Just A Wee Head’s Up!

Oh, hi– what are you doing here?  I mean, even *I’m* rarely over here, and well, it’s my blog.  Yeah, I still come over here to retrieve these recipes (which I still cook with), but I haven’t posted in something like two years.

Now wait– before you get all grumbly and call me the worst blogger ever (which I could understand, really, from the progress over here), maybe you need to know that I have another blog?  One that I post to pretty regularly, in fact.  Please join me!  I don’t know if I’ll ever really get back to this project over here, but I do still post recipes over there– so come and check it out:

http://www.lovenestdesign.com/

Homemade Bread With Butter And Jam

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Easy Lemon Icebox Pie

A Slice O' Sour Pie (But in a good way!)

I must start out by saying, I am kind of weird about citrus pies– I don’t like meringue; I want it reeeeally cold (like those frozen Edward’s Key Lime pies?  Yeah, I eat those frozen.); and I want them TART.  My first job ever was for a guy that made his own Italian Ice and Gelato, and if I learned anything from him, its that cold dulls flavor.  If you’re going to be eating it frozen, you need to amp up that lemon flavor.  So, being exceedingly picky about what I want, I made several different recipes of lemon icebox pie.  My end result was borne out of pulling the things I liked from each of them, and I have made my own version of the ‘perfect’ lemon icebox pie.  It lives up to what *I* expect out of a lemon pie, but the true endorsement came in the form of my 7 year old friend, Miss Kaitlyn.  I had given my recipe to her mother, Amber, and she made many of them for a special early summer event.  As we sat down with a big slice each, Kaitlyn took a big mouthful and said, “My mom makes the BEST lemon icebox pie!”

Oh, and one reason why I love this recipe, it makes TWO pies!  Yay!  Perfect for a backyard party!

 

Lemon Icebox Pie

2 standard-sized premade Graham Cracker Crusts

2 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese, softened

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 (12 oz) can frozen condensed lemonade, thawed some

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

hefty pinch of kosher salt

 

*Prep your pie pans by removing the paper center circle and the globs of glue holding those on, and remove plastic formfitted piece– you’re going to flip this and use it as the lid to your pie.

*With a hand mixer, completely combine both packages of softened cream cheese with the can of condensed milk until smooth.  I’m sure a physicist could explain why the addition of the citrus makes it impossible to get it smooth…  point is, I’ve tried to take the quick route and dump all the ingredients in at the same time, and it seemed like no matter how long I mixed, smooth consistency did not happen.  Get it smooth here.

*Wash your lemon, zest the outside, and then cut and squeeze all juice, making sure to remove all seeds.  Add your pinch of salt, your can of lemonade (this does not have to be completely thawed), and your lemon to the creamy mixture, and mix until combined and smooth.  Divide filling equally between the two pie shells, top with an inverted ‘lid’, re-crimp some of your edge, and pop in the freezer for at least 5 hours, overnight is better.  If you are worried about other flavors from your freezer, you can wrap the pies in plastic wrap before putting them in the freezer, but I find the lids to be enough.

*To serve, top with the creamy topping of your choice (because we don’t eat cool-whip, I make my own whipped cream, recipe follows, but Reddi-Whip would be an easy alternative).  I also find macerated berries to be a really nice touch– just slice some strawberries and toss with a few tablespoons of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice, and allow those to sit for a little while and form their own syrup.  I have yet to try it with raspberries, but I think that sounds awesome too!

 

Whipped Cream

1 pint carton of Whipping Cream

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

*I chill my food processor bowl and blade for this process.  It is REALLY EASY to make whipped cream with a food processor, just stream in your cream and process until it starts to set up.  Scrape sides of bowl, add sugar and vanilla, and process until you feel the texture is perfect.  Over processing will make funny vanilla butter, so be sure to keep an eye on it!

I can't even resist long enough to take a picture!

 

Lemme know what you think!  I hope it adds to your summertime fun!

