crumbled)
½ pudding
½ toffee chips
½ Cool Whip
Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Crumble a corner of the brownies (where it’s hard) on top & sprinkle a few pieces of the toffee chips for garnish. Best if chilled all day or overnight.

Spinach Salad

This salad is one my Aunt Melanie made for all our family gatherings. I love how it tastes and the memories it provides.

2- 1 lb. fresh spinach
8 slices of bacon- fried crisped and crumbled

4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

3 or 4 chopped green onions

1-5 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained

alternative, 1-16 oz. can bean sprouts, drained

1 cup salad oil

1 cup vinegar

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup ketchup

2 tsp. salt

I like to use Olive Oil, and I don't pour the dressing on until just before serving. This is a large salad. If you cut the salad recipe in half, be sure to cut the dressing in half too.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Peach Refresher Smoothie

2 cups peach nectar or apple juice
1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
1/2 bananna
1 cup peach yogurt
1 1/2 cups frozen peach slices

Pour all liquid ingredients into blender. Add all frozen ingredients. Blend on low for 30 seconds then blend on high setting until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes 3-5 servings.

Chicken-Cranberry Wraps

These wraps are yummy! Of course, I'm a fan of cranberries in any recipe. This recipe is also good for the hot and humid summer days when I just can't bring myself to turn on the oven. Serve up a wrap and a smoothie and you have a perfect cool meal for a hot day.

Chicken-Cranberry Wraps

6 (10-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
1/2 (15-ounce) can whole-berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey breast
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup shredded lettuce

Heat tortillas according to package directions.

Stir together cranberry sauce, mustard, and ginger. Spread mixture evenly over 1 side of each tortilla. Top with chicken, green onions, pecans, and lettuce; roll up.

Yield: 6 servings

CALORIES 262(17% from fat); FAT 4.9g (sat 0.6g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.1g); PROTEIN 14.7g; CHOLESTEROL 32mg; CALCIUM 27mg; SODIUM 406mg; FIBER 1.7g; IRON 2.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 40g

Southern Living, FEBRUARY 2001


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