Friday, November 30, 2012

MOTHER'S NO FAIL PECAN PIE

Anyone who knew my mother, knew she was a really good cook.  It probably came natural to her as her mother was a good cook also.  My grandmother cooked for the school I attended through the 9th grade.  I don't remember how many years, but I do remember that she was the cook.  My mother was the oldest girl and that meant helping out quite a bit at home.  I remember she used to talk about how her brothers gave her such a hard time about her biscuits.  (It took her awhile to perfect them....apparently they were pretty hard at first.)  Her other two sisters are also good cooks although they don't cook like they used to.

When I was growing up, we always lived in a "house trailer" a.k.a. mobile home.  Most of the time it was parked next to my daddy's service station.  Mother always said she regretted not teaching me to cook, but the kitchen was always small and there just wasn't enough room for her to teach me.  I guess I watched her a lot though, because after graduating from college and moving to FL to teach school, I managed to survive in the kitchen.  I'm not saying there weren't some flops, but I didn't make the same mistake twice.

One of those times was when my cousin, Carol, a.k.a "Sissy", came to visit me and we decided we were going to make my mother's "No Fail Pecan Pie."  Mother was known for her pecan pie and we believed we could make it without a problem.....afterall it was a "No Fail Pecan Pie".

We gathered all the ingredients and mixed them up.  The directions for the pie crust we were using said to prick the bottom so we used a fork and stuck that fork into the crust a bunch of times.  Then we poured the mixture into the crust.  That's when we realized that we had left out the margarine.  So we poured the mixture back into the bowl and added the margarine to the mixture.  Simple enough.  Then we poured the mixture back into the crust and put the pie in the oven to bake and waited.

I remember it looked good, looked like Mother's.  Then we cut it.  Well, we proved that Mother's "No Fail Pecan Pie" could fail.  The crust was between the filling and the nuts.  We had  pricked the crust so many times that the filling had seeped through the holes as it baked.  So our pecan pie was filling, crust, then nuts.  Do I need to say it didn't come out too well?  It tasted good though.  It just didn't look like Mother's did.

I never made that mistake again and I imagine my cousin Carol hasn't either.  So when you make Mother's No Fail Pecan Pie and use the premade pie crust, just prick it a few times.


Mother's No Fail Pecan Pie

1/2    cup sugar
1/4    cup margarine
1       cup white Karo syrup
1/4    teaspoon salt
3       eggs
1       cup chopped pecans (Mother always chopped her pecans...then it is so much easier to cut.  It still makes a pretty pie.)

Cream sugar and margarine together.  Add syrup and salt; beat well.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Add pecans.

Pour into pastry shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  

Thursday, November 29, 2012

MY HUSBAND'S STOVETOP POPCORN

I have a confession to make.  I'm addicted.  I'm addicted to popcorn.  















Last Saturday when my husband and I went to Jamesport for their Step Back Into Time Christmas Festival and Craft Show, we went out to the H & M Country Store so I could get a few things I needed.  This was the first time my husband had been.  He was worse than a kid in a candy store.  We walked out with several things he wanted to try.  

One of them was blue popcorn (kernels).  I had never seen blue popcorn before.  I don't think he had either. (It is a hybrid popcorn.  It has its own flavor, a little sweeter than normal popcorn and not a lot of hulls.)

We came home and I researched how to cook popcorn on the stove.  It has been a long time since we have made any popcorn that wasn't microwave popcorn.  Actually we quit eating popcorn for the most part when we started following Sugar Busters.  I have discussed Sugar Busters in an earlier post.

Anyway he has "worked" on his recipe for several nights, and has decided he has it perfected.  We had a skillet that he used for stir fry that I had just talked him into donating to Hillcrest Thrift Shop because he hadn't used it in years.  He got it out of car (he was going to take it the next time he went to volunteer.) and brought it in to use.

HOW TO MAKE STOVETOP POPCORN

4   tablespoons of canola oil
1/2  cup + 1  tablespoon of popcorn kernels

Measure oil into (deep) skillet and place 3 kernels in it over medium high heat.

Cover and wait for the 3 kernels to pop.

Add the rest of the kernels. 

Cover with lid and shake the skillet around to cover all the kernels with oil and place on burner.  (It will start popping almost immediately.)