 

Categories: Pie, Recipes | Leave a comment

Apologies!

I did work on my corned beef and cabbage recipe in February!  I asked Dad for his pot pie!  I…  I…  I’m sorry?  I’ll try and make opportunities to post those hammered-out recipes.  And I’ll try even harder to get back on schedule.  In the meantime, I’ll post some recipes that I’ve worked on in the interim….

Pasta Salad, dressed two ways.

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February Is the Month For Pot Pies!

Page of Pot Pies From Betty Crocker's "Dinner In a Dish" (1965)

I did a little informal poll amongst my facebook friends, to get their opinions about pot pies…  This was mainly because my husband’s childhood experience with this meal was completely disparate from mine.  I wanted to see if popular opinion fell more in line with my experiences, or if he was the one running with the opinion herd.  Wow, was the response interesting…

Hub thinks of frozen individual pot pies, filled with spongy chicken and the frequent green pea bomb.  Apparently, he is not alone.  My friend Robin’s response lays it all on the line — “First thing that comes to mind is the force fed frozen personal sized pot pies my mother used to make me eat as a kid. A ‘fresh’ from the frozen department pie with a creamy inside that tasted like chicken sh*t and frozen (oh God, not frozen!) peas and carrots. There may have been chicken in it, but for the love of food, I wouldn’t call it that… ever.”  Y’all, that sounds horrible!  That’s not my mind’s pot pie… ew, no wonder he wasn’t looking forward to February!

Lemme back up a little: MY experience was a totally different thing.  Growing up, Mom did most of the (delicious) cooking, but Dad has this handful of dishes that he has perfected.  Each one is distinct in my mind, and OUTSTANDING.  (Chicken Cordon Bleu, his herbes de provence-rubbed holiday Turkey, and his Beef Pot Pie!)  They were good when I was a teen living at home, but now almost 20 years later, no one makes the turkey at Thanksgiving but Dad.  It’s the best.  Moist and juicy, oh Nelly, my brain is getting off subject.  (I was just thinking about trying to put some of that leftover turkey into a pot pie, and I got a little dizzy!)

Anyway, he made his pot pie for us a few times a year, usually special occasions, one of them frequently Valentine’s Day.  Mom had started a family tradition when we were small children when we got snowed in on one February 14th with no babysitters coming to us, no parents going out for a romantic dinner.  My mother made the best of it!  I don’t remember what we ate that first year, but I do remember that we dressed up in our fanciest clothes, clip-on earrings, and our house slippers, danced to Glenn Miller Orchestra in the living room, and drank ginger ale out of champagne glasses.   It was divine fancy fun.  That continued for years, but with Dad’s beef pot pie being a featured dish for that holiday — and if you think about it, it is a very ‘cozy’ dish.  Piping hot, rich gravy, flaky pastry, a balance of veggies… it can even look beautiful.  To this day a perfect pot pie still feels like a big slice of love.   Dad made his classic dish again for Mom this last November, and she bragged to everyone on the phone that when they cut into it, it remained a perfect slice of pie, with no contents oozing onto the plate, and that it was the most delish it had ever been.  I have been making my version of his pot pie for years, but with an endorsement like that, I just may have to ask him to jot down the most updated version of that recipe.

I did a little bit of research around the home, delving into a couple of vintage cookbooks.  The image you see above is from1965, Betty Crocker’s Dinner In A Dish Cook Book from a chapter entitled, “Hearty and Homestyle.”  I have several thoughts about this — mainly that this Becky and that Betty are a little like-minded on this topic, she put in the correct chapter!  It’s called, “Chicken Dinner Pie,” and I like that hers uses a real homemade crust.  I also like that her sauce is made from broth and cream, all of that sounds ‘proper’ to my mind, but the use of canned veggies — ick!  I think I can do better….  The recipe is featured in a whole section about meat pies, including “Salmon Pie with Egg Sauce”; “Tuna Confetti Pie”; and “Balogna Biscuit Bake.”  (I could not make this stuff up!) On the page *following* the above image is a real doozy, “Chicken Littles.”  It is essentially little individual chicken pies, but ones also stuffed with mushrooms, pork sausage, pimentos, and peaches.  (Pimentos and peaches?!  That does not sound… cozy.)  So, you know, maybe I won’t follow Betty to the letter.

