Monday, November 30, 2009

Simple Slow Cooker Pot Roast


My folks gifted us with a half of a (homegrown) beef for Christmas last year, and I had one lone roast left, so today I made one of my very favorite fix-it-and-forget-it meals, pot roast cooked in a crock-pot or slow cooker.


Ingredients:
  • 1 roast, any cut
  • 1 pkg Lipton Beefy Onion soup mix
  • Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning (or any good season-all type mix)
  • potatoes
  • carrots

I had a sirloin tip roast, but this works for any cut--I especially like to use an inexpensive cut, like chuck roast or steak, it makes it wonderfully tender and delicious.

Step one, as always, is to spray your crock with cooking spray, or grease the sides slightly. Sprinkle Tony Chachere's or other season-all type seasoning mix on the meat, and rub lightly all over. Sprinkle just a little of the dry soup mix in the bottom of the crock, put in the roast, then add peeled and cut up potatoes and carrots (I used the carrot mini's) Add a little Tony's around the edge for the vegetables, and sprinkle the rest of the packet of onion soup mix all over the roast and vegetables. Do not add any water, the meat and vegetables should make enough juice so that none is needed. (Every now and then if I'm cooking a roast with no vegetables, I add just enough water to cover the bottom of the crock).

Cover and cook on high for an hour or two, then turn to low and cook the rest of the day.



Sometimes I take it out and slice it, then put it back in the pot to keep it warm. I always put the leftover meat back into the au jus with any remaining vegetables--it only gets better as it sits in the broth.

I've got enough for leftovers tomorrow--either as is, or in french dip sandwiches.

This post is linked to: Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eggless Eggnog

The following was previously posted on 12-13-08 under the title "If It Doesn't Have Any Egg In It, Is It Just "Nog"?"


One of special treats to indulge in at this time of the year is Eggnog.
I've always wanted to learn to make homemade eggnog, but the recipes all seemed so complicated. Separate eggs, cook the custard, beat the whites, fold in, way too many steps for this everyday cook. Not to mention that everything you read warns against using real (raw) eggs, so you have to buy special egg white powder--who does all of that?
So I've become a real connoisseur of good "store-bought" eggnog--and trust me, all brands are not created equally! The problem with good eggnog, though, is that it's 1. expensive, and 2. extraordinarily full of fat and calories.

So imagine my delight when I found this recipe! It's super simple to make, inexpensive, and everything in it is a "regular food" ingredient, nothing exotic!

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • 1 pkg instant French vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground nutmeg

Whisk together pudding mix and about a cup of milk. When it's all blended and dissolved, add the sugar, vanilla, and spices. Pour into a 2 quart pitcher, add the rest of the 1/2 gallon of milk, and stir well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Stir well before serving--the spices tend to separate and float to the top and bottom.

I've made this several times, and it's delicious--it tastes just like eggnog, except that it doesn't have the "thickness" or body that most eggnog has.


Variations:
Use Splenda and sugar-free pudding mix, and skim milk for a really lo-cal version.

For someone lactose intolerant or with allergies, you could use your substitute milk of choice.

I made this with 2% milk; for a special occasion, try substituting half-and-half or cream for part of the milk.

Top with whipped cream for a real treat!

This post is linked to:

Bloggy Progressive Dinner, Holiday Drinks edition at Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles

Holiday Treats Week at the Newlyweds



Until next time, happy (un)cooking, and happy sipping!

Friday, November 27, 2009

What to Do With Leftover Turkey

This following was originally posted 11-28-08. We are on the road visiting with relatives this Thanksgiving, so I have no leftovers this year, but I'll be cooking a turkey at Christmas time and using it up in all of these ways. Happy leftovers to you and yours!


After two days of it, is your family started to grimace at the "T" word? Are you sick of the thought of another turkey sandwich? Or turkey soup? Or turkey whatever? The internet abounds today with recipes of things you can do with leftover turkey. Some of them sound good, some of them sound bizarre.

First of all, realize this. Pretty much anything you can make with boiled or pre-cooked chicken, you can make with turkey. Chicken salad, chicken & dumplings, chicken & rice, chicken alfredo--all of these can be made with leftover turkey as a substitute for chicken.

But let me give you some advice. If you cooked enough turkey for an army, and after two days you still have turkey left, you can do the frugal thing without having turkey-ten-ways-for-ten-days-after-Thanksgiving. What you do is this: take it off the bone, bag it up, and freeze it. Bring it out later in a dish you usually make with chicken. Don't tell them it's ghost-of-holidays-past turkey. Just let them assume it's chicken.

