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Just a few more days until Thanksgiving and I know that there are a lot of young cooks out there scrambling about and searching the internet for tips and tricks on how to cook their turkey, etc.  I just wanted to post a couple of quick links to previous posts I’d made that might be helpful.   I also found some other recipe ideas that I might try and maybe you might want to check them out for ideas, too.

1)  I previously wrote about my use of a Roaster as an accessory to cook your turkey in so that you could free up your oven for the side dishes.  You can find that here:

http://ablogaboutfood.wordpress.com/2009/11/10/roasting-turkey-in-a-roaster/

Turkey day

2) For hints about making rolls from scratch (a WONDERFUL tradition to start), you can find the recipes and step-by-step instructions here:  http://ablogaboutfood.wordpress.com/2008/10/29/thanksgiving-dont-show-up-without-the/

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3)  I found this post about some easy looking biscuits that I might want to try.  They look easy-peasy!  http://www.thecountrycook.net/2012/02/butter-dip-biscuits.html

4)  And last, I will try and get the pics and recipe up for my Mom’s cranberry salad this year but in the meantime – this is definitely on my list of side dishes to try in a pinch:  Cranberry mandarin sauce: –  http://siggyspice.blogspot.com/2010/11/thanksgiving-side-dish-extravaganza.html

Here’s what my family USUALLY has as their Thanksgiving menu:

Turkey (Gotta be a Butterball!)

Ham

Mashed Potatoes

Gravy

Mom’s Cranberry Salad

Green Bean Casserole

Yams (mashed with brown sugar/pecan topping)

Strawberry Jello Salad

Ambrosia

Homemade Yeast Rolls

What’s on your “must have” list?

How was your Fourth of July?  We had front row seats of several displays of fireworks this year and the food was great!

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I get tired of seeing people try to make desserts with flags made of strawberries, blueberries, etc. for the Fourth of July.  BORING!

So, I decided to just use some tried and true recipes for the party I attended and they were a big hit!

First up…Strawberry Pizza!

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This is a modified version of the “Strawberry Pizza” recipe I got from a friend when I lived in Kentucky.  It looks good if you only use strawberries but I took it to the next level and added some raspberries and green grapes for definition.  What do you think?  Should I have stuck to just strawberries?

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Recipe:

Crust – Mix together in a small bowl 1 cup all purpose flour, 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 stick softened butter.  Spread crumbly mixture into 12″ pizza pan.  Press dough down lightly with fingers.  Bake at 325º for 15 minutes.  Let cool.

2nd layer::

1 1/2 pkgs (12 oz total) softened cream cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp lemon juice

Blend until smooth in a mixer.  Spread on cooled crust.

Mash 1 1/2 cups strawberries.  Mix 6 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp cornstarch together and add to saucepan.  Cook until thick over medium high heat.  Cool strawberry mixture and spread almost to the edge of the cream cheese layer.  You can add a few drops of red food coloring if your strawberries were on the pale side.

Garnish with sliced strawberries that you’ve cut into thin slices and lay in a circular pattern.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

* * * * * * * * * * 

I also made a Toll House Chocolate Chip Pie.  It came out beautifully but I think it needed another 5 minutes of cook time to make sure the center was set. It’s a pretty easy recipe and you can use Marie Callendar’s frozen pie crust like I did.Image

Served up with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, it’s a classic that is sure to please anyone who loves a chocolate chip cookie!

Recipe:

1 9″ frozen pie crust or make your own from scratch

2 eggs

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 cup butter, melted and COOLED to room temperature

1 6 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 325º.  In large bowl, beat eggs until foamy.  Beat in flour, sugar and brown sugar until well blended. Blend in melted, cooled butter.  Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.  Pour into pie shell.  Bake at 325º for 1 hour (if  your pie shell starts to get too dark, cover the crust with foil.)  Remove from oven.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.  Recipe may be doubled.

NOTE:  I think it could have used another 5 minutes of cooking.