As for what type of crust is best, popular consensus seems to be your classic two-crust pie crust.  I did hear opinions about biscuit crusts (yes!), and even one about cornbread crust (ooh!), which do have the appeal of ease.  I’m little concerned about the nuance of skill involved with pie crust from scratch.  Good, flaky pie crust is a tricky beast.  I’m intimidated, and I wonder if I should cave to time and ease (like Dad!) and use the refrigerated Pillsbury crust.  My mother-in-law makes a perfect pecan pie, and the best part is that dreamy golden pastry…  I wonder if I could entice her to show me how she does it when she visits this week?  I bet if I had everything ready, Lad, Meemaw, and I could have a fun afternoon coated in flour and rolling some dough.  I will be sure to record as much as possible, in the name of science, you know.

I’m also tinkering with a chicken pie, one likely featuring the oh-so-easy savory rotisserie chicken…  I like the thought of doing one topped with a biscuit topping, or maybe a little experiment with some delicate puff pastry?  I bet I could do little puffed cups out of canned biscuit dough in muffin cups…  lots of ideas out there!  Let me know what you’d like to see, I’m pretty open on this subject.  Just don’t expect my recipe to contain green peas, it ain’t gonna happen!

 

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White Chicken Chili

Not content with just a ‘red chili’ recipe, I also decided to make a poultry variation this January, just for giggles.  I’m glad I did, I think I will be making this one again and again.  And by using the rotisserie chicken, it is so EASY!

1 TBSP vegetable oil

1/2 of a medium-sized onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 can chopped green chiles (undrained)

1 jalapeno, minced

1 stalk of celery, finely chopped

1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup of beer (something lite or an average pilsner are good)

2 (14.5 oz) cans of chicken broth

1 savory flavored rotisserie chicken

1 TBSP cumin

1/2 tsp ceyenne

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried coriander

3 (15 oz) cans of ‘white beans’, rinsed– I use Bush’s beans in pinto, great northern, and cannellini (also known as white kidney beans).  Bush’s actually makes a blend of pinto and great northern in one can, so if you want to cut out the complication or cannellinis, you can just do three cans of that!

A few hefty pinches of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder

 

*Heat your oil in a large soup pot, add in all veggies, some salt, and sautee until everything is softened and slightly translucent.  (You may wish to hold the minced veggies– the garlic and the jalapeno– until the others are about halfway cooked.  Tiny pieces like that can scorch, and you don’t want that flavor in your chili!)

*While those veggies are working, pull the meat off of your rotisserie chicken.  You want to be careful that you don’t catch any bones, and you should remove the skin.   Chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.  — Side note:  I use the remaining chicken carcass to make broth, and as I am prepping the veggies I put the ‘cast-away parts’ (the bits you might normally throw away or compost) back in the bag the chicken came in…  That way, the next day when your soup pot is free again and you’re ready to make broth, you have a ton of flavor makin’s there on the ready.  All you do is dump it in and add water to cover!

*When all is softened, add in your liquids, your herbs and spices, you chicken and your rinsed beans.  If you’d like, you can taste it at this point to check the seasonings, since everything is cooked and won’t hurt you.   Heat until piping hot, or simmer for a few hours for greater depth of flavor.  (I recommend this, since it starts out being a lot like a beany chicken soup, but over time breaks down and combines to be more like we imagine chili to be.)

This recipe easily serves 8  people or so….

