Cooking


I ripped this recipe for cheese straws out of a Southern Living magazine way back in 1994!

vintage aluminum cups

No, I am not going on a KonMari kick and throwing away recipes! (at least not this one) The reason I saved this recipe to begin with was it brought me joy!! I was probably initially attracted to the vintage aluminum cups!

Cheese straws are a classic Southern snack. They can be fancy and served with wine or casual and served with football! You can buy them at the store, but they are so easy to make! I made cheese straws to give away as gifts this past Christmas.

snowflake package

I was in a hurry and didn’t even fancy up the cellophane baggies! How sad! At least they were cute baggies.

cheese straws

The cheese straws were very fragile. I had to be careful putting them in the bags. They made a great non-sweet snack to give as a gift! Everyone loved them!

Parmesan Cheese Straws

2/3 cup refrigerated pre-shredded Parmesan cheese or use fresh cheese plus 1/4 cup of flour

1/2 butter, softened

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 cup milk

*Put the cheese and butter in a food processor fitted with the knife blade. Whir it around until blended.

*Add the flour, salt and red pepper. Process about 30 seconds or until the mixture forms a ball. Scrape down the sides from time to time.

*Divide the dough in half. Roll each portion into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle. Cut the dough into 2″ x 1/2″ strips. (You can also shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls; flatten to about 1/8 inch; brush with milk and top with a pecan half.) Place on a baking sheet; (I used parchment for easy cleanup!) brush with milk.

*Bake at 350˚ for 7 minutes for strips (10 minutes for rounds) or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

**Makes about 5 dozen cheese straws! I put about 25-30 in each baggie.

**When cutting out the straws, you can use a regular knife, pizza wheel, pastry cutter…whatever you want to make it fancy! You can also use a cookie press if you have one.

So, we had a few cheese straws leftover. After Christmas we were all tired of eating Christmas food! I decided experiment with (and disguise) the leftover straws. I crushed up the cheese straws (This was very easy since they were fragile to begin with!) and made Chicken Parmesan!

Chicken Parm

I dipped the chicken in a little melted butter, then the crushed up cheese straws, then into the oven. (again, parchment paper makes clean up a breeze!) Sorry, I don’t remember how long I baked it. I’m thinking 425˚ for about 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your chicken. Once baked, add a little marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese! Back in the oven for another 5 minutes-until the cheese melts. YUM! The red pepper that is in the cheese straws was really yummy in the Chicken Parm! It was yummy in the cheese straws, too!

Well, I did it! I made Thanksgiving dinner!

I know it was a big sacrifice for Mom and Dad to give up their personal Thanksgiving traditions of doing all the cooking to come be teachers for the next generation.

I am so thankful they agreed to this little project. I am very glad to know how to do things “Mom and Dad’s way”.

Our table wasn’t too fancy. I had planned to get out the good china and change the tablecloth. The table looked plenty festive and our everyday dishes were dishwasher safe!

We did use fancy little butter dishes.

butter dish

Thanksgiving table

Please notice the tiny Thanksgiving table next to the glass of water.

tiny table

I found this idea on Pinterest more than a year ago. I let the girls make them. They didn’t mind the sprinkle sorting as much this time. The little tables turned out really cute, I think!

Thanksgiving crafters

Thanksgiving table decor

The cheese ring appetizer is one of Chip’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving! When I told him that Mom was going to make the Cheese Ring he panicked! He was afraid it wouldn’t be the right cheese ring. I assured him it would be okay since I had gotten the recipe from her.

Cheese ring

He was the first one to test it out. Two thumbs up from the Critic.

eating cheese ring

Well, here is the feast…

feast 1

feast 2

chef

You might have noticed a couple of items on our buffet that were not mentioned in a specific blog post.

Green Bean casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Green Fluff.

I felt obligated to have a green vegetable on our buffet. The green bean casserole recipe can be found here or on the back of the French’s Fried Onion canister.

As far as the mashed potatoes go, I’m pretty plain. Boil some Yukon Gold potatoes. Mash them up. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Some folks get all fancy with cream cheese or sour cream or garlic or cheese. Plain is the preferred method at our house.

The green fluff is a MUST HAVE at all our holiday gatherings. It’s just the old Watergate Salad recipe.

watergate salad

Ooo, I can’t forget the bread–giant Sister Shubert rolls! They are the best for leftover turkey sandwiches.