Not long ago I did this when chicken was on sale. I bought a big pack of chicken leg quarters, then went ahead and boiled all of them at once in two big pots, then sat and removed the skin and took the meat off the bone. I divided it all up in meal-sized bags and froze them, then I had pre-cooked chicken ready for a quick and simple homecooked pot of chicken and rice, chicken alfredo, and chicken and dumplings. Boiling and de-boning the whole bag of chicken doesn't take that much longer than doing just a few pieces, and I only have the mess and clean-up once instead of every time I want to cook something that requires boiling chicken. It's an easy way to have "homemade" convenience food.

Leftover turkey can be done the same way, and is just as good in these kinds of dishes.

Do you have an all-but-unrecognizable turkey carcass with bits of meat left on it? Put it in a stock pot, cover with water, throw in some celery and onion or whatever you have on hand, add some chicken bouillon or chicken stock paste, bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer for a while. Once the carcass is boiled, any little bits left clinging to it should fall right off. The resulting stock can be strained and used now, or also frozen to used later, just like chicken stock.

What do you do after that? Or what if you have just a little turkey left, not enough to really bag and keep?

Here's the secret. Take a deep breath; let it out; and then--throw it away.

Did you get that? You've gotten your money's worth. Your family's sick of it. You've done well, grasshopper. It's time to move on. Give it a rest. Throw it away.

Happy "uncooking", until next time...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quick and Easy Chicken and Dumplings

Nothing says Southern cooking more than chicken and dumplings. It's a perfect meal for one of those "I need comfort food" nights.

"Back in the day" as the saying is, it was a big production to make chicken and dumplings--between boiling the chicken, removing the skin and bones, rolling out the dumplings and everything that goes along with that, there wasn't much point in tackling it unless you made a huge pot full.

Unfortunately for me, my husband doesn't care for chicken and dumplings. Can you even imagine such a thing?? (He says it a good waste of chicken and biscuits!) My theory is that he was force fed chicken dumplings as a child and it turned him against them. Just a theory, mind you. So in my family, I make a much smaller quantity of chicken and dumplings than most do, and I always have to have an alternative meal for hubby, so I want this to be as quick and easy as possible.




When I was doing a baking day, I pre-cooked some chicken thighs and ended up with two quarts of homemade stock...


...and about 4 cups of cooked, diced chicken to use for future recipes. (I used about half of this for my dumplings)

You can see how I did that on my baking day post. I don't always do the stock and chicken ahead, if I have time I do it all back to back, but having stock and precooked chicken makes it easy to make chicken and dumplings, chicken and rice, even homemade chicken noodle soup, even on a busy day when you don't have much time available.

I had about two quarts of stock, which I needs to come to rolling boil. If you don't have stock available, you can use canned broth, or even make some with chicken stock paste or chicken bullion. While the broth is coming up to heat, start getting the dumplings ready.

I usually make dumplings the same way my mother makes hers, and her sister makes them, and the way my grandmother did before them. You start with just a little bit of flour...and if you thought you were going to get a tutorial on mixing up dough and rolling it out to make dumplings, you're sorry mistaken, because in my family, we make biscuits the old fashioned way...

with "canned" biscuits! You may call them refrigerated biscuits, or tube biscuits, or whatever you like, in my family, we call them canned biscuits. (I heard a comedian one time who called them "wop biscuits"--'cause you had to "wop" them on the edge of the counter to open them up, and that was the sound they made, too--"wop!") But I digress...

I use whatever inexpensive brand I can find--I think I paid $1.23 for 4 tubes of store-brand biscuits here.
Dredge your canned biscuits in just a little bit of flour so they won't be sticky to handle...

...and flatten them out. You can use a rolling pin, but I just pat the out by hand. They don't have to perfect, just semi-flat.


Cut the dough circles up with knife, like so, or you can just tear off little bits of dough as you go. I usually start off cutting, and end up tearing off bits as I go by the end.

While the stock is at a rolling boil, start adding the bits of dough. Sorry, I couldn't take pictures and drop in dumplings at the same time! You can add them a handful at the time at first, but whatever you do, don't just dump them all in at the same time. Drop a few at a time, stirring a little as you go, until they're all dropped in. (For two quarts of broth, I used two tubes of biscuits.)
The dough will puff up and float at first. Add the diced chicken--I used about two cups, you can use more or less, according to how "meaty" you family likes their dumplings.