 

The first recipe of this that I tried (shown in the photo) had me add cream at the end, a step that we found to be totally unnecessary.  I think the point of that was to ‘hurry up’ the creamy texture of this, which is something that longer simmering can take care of…  anyway, the pic looks kind of gross.  That said, this chili is good, even if it is really simple.  I served it with corn tortillas that I cut into strips, monterey jack cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and green onions.  Yummy!

 

 

Categories: Chili, Recipes | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Lad likes this so much that he was dipping his carrot sticks and throwing his head back in ecstasy, so I consider that a WIN.

Don't painic, jar shown contains a double batch!

1/2 cup good quality mayo

1/2 cup low fat buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tsp minced garlic (I use the jarred stuff for this recipe, and I make sure that I get as much of the garlicky liquid in my tsp as possible!)

2 TBSP fresh minced chives

1 TBSP dried parsley (I’m sure fresh would be good, but I didn’t have it)

1 tsp dried dill (again, its what I had on hand)

1 tsp ground mustard seed (mustard powder?  What is that called?)

1 TBSP white wine vinegar

kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

*mix ‘em together, taste it, and chill it! You may want to adjust some flavors to suit your palate, so dip a celery stick and tweak it….

This dressing tastes better the next day, and should last for a couple of weeks if stored in a tightly closed container and refrigerated.  (I have no idea how long it really lasts, both times I’ve made it, it has disappeared before I’ve had the chance to find out.)

Categories: Ranch Dressing, Recipes, Salads | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Wedge Salads and the Dressings Who Love Them

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about wedges lately…  shoes, haircuts, or salads, it turns out, I loves me some wedges.  Yes, the wedge salad is sort of old-fashioned, but I don’t have to tell you I’m an old-fashioned girl.  (Have you noticed my dishes?  My glassware?  Heck, the eyeglasses in the shot above?  I *favor* the old!)  I was so excited when I saw the other day that the wedge salad is returning to shi-shi favor.  The hub says he just doesn’t get it.  “It’s just a chunk of lettuce?”  No, its… okay, yeah, its a chunk of lettuce.  Iceberg lettuce, chilled and cut into (obviously) a wedge, and drizzled with a dose of delish dressing.  The dressing is essential, it needs to be good, a creamy dream that lands into each and every little crevasse of that crispy iceberg.  I’m a vinaigrette lover (those of you who know me well know that I adore vinegar), but with a wedge it just won’t cut it….

As a general rule, I like ranch.  Or I like the concept of it….  its just that over the years, my palate has become really sensitive to all of the chemicals in processed dressings.  I’ve turned into one of those really annoying patrons that asks the servers tons of questions at restaurants– “Are your dressings made in-house?”  The thing is, I need to know.  There is no point in ordering a salad if it is going to be doused in chemicals I don’t want to eat….  And now that I have the lad, I am ultra-aware of what goes into his healthy little body.  And his little body loves creamy dressings, he would eat honey mustard on just about everything if I’d let him.

I had been buying the more expensive chilled ranch in the produce section of the grocery, thinking that it was somehow more healthy.  One day we came home from said grocery, and as we are unpacking the bags, Hub accidentally tapped the brand new bottle of ranch on the countertop.  IT EXPLODED.  It was rancid, and fermented, just disgusting.  We had JUST bought it!  How can that be?  I started looking at the ingredients, and…  I was kinda horrified.  Those are not ingredients found in my Granny’s pantry!  So.  I have to make my own, right?  My goal became for me to create a ranch recipe good enough to not want to go back to that bottled stuff ever again.  Done.

*To emulate my dazzling wedge salad shown above, start with a head of iceberg.  Remove outer leaves, and wash head thoroughly.  Slice into wedges, removing the stumpy center core, and return to the chiller until ready to serve. (Quarters are traditional, but I did eighths for the January dinner, knowing that the chili would be the main event.)  When you are ready to eat, drizzle with dressing (obviously I recommend the creamy buttermilk ranch, recipe posted above) and sprinkle with any additional toppings you desire– shown here are avocado, mo jack cheese, green onion, cilantro, and served with lime wedges for your squeezin’ pleasure.  More ‘traditional’ wedge toppings bleu cheese crumbles and crispy bacon bits, which also would *rock* with this dressing.