How do you like my buttering method-rub a stick of cold butter on top of the rolls right after the come out of the oven.

buttering rolls

Katie was trying to take pictures for me. For some reason she was not able to see anything on the camera. Mashed potatoes will do that to ya.

iphone hazard

Guess who LOVES rolls?!

bread lover

What a feast!

full plate

Don’t forget dessert. I had to try half a piece of each pie.

pieces of pie

group minus one

Some folks chose to have their sparkling grape juice with dinner, others with dessert.

bubbly

We gobbled ’til we wobbled!

empty dinner plate

empty dessert plate

lick the plate clean

Thanksgiving naps are the best!

snooze

In case you missed the Thanksgiving 101 series, here are all the posts. You can also find them by clicking on the This and That tab at the top of the page.

As a kid, Thanksgiving dressing was never my favorite. Mom always made two batches–one with oysters and one without.

I’m not sure how the oyster tradition came to our family. I always took my obligatory dressing from the without pan.

Now I voluntarily put dressing on my plate. : )

Mom didn’t really have a “recipe” to give me. She just told me how to make it.

First-make a batch of cornbread. Rather vague instructions.

I use the recipe from the back of the Aunt Jemima Corn Meal package for my cornbread. I’m not sure if Mom uses the same one or not.

Cornbread recipe

I always make my cornbread in a cast iron skillet. I suppose it’s just is the Southern way!

cast-iron skillet

Sorry, no picture of its golden deliciousness.

After the cornbread has cooled, crumble it.

crumble the cornbread

I took the easy way out and gave it to the girls to crumble. They were so excited to have a break from school that they needed to do something!

dressing ingredients

Chop up a medium onion and 2-3 ribs of celery. I chopped my veggies early. I was so glad to get them out of the refrigerator. I could open the FREEZER door and smell onions!

sliced bread

Soak a couple of pieces of plain white bread in milk–

soak the bread

about “that much” milk.

I started smashing the bread with the back of a spoon. Apparently, that was wrong. Mom came behind me and squished it with her fingers. I think she just wanted to have the Thanksgiving experience too.

mix dressing

Mix the cornbread, veggies and soaked bread together.

Add two eggs and seasoning. We added about 1 tsp of Poultry Seasoning, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. It could have used a bit more of the poultry seasoning.

seasonings

Next, start ladling in the turkey broth. You can use chicken broth if you like.

turkey stock

I put in 8-12 ladles of broth. My ladle was pretty small though.

You want your dressing to be kind of wet looking.

mixed dressing

Spread it in a pan and bake for 20-30 minutes at 350˚.

dressing

This picture is before it went in the oven. I failed to get an “after” picture. Well, there is a picture of the whole Thanksgiving spread. It will come later.

The top of the dressing gets nice and brown.

It turned out pretty good. Chip said it had too much onion in it. Next time I will add more poultry seasoning though.

If it ends up a little dry, that’s okay. You can always smother it in GRAVY!

For years my Dad has been the bird-master. He smokes the turkey overnight in a small smoker he has had for probably 40 years, and it is always delicious!

Several years ago, Mom and Dad got us a smoker of our very own for our anniversary.

It has been used exactly once.

The summer after receiving the smoker, we decided to try smoking a turkey–you know, in case we ever had Thanksgiving at our house. Well, it didn’t go all that well. The turkey was WAY under-cooked on the inside and WAY over-cooked on the outside. That was the last time we tried using the smoker. You know it can be expensive to ruin meat!

With Thanksgiving finally at our house, we got our official lesson on how to cook the Thanksgiving turkey!

First things first–Buy a turkey.

turkey

Martha Stewart says allow for 1 1/2 pounds per person.

I didn’t really listen to her. I bought an almost 22 pound bird. Mom had told me about a 15 pound turkey would be fine for the 6 of us. I had kinda forgotten that little tidbit when I was at the store.  Better to have too much than not enough, right?!

I bought my turkey the week before Thanksgiving. Be sure you clean out your refrigerator before going to the store, so there is plenty of room to defrost your turkey. I knew my turkey would take a while to thaw. Allow a day for every 4 pounds.

turkey tag

Mom and Dad arrived at our house a little after 7:00 and brought spend-the-night necessities.

We got straight to work.

While the guys got the smoker ready, Mom showed me how to prep the bird.

birdbath

Remove all the packaging and give the bird a rinse with cold water. Be sure to remove all the yucky stuff from inside the cavity of the bird. Save it though. You will use it later. (A light meal would be my recommendation for Wednesday night, YUCK!)