In a list of my favorite foods, you would definitely see Chile Relleños near the top of the list.  I think I could eat one of these several times a week and not get tired of them.  I really came to appreciate them in high school when a boyfriend’s Mom prepared them with such finesse and flavor like I’d never had before or since.  Someday, maybe I’ll get the secret of why Mrs. Cano’s rellenos were SO good!

Later, when I was newly married and living in Kentucky, it was impossible to find one on a menu.  Even so, I was reluctant to try to make them because the recipe sounded intimidating to a novice cook.   It took me about 10 years before I even attempted to make them on my own.  I seem to remember that there was flour everywhere and at the time I used Anaheim chiles which just didn’t cut the mustard.  I definitely prefer the flavor of pasilla (poblano) chiles.

pasilla chile

Which brings me to why I decided to try making them again.  There is a sweet lady named Belinda (www.belindascocina.com) who sells some of the most authentic Mexican food around (here in San Diego county).  I first tried her rellenos at the La Jolla Farmer’s Market on Sundays.  They were so perfectly prepared and delicious!  She made them even more so when she offered to put a little chile verde on top instead of the red sauce.  Wow, that was good!

Belindas

Now,  I’ve seen them on menus with different fillings such as shredded beef, picadillo and chicken but I’ve never tried them.  I like the simplicity of the chile, the cheese and the egg batter covered with a salsa fresca red sauce.

Getting over to the farmer’s market isn’t exactly convenient so I knew it was time to tackle making them again.

First I bought the dark green poblano (pasilla) chiles at Pancho Villa’s store on El Cajon Blvd.  They have great produce at great prices (they’re part of the Boneys market group).   I started to roast them on the gas grill but that wasn’t enough flame to get the outside skin blistered up so I brought them back inside and just did it like my Nana did so many years ago.  I just patiently roasted them over the flame of my gas stove.  (The last time I made them, I roasted them on the top rack of the oven and I felt it overcooked the chile.)

When they were good and black, I dropped them into a clean, brown paper bag and folded down the top.  I let them sweat in the bag for about 15 minutes.  I then removed them from the bag and ran them under cool water and rinsed off the blackened skin (see photo above), split ONE side open very slightly and reached in and pulled out the seeds.  Try to get them all out as they are unpleasant to bite into if you don’t.  Pat the chiles dry and put a piece of Monterey Jack Cheese in the opening.  You can TRY to use a toothpick to secure but I heard of a better way to make these that I’ll mention in a minute.  After stuffing the chile, dip them into a plate with flour on it and coat well.  This will help the batter stick later.

After the chiles were dry and waiting to be stuffed with cheese,  I looked through my 20 or so books on Mexican cooking to get a recipe for the batter.  You would think that I could get a consensus on how to make the batter but noooo, they were all different!

Cookbook library

So I finally decided that I would be OK if I used enough egg  whites to cover my 7 chiles and settled on 5 eggs for 7 chiles.  I had batter left over, so  I guess 4 eggs would have been enough to coat them but it was easier to have a full bowl of batter.  To make the batter, you simply separate the egg yolks from the whites:

Separate Eggs

Beat the egg whites at a high speed with your electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  With a fork, beat the egg yolks you’d set aside until they are well mixed.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold them into the beaten, stiff egg whites.  Distribute the yolks as evenly as you can through the egg whites without breaking the egg whites  down.  Get a big skillet and heat the oil so it will be sizzling when you drop the chile rellenos into the oil.  If your oil isn’t hot enough, the egg batter will absorb too much of the oil.  Yuck!

Drop into hot oil

I used the deep, narrow bowl for beating the egg whites and it was perfect to dip the chiles in.  Using the stem of the chile,  dip it all the way up to the top of the chile.  If you can’t quite get it to stick to your floured, toothpick-secured chile, just lay it in the hot oil and spoon a little batter toward the top.  It will work just fine.

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Remove them with a slotted spatula or spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  Remove the toothpicks if you used them to secure the side.  (I read on one restaurant’s website that they spoon the batter into the hot oil and lay the stuffed chile on top of the batter, THEN spoon more batter over the top and then flip it.  I may try that next time.)