And now, for the secret ingredient.

Yes, an egg. (For a bigger pot of dumplings I'd probably use more than one. )


Crack the egg(s) into a cup, and beat with a fork.

Bring the pot back to a good bubble, and pour the egg in slowly, stirring slowly. It makes little yellow and white "thingies" in the broth.

I have no idea why we do this in my family, but we do. I do, my mother does, and my grandmother did. I have no idea where it originated, and no one else I have ever talked to about making chicken and dumplings does this. It's the "hallmark" of my family's chicken and dumplings. It's kind of like making egg drop soup. Only not (!)

At this point, cover and bring the heat way down, and simmer for a while, stirring occasionally. The flour from the biscuits will thicken the broth, the dumplings will "unpuff" and stop floating, and it will all be slowly changing from a pot of boiling biscuit puffs, to a pot of yummy, delicious chicken and dumplings. Taste to be sure the dumplings are cooked, add a little salt and pepper if it needs it, and you're ready for dinner!
Note: As you can see from the picture above, these quantities (2 qts of stock, 2 tubes of biscuits, 2 or 3 handfuls-a scant 2 cups-of diced chicken) don't make a huge pot of dumplings--I'd say 4 servings if you're eating a bowlful as a meal, probably 8 if you use this as a side dish. You can easliy double or even triple, if you have a big enough pot. The trick, no matter the size of the pot, is to keep the stock at a roll while you drop the dumplings, so don't try rush if you double the recipe and drop them too fast, they'll get mushy.


This post is linked to:

Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thanksgiving Favorites


Welcome to my Holiday Food Fest post for this week. Six different bloggers have joined together and are taking turns hosting a Holiday Food Fest recipe swap, to be held Thursdays during November and December. My pumpkin pie post last week fit perfectly into the weekly theme of Thanksgiving Desserts; this week's theme is favorite non-dessert Thanksgiving dishes. I'm recycling two recipes I posted last year--because they're favorites, after all!

First up is Cranberry Relish; made from fresh cranberries and oranges, it's a sweet/tart addition to any holiday meal, and quite a departure from the usual canned jelly-like stuff most of us are used to. It's made in the food processor, and is super easy. The cayenne pepper adds a bite that just compliments the other flavors.

Ingredients:
  • 2 large navel oranges
  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 2 T minced mint leaves

Cut off the peel and all of the white stuff from the oranges. All you want is the flesh of the orange, no membranes or peel. I do this right over the bowl of my food processor to catch all of the juice. (You might want to save some of the orange peel and make orange zest to use in other recipes. Or make some little curly things to garnish the serving dish. Or not.)

Put everything into the food processor, and chop. Refrigerate until serving, and that's it.

Note: the last time I made this, it was super tart, I think because the cranberries weren't ripe enough, so I added an additional 1/4 c of sugar. Always apply the taste test!

And my next recipe is Sweet Potato Casserole. This is not your typical Thanksgiving-day-yams-with-marshmallow-topping sweet potatoes. This dish has a yummy topping made with brown sugar, pecans, and butter that melts together into a praline flavored crust on top of soft and sweet mashed sweet potato souffle.

Ingredients:

  • 6 c mashed sweet potatoes
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1 c melted butter or margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla

If you're using canned sweet potatoes/yams, drain and mash. If using fresh sweet potatoes, bake these ahead of time, then scoop out the insides. Add the sugar & melted butter. Beat eggs separately, and add after the butter has cooled a little. Add vanilla, and beat with mixer until ingredients are well blended. You will probably still have some lumps, unless you run it through a food processor, that's okay. You can mix by hand, but the batter will not be as smooth. Pour this into a greased or cooking-sprayed 9 x 13 pan or equivalent casserole dish.

(Note: the pictures below are a half recipe)


In a separate bowl, mix together :
  • 1 c chopped pecans
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 5-6 T melted butter or margarine

Mix together the nuts & flour, then add the brown sugar and stir together. Add the melted butter last, and stir until everything is moistened. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sweet potatoes.

If I use especially fine chopped pecans, and for special occasions when I want the finished product to look especially pretty, I add extra pecan halves on top.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes, (longer if you make this ahead and refrigerate overnight) or until topping is melted together and browning on the edges.

There's something that happens when I add the pecan halves on top that's more than the sum of the separate ingredients--the nuts take on a completely different taste, with a smoky, roasted flavor, which combines with the brown sugar and butter to a make a candied pecan taste that is out of this world.