My turkey had this brace inside. It was a little tricky to remove. Apparently, preparing a 22 pound turkey burns some calories! Bonus!

turkey brace

Next, pat the turkey dry and rub all over with butter. I felt like a turkey-masseuse. My bird was happy–first the jacuzzi then the massage table.

buttered up

You’ll want to truss the turkey legs. I didn’t have any kitchen twine, so I used dental floss, of all things. Hey, it worked great! Just wrap the string around the ends of the leg. Go back and forth and all around. Tuck the wings back behind where the neck used to be. Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of that. (Looking at the pictures, I think I actually did the trussing before the buttering.)

trussing

trussed

Then Dad came and took the turkey to the smoker.

ready for smoking

Smoker instructions…

Soak 2 “good” handfuls of hickory chips in water for 30 minutes.

Hickory chips

Fill the bottom of the smoker as full as you possibly can with charcoal.

charcoal

Light the charcoal and let it burn down.

Dad with the fire

reduced coals

When the charcoal is ready spread the soaked wood chips on them.

Fill the smoker’s water pan with water — this will steam the bird as it smokes.

Put the water pan in place.

Put the metal grill right above the water pan.

Place the bird on the grill and close the smoker.

into the smoker

smokin' bird

It should slowly burn all night.

smoker

Now go to bed and get a good night’s sleep!

BUZZZZZZZ!

That was a short night!

In the morning the bird looked great!

smoked turkey

Ahhhh! So nice and golden! I’m so thankful Chip’s co-worker, Jen, gave me this hand-me-down pan (along with many others, too!). It was the perfect container to transport my giant turkey. Thanks, Jen!

golden turkey

Based on past experience, Dad suggested we go ahead and take a little peek to make sure the turkey was cooked all the way.

peek inside

Sure enough, it was a little too pink on the inside. We stuck it in the oven at 350˚ for about 30-45 minutes. It’s a good thing that we used that pan instead of the cutting board. No transfer necessary.

When it came time to carve the turkey, Chip followed the instructions on this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAe7-GpV98E

It was a great method!

Be sure your knife is good and sharp. Knife sharpening is not my favorite thing to do. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I do like my little sharpener/honer. I have never used a honing steel. I have watched Mom use one for years and it terrifies me!

sharpening the knife

tackling the bird

Remove the leg.

remove the legs

Remove the breast.

remove turkey breasts

Repeat on the other side.

slicing turkey

turkey breasts

Slice the breasts.

turkey slices

Since the turkey finished cooking in the oven, plenty of drippings were available for gravy making! In the smoker, the fat just drips down into the pan.

Sprinkle flour all over the fat in the pan.

add flour

This is my flour of choice.

Wondra flour

Wondra is nice and fine. Which means less of a chance for lumps.

Let the flour and fat bubble up a little, just enough to cook out some of the flour flavor.

Add your turkey broth. Oh, wait, I forgot to tell you about that.

Remember all that nasty stuff you pulled out of the turkey? Put it all in a pot with enough water to cover it. Add a little salt and pepper and, if you like, a little poultry seasoning. Then boil it.

Ta Da! Turkey broth!

boil the neck bone

Keep stirring the gravy on the stove until it all looks like gravy is supposed to look. Turkey gravy is not nearly as pretty as roast beef gravy.

turkey gravy

I really hate to end this post with an ugly picture of turkey gravy. Here, look at the turkey again.

golden turkey

Turkey smoking=success!

 

Mention the city of New Orleans and you will conjure up a plethora of images in folks’ minds.

New Orleans

There is yet another dish that is identified with The Big Easy–Bananas Foster.

Brennans-New-Orleans-by-Dean-Ennis-feature

Here is a little history I found on a New Orleans visitor’s guide.

In the early 1950s New Orleans was the major port of entry for bananas shipped from Central and South America. Owen Brennan, owner of Brennan’s Restaurant, challenged his chef, Paul Blange, to include bananas in a new dessert. It was Owen’s way of promoting the imported fruit. At the same time, Holiday Magazine asked Owen to provide a new and different recipe to include in an article on the restaurant.

And so was born Bananas Foster, a decadent dessert named for Owen’s friend, Richard Foster, a local civic and business leader. Today, Bananas Foster is served at Brennan’s and other fine New Orleans restaurants. Each year, Brennan’s flames 35,000 pounds of bananas for the famous dessert.