So, it is time to make the sauce.  I diced up 4 small tomatoes, 1/4 of an onion,1 clove of garlic minced,  1/4 of a Bell Pepper and half a jalapeno (to add a little kick).  Saute everything except the tomatoes in some oil until the onions are transparent.  Add the diced tomatoes, add salt and pepper to taste after it has cooked down awhile.  It will thicken up after about 15 minutes.  I was too impatient to wait for the thickening part and just ate it in its early stages.  it was still good but would have been better if it had thickened and developed the flavors a lot more!

Here’s the final product:

Final product

They were so good that I ate two of them!  But still, I think some time will have to pass by before I get a hankering to do this again.  However, if I ever  move to Kentucky…well…that’s another story!

My hard-boiled eggs come out perfectly 99% of the time with no grey ring and not overcooked in the least.  I wish someone had told me sooner the trick to making them this way:

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The first trick is to make sure your fingers are wet when you lift the eggs from the carton.  Having wet hands actually makes for a better grip on the eggs (you would think the opposite, huh?).  Put them in a saucepan where they have plenty of room.  Fill the pan to cover the eggs by at least 1/2 inch.

Bring the cold water and eggs to a rolling boil.  Quickly cover with  a lid and TURN THE STOVE OFF (or remove from heat if you have an electric range).  Set your timer for 13 minutes (don’t lift the lid!).  When the timer goes off, immediately put the eggs into an ice-water bath to quickly cool them down.  This is what I was told prevents the grey ring.

Then, to peel, start at the fatter end of the egg.  A little air pocket exists under there that will make it easy to slip your spoon in (upside down) and help force the egg from the shell.  Again, you would think the opposite but nope, the pointy end does not house an air pocket.

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Be sure to rinse the egg and pat dry before setting aside in the bowl. If you by accident mix up your fresh eggs with your hard-boiled eggs, you can spin the egg like a top.  If it spins, it’s hard-boiled.  If it immediately lays down and won’t spin, it’s raw.

To make egg salad,  I find it easier to press the egg through one of those wire slicers that slices them in even segments.  For 6 eggs, I put about 2 heaping Tbsp of mayonaise (you can always add more to taste but it’s impossible to take away excess mayo), a tsp of  regular yellow mustard, salt and pepper (come people use white ground pepper but I’m old-fashioned).  No fancy spices, just the basics.

I like to make an egg salad sandwich with sweet, dark brown squaw bread and a slice of lettuce.  Oh, it is soooo good!  Try it and let me know how it worked out for you!

Chicken Cacciatore

I wanted to watch the Academy Awards last night so I tried to think of an easy, low maintenance meal that would pretty much make itself with little effort on my part.  This recipe comes from my trusty 1976 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that has been my “go-to” reference since I was first learning to cook in 1979.

If you could see the oil splattered pages that long ago tore loose from the 3 ring binder format of this cookbook, you’d think I was careless in taking care of it and  you would be right.  Along the way, I’ve certainly learned the value of a good bookstand with splatter guards and such but there is something of a nostalgia I feel when I open it to this page.

After browning the breasts, saute onions in oil

I will give you the recipe as written with my notes or modifications in parentheses.

The recipe says to brown one 2 1/2 – 3 lb ready to cook broiler fryer chicken, cut up, in 1/4 cup hot salad oil.  (I just buy one package of boneless, skin-on breasts and 1 pkg thighs).  Remove chicken to a separate plate (I just push it to the side…I have a pretty big Le Creuset Dutch oven.)

In same skillet, cook 2 medium onions cut into 1/4 inch slices (1 onion is really enough) and 2 cloves garlic, minced until tender but not brown.  Return chicken to skillet.

Pour tomatoes and seasoning over chicken

Combine one 1 lb can tomatoes (do they make 1 lb cans anymore?), 1 8 oz can tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon dried oregano OR basil (I use 1/2 teaspoon of BOTH oregano and basil), 1/2 teaspoon celery seed (I use celery salt) and 1 or 2 bay leaves.

Pour mixture over chicken and cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 cup white wine and cook uncovered for 15 additional minutes (I skip the wine but I do uncover and continue cooking).  Remove bay leaves and skim off excess fat.