This recipe is linked to:

Holiday Food Fest, hosted this week by Tasty Eats at Home

Foodie Friday at Desgins by Gollum

Recipe Swap at the Grocery Cart Challenge

Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Freezer Cooking/Baking Day, Part 3

My baking day goals changed a bit from my initial plan. I was missing some key ingredients for a couple of items, but I decided to go ahead and make a pumpkin pie using some of the fresh pumpkin I cooked yesterday.

Doesn't it look pretty?


Not only did I make a pumpkin pie, I actually made my own pie crust. (pause for effect) From Scratch. (Longer pause, please)

Are you suitably impressed?

If you're a regular reader, you may recall I've blogged about making two different kinds of blackberry pie, and even a pie made from navy beans, but I have never--repeat, never--made a pie crust. Until today, that is.

Most pie crust recipes call for shortening, which is not something I regularly keep on hand, but after a quick shout-out on Twitter I found a recipe for Butter Pie Crust at the Natural Mommy, and decided to give it a try.

Now, before you go any further, you really do need to check out Natural Mommy's post with her pretty double crust pie; then come back here, and remember--no pies were harmed in making of this post.

But it is not a pretty sight.


Natural Mommy's recipe is for a double crust pie, so I cut the quantities in half--the amounts listed below are for a single crust pie.

Ingredients:
  • 1 c plus 2 T flour
  • slightly less than 1/2 t salt
  • 1/3 c cold butter, cut in small pieces
  • 4-5 T ice water
Mix together flour and salt, and cut in butter with a pastry blender


Add ice water a tablespoon at a time, stirring lightly with fork until the dough forms a ball
And this is where everything began to go Terribly Wrong.

Beth at the Natural Mommy recommends a pastry cloth and a rolling pin. I had neither, so I used my counter top and a wine bottle. (I promise, the bottle was already empty, I am not the culprit!) It was a really weird shape for a while, but I kept on until I got it semi-roundish.*

Not pretty. Not pretty at all.


Maybe just a bit better--at this point I put it in the fridge while I mixed the filling,



Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 c pumpkin
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • (I didn't have ginger, I ended up using 2 t pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices)
  • 1 can (1 3/4 c) evaporated milk
Mix all ingredients, and pour into your unbaked pie crust. I had a fairly deep 9 inch glass pie plate and it filled it completely. (If I were using premade crusts in the little aluminum tins, it may have filled two.)
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes; turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes, or until the center is set.


Serve with whipped topping of your choice----want a bite?

This was a good pie--it needed just a little more of something; maybe a little extra nutmeg, or little more pumpkin pie spice. And I admit it--the crust was tough. Not your fault, Natural Mommy, I think I worked it to death trying to get it round. *At one point I balled it all up and started over. Yes, I know that was a Big Mistake. Don't laugh.

But...

My husband was tickled to death (southern expression alert!) he loves pumpkin pie and he never gets pumpkin pie at home. Well, I did make one once with a bought crust and can of pumpkin pie filling, but I'm not sure that counts...

One pie is not a lot for a baking day, but I was so extraordinarily proud of myself for making the entire thing from scratch, from cooking the pumpkin to making the pie crust. After all, I'm the gal with "quick and easy" in the title of every recipe!

This post is linked to:

Holiday Food Fest
at Hoosier Homemade
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Recipe Swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace
DIY at A Soft Place to Land

Until next time, good cooking, and good eating!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Freezer Cooking/Baking Day, Part 2

Well I didn't get everything done that I intended, but I got a good head start on some things, anyway.

Here's my afternoon in pictures:

I tackled cooking a fresh pumpkin for the first time.

(Special thanks go to Kristi from Run the Earth, Watch the Sky for her hints on twitter and the link to her post on cooking pumpkin!)

I'd read somewhere that the smaller ones are best for eating, and have more flesh per pound inside, so I bought a small-ish (4.5 lb) "pie pumpkin". After washing it, the first task to was cut it in half. I expected it to be similar to cutting into a watermelon, but it was much harder than that--a tip I forgot 'till afterwards--microwaving for a minute or two will sometimes soften them up a bit.

The inside looked just as I was expecting--seeds and fibrous stuff. I was not expecting to be so hard to get out--I thought it would be like a cantaloupe, where the seeds and stuff just kind of slide out...

...but it took a steak knife and a spoon and my hands and lots of scraping to get the stringy stuff out.



The next step is to put the pieces cut side down on a baking sheet with an edge--'cause the juice does run out a bit. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour...