I recently had a wonderful dinner with my quartet and our spouses. (You can check out our Hyper Octave Facebook page here.)

dinner party

Donna and Jim really put on a spread for us–complete with fresh flowers and candlelight.

Jim made Gumbo with delicious andouille sausage and shrimp. Our salad was mixed greens with avocado and orange slices. That’s Jim’s homemade Orange Vinaigrette you see on the table.

We all enjoyed the dinner and felt like we needed a crane to move from the table. Then, Donna announced dessert!

Could I stuff in any more food?!

Bananas Foster?

Why,YES! Some room suddenly became available!

We all moved to the kitchen for the dessert “show”. I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to feature another guest chef!

Jim started by melting a stick of butter with 1/2 cup banana liqueur.

melting butter

banana liqueur

While Jim took care of the pan, Donna feverishly peeled and quartered 8 bananas.

hostess

bananas

Into the pan with the bananas!

cooking bananas

Add a dash of cinnamon and the brown sugar–TWO cups!

brown sugar

brown sugar and bananas

Oops! Wait! The brown sugar was supposed to go in BEFORE the bananas! Donna moved fast to remove the bananas. The brown sugar needed to caramelize a little before adding the bananas.

recipe rescue

Let that cook up in order to thicken a little.

caramelizing bananas

Add about 1/4 cup of rum…

Bacardi

and light on fire!

Jim did move his pan out from under the cabinets–just in case.

flaming bananas foster

Unfortunately, none of us thought to turn off the lights until the flames had disappeared. You can kind of see some blue flames in the picture above.

As if all the sugar and butter were not enough, a scoop of vanilla ice cream finished off the dish!

desserts

Bananas Foster

Oh! It was so good! I wanted to lick the plate!

I enjoyed every bite–all 490 calories, not including the ice cream!

Yeah–I went walking the next day!

Thanks so much, Donna and Jim. You treated us like royalty!

Bananas Foster

serves 8

  • 1 stick of butter (could probably get by with 1/2 )
  • 1/2 cup banana liqueur
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 8 bananas, sliced into 4 quarters
  • 1/4 cup rum
  • Vanilla ice cream

Melt butter in pan with banana liqueur.

Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Allow to caramelize a bit.

Stir in bananas until warmed. (Not too long, you don’t want mushy bananas.)

Warm the rum for a few seconds in the microwave.

This is the time to turn off the lights for added drama!

Add rum to the bananas–immediately light on fire.

After alcohol burns off, serve with vanilla ice cream. Drizzle some of the sauce on top.

It was a dark and stormy night…

Hmmm, I guess that intro has been done.

We did have some storms last weekend.

Nothing says homecoming half-time show like soaked band members. There had been a sprinkle here and there. But half way through “Crazy Train” the sky just opened up! To their credit, none of the band quit marching until the drum major, my daughter, gave them the signal! Thanks to my friend, Sheri, for sharing this video. (There must have been another band parent sitting behind her while she was filming. Either that, or he was really excited to be in the rain.)

The next day was cool and gray–perfect for Corn Chowder.

Mom used to make Corn Chowder for us all the time when we were kids. As a new bride, 22 years ago, I knew I had to have the recipe.

tattered recipe

Here is the copy she gave me. Photocopied from what looks like a novel. I don’t know if her copy was a photocopy or she actually had it in a book.

You can tell I’ve had it a while by how the paper has aged.

For some reason I keep this recipe tucked in a cookbook. I suppose when I got it, I didn’t really have a stash of recipe cards or cookbooks. Seemed like a good enough place for it. I still know where to find it 22 years later! I probably put my hands on this recipe faster tucked in this cookbook than I could if it were in my recipe box! ugh!

The recipe is written in paragraph form. I’ll gather it all together in one place for you at the end–but first, some photos.

The first thing I did was cook up the 8 slices of bacon.

frying bacoon

I fried the bacon first so I didn’t have to dirty up a skillet in addition to my soup pot.

bacon

Set your yummy bacon aside while you proceed with the recipe. Do the best you can to keep your family from passing by and nibbling on the bacon. (Good luck!)

Of course you are going to save all that lovely bacon grease for later use–green beans, fried eggs, grits, etc.

bacon grease

The recipe calls for 12 potatoes! TWELVE.