Remove from heat when the popping stops.  The result.

The interesting thing about the blue popcorn is that the kernels are blue but the popped popcorn is white.  It does have a different taste from traditional yellow popcorn kernels, but I really like it.  So now if you see blue popcorn in the store, maybe you will try it.  Let me know if you do.

Monday, November 26, 2012

CHOCOLATE CHIP PRETZEL COOKIES

UPDATE!  I made these cookies on Monday. I stored them in a plastic container but today they are hard.  They would be good for "dunkers" but I don't "dunk". I did some research and found several solutions. I thought I would share this with you in case you made them and they got hard on you too.  

1) Place a slice of bread in the closed container. I was familiar with putting a slice of bread in the container with the brown sugar when it became hard.  So I did that a little while ago.  

2) Another thing I read said to place a cookie in the microwave for 10 seconds. I did that and it tasted like the cookies did when I cooked them on Monday.  They won't stay soft forever, so just do this before you want to eat one. 

3) Use butter at room temperature. One place I read was talking about how butter should be at room temperature and not melted. I remembered that in Joanne Fluke's book the recipe said the butter should be at room temperature. When I made the cookies, I didn't notice that and so I softened the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. It didn't completely melt, but I will remember that next time. The discussion said "melted" butter would make the cookies hard.

So I have learned a lot making these cookies. Hope this information will be helpful for you, too.
*********

Tomorrow is my day to volunteer at Hillcrest Thrift ShopLast week I took a dozen of my cookies to share with them. The response was so good, I decided to try another recipe this morning that I saw in Joanne Fluke's Plum Pudding MurderI had some pretzels left from an earlier recipe so I had everything in my pantry to make the Chocolate Chip Pretzel Cookies.

According to the recipe, it makes 5 dozen cookies. I considered cutting the recipe in half so I wouldn't be making so many, but didn't. I just decided I could take more to share. I did make one change .... I used half soft wheat flour and half whole wheat pastry flour for the flour in the recipe. I figured there would be enough flavors from the pretzels, molasses, and chocolate chips that it probably wouldn't be noticeable and it isn't to me. The true test will come tomorrow when I share them with my co-workers.  The crunchy taste from the crushed pretzels is great .... doesn't need any nuts which is good for people who have nut allergies. In all of Joanne's recipes, she also always says to pack the flour when measuring it. I have never seen this before in recipes. So I measured it her way and then remeasured it for my records. When I made them, I made 6-1/2 dozens.


CHOCOLATE CHIP PRETZEL COOKIES

1   cup softened butter -- room temperature
2   cups granulated sugar
3   tablespoons molasses
2   teaspoons vanilla
1   teaspoon baking soda
2   beaten eggs
2   cups crushed salted pretzels (measure after you crush them.)
  3   cups flour (I used half soft wheat and half whole wheat pastry flour)
1-1/2   cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix the softened butter with the sugar and the molasses. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the molasses is completely mixed in.
Add the vanilla and baking soda. Mix well.
Add the beaten eggs and mix until they're thoroughly mixed in.
Add the crushed pretzels to the dough.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

TIP ALERT!  How to crust pretzels....

Using a ziplock bag, place pretzels in and close the bag. Then using a rolling pin, carefully press it down and then just make short rolls with the rolling pin.  


Continue until you have crushed the entire bag.  Measure and repeat if you need more for the recipe.


I did about a cup at a time. When I figured I had enough and measured the two cups, the little bit I had leftover, I just put in a small bowl and ate with a spoon.

         *       *       *       *       *       *       *
Add the flour about one cup at a time and mix well after each addition.
Add the chocolate chips on the lowest speed.
Drop by rounded teaspoon (I use my small scoop.) onto greased cookie sheet.

  
Place 12 cookies on each standard sized sheet.
Bake the cookies in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 10 - 12 minutes or until nicely browned. (I used the full 12 minutes.)
Cool 10 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.



Now it is time to start taking down the fall decorations. Hard to believe the year is almost over. 

BREAKING NEWS!!!! My husband just told me it is snowing. It is snowing! The weatherman said northern MO might get a little but I didn't think we would. My husband thinks it might snow an inch or two. It has been cloudy looking like it might snow most of the day.  Makes it easier to start decorating for Christmas. Our neighborhood has been decorating for over a week. Will let you know if we get any measurable amount.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

MENU FOR OUR BLACK FRIDAY THANKSGIVING

As promised here is my menu for our Black Friday Thanksgiving with our son Patrick and his family.  I made the salad on Thursday even though it will set up in 4 hours.  If I had made any pies as I used to, I would have made them also on Thursday.  