Categories: Ranch Dressing, Recipes, Salads | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Meaty Chili Con Carne

Loosely based on one I found on Food.com

This is based on the one from food.com, but I made a ton of changes.  In the end, we decided that if you’re gonna put meat in your chili, this one is pretty darn good.  I specify Bush’s beans because they are one of the few companies I am ALWAYS loyal to– they are based here in East Tennessee, and to my mind, I’m supporting a local company with an excellent product.  (Also, I rinse the two cans of beans that come without the chili sauce because I heard years ago that rinsing off the bean slime reduces the gas that often comes with beans– and it seems to work!)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced finely

1 1/2 pound (ish– my Food City seems to oversize their “1 lb” ground beef) of ground round– I used the 85/15 mix

1 can (14.5 oz) of crushed tomatoes

1 can tomato paste

1 cup of cheap beer (a ‘lite’ or pilsner is best)

2 cups beef broth (I used a Knorr beef bouillon cube reconstituted in 2 cups hot H2O)

1 cup strong coffee

1 can chopped green chiles

1 bell pepper (not green, the flavor is too harsh, choose red, yellow or orange)

1 jalapeno, finely minced (more if you want to turn up the heat, but I feel that this is just right for us)

2 TBSP of brown sugar

1 large can (28 oz., I think?) of Bush’s pinto beans in chili sauce (undrained)

1 15 oz. can of Bush’s black beans, rinsed

1 15 oz. can of Bush’s red kidney beans, rinsed

1 1/2 TBSP of cumin

1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp cayenne powder (increase this if you want spicier chili)

1 tsp dried coriander

1 tsp kosher salt

2 dashes of cinnamon (a little goes a long way here!  We’re just trying to add dimension of flavor, not have the flavor read as ‘sweet’)

black pepper to taste

 

(Please note that the ingredients in these pics are from my first try– I decided that the dark beer had too prominent of a taste and changed the recipe to reflect that… also these adorable sweet chiles can be hard to find at all seasons of the year, so I subbed the bell for them– but use ‘em if you can find ‘em!)

*Prep your veggies, chopping, dicing and mincing your little brains out.

*In your large soup pot, brown the beef with all your fresh veg, adding the jalapeno and garlic when the beef is almost browned.  (You don’t want your tiny bits to singe.)

*When your meat is browned and your veggies are softened and translucent, add your salt, sugar, cocoa, and herbs and spices.  Turn these a few times to make sure your meat is coated.  This sounds like a silly step, (and it will smell odd and crazy-strong) but we found that the meat part of the first batch was bland, and doing it this way seems to flavor the beef more directly.

*Add your liquids (coffee, broth, beer) and your two types of tomatoes.

*Simmer until you can’t stand it any more!  This is one of those chilis that the longer you cook it, the better it gets, and it is unbelievably good the next day.  I recommend at least three hours of low cooking, all day is better.

*Serve with all of the good stuff you normally put on chili– In my photo it’s with fritos, cheddar cheese, avocado, and sour cream.  Serves a bunch!  At least 8 big bowls, or about 12 regular sized ones.

Categories: Chili, Recipes | 2 Comments

January is chili month.

I guess you could say that we are all gearing up for the super bowl (or the SOUPer BOWL, heh heh), but the chili recipes seem to be *everywhere.*  I went to pick out a magazine at the grocery store the other day, and literally three covers had giant bowls of the steamy stuff.  (And I chose one without it.)  My Mother-in-law shows up with a bag of fast lunch from Wendy’s, and in it is chili.  I sat down to watch Top Chef today, and the episode I caught was the Tejas rodeo chili cookoff.  It seems as I have chosen a good topic.  (It could be that I’m noticing it because I’m feeling a *bit* guilty for not blogging enough….)