Chicken has finished simmering

Pair with a fresh, tossed lemon salad and a side of chicken flavored rice and we’ve got a nice TV tray friendly meal!

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as we did!

Time for Pork Chops

Ever since I’ve opened my little antique & gift shop Lisa’s Cottage last December, I’ve hardly had time for anything extra like keeping this blog updated.  It came to the forefront of my mind when I heard about a new TV show The Pioneer Woman that will be starting August 27th on The Food Network.  OH MY GOD!  When I saw her food blog, my jaw dropped all the way to the ground (well almost…)!  I made a comment on her Le Creuset giveaway and was comment 39,684!  I don’t think I’ll have that many people look at my food blog if it stays online forEVER!  LOL!

But I have to keep in mind that I’ve created this food blog for my sons to look at when I’m long gone.  We have to have faith that WordPress will continue to exist, right? (And that they’ll have wives that will at least TRY to make their Mama’s favorite foods!)

Pork chops that fit JUST right...

I had such a hankering for pork chops a few nights ago that I went ahead and picked up a large pack of them at Costco and decided to experiment with how they tasted with my friend Rich’s Rub (www.MadHunkyMeats.com).  I’d already tried it on beef and thought, what the heck… (Rich is a fellow moderator at Cooking.com where we meet lots of interesting people who share their great recipes with us.  Check it out sometime!)

Standard trilogy of taters, corn & salad

Hubby was pleased with the meal and the pork chops were JUST right…After I took the picture, I realized that I tend to stick with the mashed taters, white corn and salad combo.  As is evidenced by the last time I made Meatloaf and took a picture…Geez, even my salads look boring!

Meatloaf and you guessed it...taters, corn & salad

Ugh!  Get out of the rut already, Lisa!  I like zucchini with a variety of veggies, I like risotto, I like baked sweet potatoes.  I guess I’m getting lazy with all the effort I spend on the store. 

Well, I DO like my meatloaf.  My Mom always put bacon on top and it gave it a great flavor…kind of like poor man’s filet mignon…ya know whut I mean?  <grin>

Waiting for the meatloaf to "rest"

I make my meatloaf this way:

1 1/2 lbs hamburger (80/20)

4 oz. ground pork or sausage (Jimmy Dean is my fav)

1/8 cup finely diced onions

1/8 cup finely diced green pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

1 egg

1/2 cup oatmeal (doesn’t matter if it’s quick cook or regular)

Salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper)

Mix gently with your hands and form into a loaf.  Top with 2 slices of bacon and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  If you don’t have a pan that drains away the grease, pour off the excess grease gently into a disposable can and let it rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.  Makes it easier to cut.

So, two things I’d like from any of my 5 readers.  Can you give me your best pork chop preparation tips and recipe?  And, what do you put in your meatloaf? 

Look, I’ll NEVER be The Pioneer Woman but I’ve served a lot of people a lot of good food.  I’m glad you’re here to share in that…

(If you want to see a couple of food blog sites that are well done, I can recommend my friend’s sites.  They are full of great photographs, tips and always great recipes.  www.sandiegofoodstuff.com and http://www.sassandveracity.com/.  You won’t be disappointed!)

I just got my e-mail notification from my friend Caron Golden, who is a wonderful cook, on her latest breadmaking adventure.  Wow!  If  you want to see a picture of bread that will make you instantly salivate, go to her blog at www.sandiegofoodstuff.com and see her post from 12/03/10 labeled My Bread Baking Revival, Reinhart-Style. 

I was thinking I might be able to work out a trade with her for some of that sourdough in exchange for some fluffy yeast rolls…I made them, as always, this past Thanksgiving and they came out so moist and delicious.   (For the recipe,  do a search for Buttery Yeast Rolls)

Caron’s inspired me to dust off my recipes for two of my favorite breads that I haven’t made in awhile.  They are made with Whole Wheat Flour.  One is a Hi-Protein Honey Wheat bread with a light, flavorful texture that uses cottage cheese in the mix and the other is a dense, dark wheat and rye with molasses and honey and all those other good things.  I’ll try and report back soon (with photos)…now where are those recipes????

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