When I asked Patrick what dessert he wanted, he said "Apple Crisp."  I don't know why I asked, he always has the same answer.  He said he had leftover pumpkin pie from their Thursday Thanksgiving dinner he could bring.  So I didn't make my husband's favorite Honey Pumpkin Pie.  He doesn't like cloves and I found this recipe a number of years ago that doesn't call for cloves and have been making it ever since.  It is denser than traditional pumpkin pie.  I will share that recipe sometime soon.

You can find the recipes either below the list or click on the item.  I didn't include as many pictures even though I took them to keep the post shorter.

MENU

FESTIVE CRANBERRY PINEAPPLE SALAD
CRANBERRY PORK TENDERLOIN
SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE
GREEN BEANS W/BACON AND RED POTATOES
WHOLE CRANBERRY SAUCE
BUTTERMILK BISCUITS
APPLE CRISP

CRANBERRY PORK TENDERLOIN

1     pork tenderloin (mine was 24-ozs)
1     can whole-berry cranberry sauce
1/2  cup orange juice
1/4  cup sugar
1     tablespoon brown sugar
1     teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 to 1/2  teaspoon ground cloves (I omitted because my husband doesn't like cloves)

2     tablespoons cornstarch
3     tablespoons cold water  

(Spray the pot with cooking spray for easy cleanup).  Place the tenderloin in a 3-quart slow cooker.  In a small bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, orange juice, sugars, mustard, and cloves.  Pour over the pork.  Cover and cook on low for 5 - 6 hours (I cooked mine 6 hours) or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F.

Remove pork and keep warm.  

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and cold water until smooth; gradually stir into cranberry mixture in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for 15 minutes longer or until thickened.

Pour some over tenderloin and serve the remainder in a bowl if anyone wants to add more on their plate.

(I have secretly always been afraid to cook pork tenderloin...now that I have found this recipe from Taste of Home, I won't hestitate ever again. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of it on the platter.  I guess I wasn't thinking about my blog, but about getting the food on the table to eat. It was impressive looking when Patrick cut it into slices.  You will just have to trust me.)


SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE





3 - 6  yams (or sweet potatoes), peeled, cubed, cooked, and drained (I cooked 4 for about 30 minutes.  The potatoes will cook faster if you cut them in smaller cubes.)

1   stick butter (margarine works)

1/2  to 1   cup sugar (I usually just use 1/2 because it is sweet enough with the topping--in fact you could probably reduce it to 1/4 cup.  Stevia also works well.)

2   eggs

Combine the yams, butter, sugar, and eggs in mixing bowl and blend together completely on medium speed.  If it isn't soupy, add a little milk.  (I have never had to do this even though that is how the recipe is written.)

Put in sprayed 1-1/2 quart casserole dish.

Mix thoroughly in a small bowl:
1/2  cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/2  to  1 stick of softened butter ( I used only 1/2 cup margarine)
1/2  to  1 cup chopped nuts (I used 1/2 cup of pecans)

Spread carefully with a spoon over potatoes.  (I use two small ice tea spoons and carefully divide the topping to cover the top.  It will spread as it bakes.)

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean  in a preheated 325 degree oven.  (The toothpick will be wet because of the topping, but there should not be any potatoes on it.

(This is a recipe that I got from a Southern friend Joyce in CA close to 25 years ago.  It was a family recipe of her husband Stephan.  I have never made a sweet potato casserole any other way than by this recipe since.  Even though Patrick said he had two different kinds of leftover sweet potatoes, I still made a smaller recipe.
   