You can press on the rind with the back of a spoon to be sure it's soft. (Please don't look at the state of my oven--note to self--add Easy Off to my grocery list)



Let it cool 'till you can handle, then remove the rind/skin and throw that part away--this step was easy after it was cooked.


Some recipes/tutorials say to run it in your blender or food processor, but I just mashed it with a potato masher...


...and ended up with just over 4 cups of mashed up pumpkin.



After the pumpkin was done, I took the seeds, which I had rinsed and allowed to dry for awhile, and roasted them in a slower over for about 45-50 minutes. I added a tablespoon of butter and little salt and stirred them around a bit after the butter melted. I stirred them about every 15 minutes while they were cooking, then at the end I sprinkled about a tablespoon of sugar and some pumpkin pie spice and stirred them up, then let them cool down. They're good, they taste a little like kettle corn with the sweet and salty.

Overall, it was a fun experience, although a little more labor intensive than I realized to remove those insides! Money wise, I'm not sure it was any cheaper to do this than to buy the canned stuff--$3.49 ($.78/lb) yielded a quart of mashed pumpkin and about a cup of seeds. I'll have to do some comparison pricing to see what I find on that! Someday when we can actually live in our little house in the country I'd like to try my hand at growing a few--getting the pumpkins for free would make it well worth the investment of time and effort--otherwise, I'm not so sure.

Some of this will be used in a pie, hopefully tomorrow, and some will be frozen to make pumpkin bread a little closer to the holidays.


While the pumpkin was baking, I put some chicken on to cook--these are boneless, skinless thighs, which I buy at Sam's Club. They are just as easy and convenient to use as boneless skinless breasts, but less expensive and I think tastier. I've done this before with leg quarters that I buy on sale, this just happens to be what I have on hand right now.

My seasonings of choice, also from Sam's, are my old reliable Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning, or Tony Chay-Chay's as we say in our family, dried onion flakes, and heaping tablespoon of chicken stock paste.


Add whatever seasonings you like, bring to a boil, then reduce heat slightly, cover and simmer 'till the chicken is cooked all the way through. Once the chicken was thoroughly cooked, I removed it from the heat and let it cool for awhile...


...then removed the chicken and diced it up. This yielded about 4 1/2 cups of diced chicken, some of which I used to make a chicken pasta dish for supper, and the rest I froze.


I also ended up with two quarts of stock. I'll use that later this week--I've been wanting some chicken and dumplings ever since my Mom told me she cooked some last weekend, so that may be on my plan for later.
By the time I did this, washed and dried a load of clothes, and vacuumed, it was time to start supper--fettuccine cooked in some of the chicken stock, mixed with a couple of handfuls of diced chicken, a can of cream of chicken soup, and several cheeses, then baked for 30-40 minutes while the kitchen was being cleaned up--my own version of Chicken Tetrazinni!

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next installment of freezer cooking/baking day.
This post is linked to:
The Penny Pinching Party at The Thrifty Home

Until then, good cooking, and good eating!

Freezer Cooking/Baking Day


Today and tomorrow Crystal at Money Saving Mom and Fishmama at Life As Mom are hosting a Freezer Cooking/Baking Day party. Hundreds of bloggers all over the blogosphere are busy preparing, cooking, baking, packaging and freezing food so that they can feed their families healthy home cooked meals just a bit quicker and easier than starting from scratch each night.
Today and tomorrow I'm going to be participating on a small scale. I'll be sharing some pictures and recipes, but first I need a plan with a capital "P". A Plan. And here it is:
  1. Cook pumpkin and freeze for future recipes
  2. Boil chicken to make stock and diced chicken for recipes
  3. Italian herb bread in the bread machine
  4. Dice and freeze green onions
  5. Rolls
  6. Brownies

to be continued....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Pantry Party--Thanksgiving Leftovers

A couple of weeks ago I participated in a "pantry party" hosted by The Thrifty Countrywoman, of recipes made with ingredients we commonly have on hand in our pantry.

This month's theme is using up our Thanksgiving leftovers.

As I did on my breakfast post, I'm recycling a couple of older posts that fit the theme.

First up is "The Best Thing to Do With Leftover Turkey"...

...and next is not exactly for leftovers, but it's a Cranberry Relish that's so good, and so good for you, that you'll want to just eat up the leftovers yourself.

My apologies for the lack of "new and different" posts lately; I finally got some new batteries for my camera so I should be back on track with something new and yummy later this week.

Until then, good cooking, and good eating!