Since potatoes come in all shapes and sizes, I found that measurement to be vague. I used about 6-7 cups. Yes, still a little vague but a bit more manageable.

cut potatoes

Next the recipe says to cut up 6 onions–SIX ONIONS! Good grief!

I used two. I actually had to have my husband cut up the second one for me. My eyes were watering so bad after one! I can only imagine my condition if I had to cut SIX!

I topped off my 8 cup measuring bowl with the onions.

Potatoes and Onions

Dump your potatoes and onions in the same pot you used to cook the bacon. It is perfectly fine if there is a little bacon grease still in there.

Add water to cover the potatoes and onions. I used about 6-7 cups. Boil until veggies soften.

Potato broth

Add the bacon, 3-3 1/2 pts. of milk, and a “tin of corn”.  A tin? What the heck?!

I’m sure that means a can of corn but what size???

corn

I used 4 cups of frozen Schwan’s frozen corn. Their corn is the yummiest! Four cups is probably more than “a tin”. I figured this was CORN Chowder. I would be okay if there was lots of corn.

By the way, 3 pints equals 6 cups.

Once everything is about to boil again, add 1/4 cup cornstarch that has been dissolved in 1/4 cup cold milk.

Finally, add a lump (approximately 2 tablespoons) of butter to the soup.

lump of butter

Salt and pepper to taste. I like lots of pepper in mine. I also added some leftover chicken I had in the fridge just to make the soup a little more substantial.

Serve it up in fancy orange bowls.

pouring soup

or blue. : )

filling soup bowls

I love these little crocks!

blue soup bowl

Aren’t they cute with their little lids on there?

orange soup bowl

I hope you enjoy this recipe–no soggy band members required!

 

Corn Chowder

6-8 strips bacon cut up and fried (I used thick bacon.)

6-7 cups russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 medium onions, diced

6-7 cups water

4 cups frozen corn

6 1/4 cups milk, divided

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 Tablespoons butter

salt and pepper to taste

(Optional-diced chicken can be added along with the corn and bacon.)

•In a large pot, cook bacon until crisp. Save drippings for another use. Drain bacon on a paper towel.
•Add potatoes, onions and water to the pot. Boil until potatoes are tender.
•Add bacon, corn and 6 cups of milk. Heat until almost boiling.
•Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of cold milk. Add to the soup. Keep stirring to avoid scorching the milk.
•Stir in the lump of butter.
•Salt and pepper to taste.
Goes really nicely with salty crackers!

 

Sometimes two are better than one!

Balsamic Beef with Kale and Edamame

I saw a Martha Stewart recipe that sounded interesting–Poached Egg with Rice and Edamame. However, I was not real sure how my family would react to green stuff with an egg.

Later, I stumbled upon a recipe for Grilled Balsamic Flank Steak. Having just picked up a flank steak on sale, this was perfect! Plus meat helps make up for the fact that there are vegetables on the plate!

So, I cut out parts of the Edamame recipe and pasted in the Flank Steak!

I left out the egg. Maybe I’ll try that another time.

I didn’t have red pepper flakes or purple cabbage, so I left them out, too. Everyone seemed okay with that. I think the pinch of red pepper flakes added with the garlic would be good. I did add some ground red pepper. I added what I thought was a little. It might have been just a little too much.

Edamame and Kale

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1  clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen edamame beans, thawed
  • Coarse salt

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic–cook until you start to smell it, about 30 seconds. Add kale and cook, stirring until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add edamame and cook until heated all the way. Season with salt.

Balsamic Flank Steak

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound flank steak
  • salt and pepper

Mix marinade ingredients together and throw it all in a large ziplock bag. Add the steak. Allow the steak to marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. You might give it a turn half-way through. Grill until it is cooked like you like. (Some folks prefer a little more pink than others.) Let the meat stand, covered loosely with foil, for about 10 minutes. Cut in thin strips against the grain.

I served it all over brown rice. I’m sure you could serve it without if you wanted. We all like brown rice!

Edamame and Kale with Balsamic Beef

The only issue I had with my frankein-recipe was that it was a little tricky to cut the meat on top of all the other stuff in the bowl. I managed okay though!

Critics’ Corner

Chip: The balsamic marinade on the flat-iron steak gets down into everything for a wonderful blend of flavors and textures.

Megan: I think this is my new favorite way to eat kale. It has just the right amount of kick to offset the green taste.

Katie: I must say, it’s not my favorite thing, but it wasn’t bad, either. It was a new and intriguing idea. I will certainly give it that!

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