I’m sure that there are a whole two of you out there reading this who are thinking, “Why is Becky working on her chili recipe?  Her chili is great!”   Hub and I agree with you.  Problem is, my *old* chili recipe relied on some crutches.   Delicious, delicious crutches.  I used Bush’s chili starter in a can.  You’re supposed to add meat and tomatoes (I add beer and more beans and all kinds of stuff), and its really easy and good.  BUT, the whole point of this blog thing is to find my version of things, and well, some day when I’m grandma, I can’t exactly pass on my classic chili recipe with the canned starter mix, can I?  Not and feel classy about it.

So, what ends up happening is that I’m sort of setting out to duplicate the yumminess of the Bush’s mix.  It’s tough.  There are sooo many recipes for chili out there, sooo many opinions!  While watching Padma and Colicchio sample bowls of the red stuff, I heard over and over how “proper chili” should not have beans in it.   Hub actually paused the TV, “No BEANS?!” he turns to me, utterly shocked.  We are con carne lovers around here.  Beans are SO good for you.  Please hear what I am about to say with an open mind– for the past 10 years, my chili has been ONLY beans, no meat.  I know, I know, some of you feel that’s not possible.  I get it.  Let’s just say that in Tennessee, we don’t hold to no Texas rules!

The first week, (January, week one)  I decided to go with Food.com’s #3 recipe of 2011, titled “the Best Chili You Will Ever Taste.”   With a title like that, there are a lot of expectations.  I decided to read the comments, and see if it lived up….  in reading, I found that the people of the world felt that the title was a little misleading.  The agreement seemed to be that its a recipe for good chili, not the best.  I made some changes based on their feedback, and headed to the grocery store.

My main issue with the recipe is that it calls for two meats.  Here I am, unconvinced that I even need one, and they want me to buy two?  And standing there over the Food City meat case, I made the call.  Screw the sirloin, I was never really going to regularly make chili with an pricey ingredient like that, so I just got the ground beef.  Five dollars of groud beef, that is. It was just 15/ 85 ground round, not even the best.  I’m telling you, the meat aspect isn’t really winning me over.

Overall, the chili was nice.  I have some more changes to make and test out (likely at the end of the month when my buddies are over), but I’m sure I’m on the right track.  It didn’t use chili powder, and I do like that about it…  but I want to try a few more varieties, maybe a chicken or turkey one, and yeah, a vegetarian one.  Two weeks in, and we Homeckys have already eaten a BUNCH of chili.

 

 

 

 

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My Apologies

Hello there, its been awhile.

I guess we can call this a sort of “soft opening” for the blog, instead of one of those GRAND OPENINGS!! with the banners and searchlights, sparkly cocktail dresses, pumping music, and free tasty noshes.  We’re sort of slipping into instead, trying vainly to get into the habit of blogging, and missing deadlines like crazy over here.  My extreme apologies for missing meatloaf month…  I have an excuse.  Really.

Yeah, it was the holidays.  My birthday is in December, as is little Lad’s… that could be excuse enough, but the truth is, we got the Martian Death Flu.  Or at least that’s what I’m calling it.  It was wicked bad.  Like, dial yourself out of Christmas festivities bad.  Like, eat nothing on the holiday table bad.  I was just so happy that we had family around, it could have been the worst holiday ever for our little guy.  Anyway, I cancelled the dinner party.  I didn’t make the meatloaf.  I WILL be making the meatloaf, at some time in the future, I know there were diners anticipating the arrival of that recipe.  I *promise* I will do it.  I have to, I’ve talked too much about it already.

As for the diners who were supposed to take part in the meatloaf dinner, I am lumping them in with the chili eaters of January.  Its gonna be one heckuva party…..

 

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