GREEN BEANS WITH BACON AND RED POTATOES

1   16-ounce bag of frozen cut green beans
1/2  cup water
1   large red potato
2   strips of bacon cut into fourths
a few shakes of black pepper
a few shakes of minced garlic

Open the bag of frozen green beans and pour into sprayed Crock pot (for easy cleanup).  Add about 1/2 cup of water.  Cook on high for a couple of hours. Wash, peel, and cut the potato into cubes.  Add potato and uncooked bacon pieces to beans in Crock pot.  Add additional water to cover.  Add a few shakes of the pepper and minced garlic.  Continue cooking til beans and potatoes are done.  (Can you tell that this is my own original recipe?  I didn't add any salt as I figured the bacon would provide plenty.  I cooked the beans for probably 5 hours -while the pork was cooking in another Crock pot.  I cooked these in my small Crock pot that I got as a bonus when I brought my large one last year on Black Friday....I have since exchanged the large one with Patrick for their regular size one....I don't know quart sizes.  Madison loves green beans and Lori had non-sweet potatoes to enjoy.  The picture was taken after we finished eating and was clearing off the table, but I don't think they looked too bad.)


WHOLE CRANBERRY SAUCE

1   cup water
1   cup sugar
1   12-oz bag of whole cranberries

Combine water and sugar in medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Add the cranberries and return to a boil.  Reduce heat but continue to gently boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Pour into serving bowl and cover cool.  Can refrigerate until ready to serve.  (I usually make mine so that it is still a little warm when served.  This recipe is the one on the package of Ocean Spray Cranberries)


BUTTERMILK BISCUITS

2     cups all-purpose flour (I used soft wheat flour.  Can also use whole wheat pastry flour for all of the flour or half)
3     teaspoon baking powder
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon baking soda
1     scant teaspoon of sugar 
5     tablespoons all-vegetable shortening 
1     cup buttermilk
a little oil
additional flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and sugar twice.  Cut in the shortening until about pea size. (I always use my hand--it may be a little messy, but maybe that's why they are so good.)

Add the buttermilk all at once and combine.  (Once again I use my hand to combine it....this is really messy, but I get everything ready before I start so that way I don't have to clean a hand to get a glass out of the cabinet or pour  oil in a plate to pat the cut biscuits in.)

On a floured surface (I use my large tempered glass cutting board...the dough doesn't stick to it.) knead the dough (adding additional flour if necessary) only a couple of times to make smooth. ( I once heard that the secret to a good biscuit was not kneading it to death...so I just knead it a couple of time and pat it smooth.)

Pat out with your hand to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut biscuits into desired size.  (I use a glass that fits perfectly in my iron biscuit pan to cut my biscuits.  The pan holds 7 biscuits and this recipe will make 7 or sometimes 8 if I pat the dough out thinner.  I think I got my pan at Cracker Barrel...I know they sell them.  Greatest invention!  I like a biscuit that has a crust all the way around.)

Pat the biscuit on both sides in a little oil that you poured into a plate before putting in the pan.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or til golden brown. (I always set the timer for 12 minutes, look at them, and then cook for 3 more minutes.)

Serve hot and pass the butter or margarine.

APPLE CRISP 
This link takes you to my post for Fresh Peach Crisp.  At the end of the recipe I indicate that it works well with apples, too.  I used two large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cut with my apple corer/slicer and then cut each "slice" in half or 4 cups for the recipe.  I could have easily used another apple to have more apple.  Either way it is very, very good.  Patrick took some home for leftovers but my husband wouldn't let him take all of it.  I served it in my little apple dishes with a scoop of ice cream.

FESTIVE CRANBERRY - PINEAPPLE SALAD  



I hope you will try some of my recipes.  If you do, I would love to hear what you thought.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

OUR BLACK FRIDAY THANKSGIVING

The dishwasher is finished, but there is much that still needs to be cleaned up before I can go to bed.  I think everyone enjoyed the meal.  I certainly enjoyed having Patrick, Lori, Madison, and Tyler in our home for dinner and play.  This was the first time they have been here since Tyler was born.  Madison found the toys in the corner but first we had to eat dinner.  (I will be posting my menu along with recipes as soon as I can.  Be looking for it.)
 
When I was taking the picture, I didn't notice that Patrick was being Patrick and wasn't looking at the camera.  (We have a picture that was taken by a professional photographer when he was 3 or 4 and everyone is looking so happy and there is Patrick looking down with his hand on his chin.  We didn't get a picture of him by himself because he totally turned around and wouldn't turn back.  He was a little more agreeable with his brother, but he still wouldn't smile.  I love you, Patrick.)  Tyler is hiding in his car seat behind Patrick.  He was asleep when they arrived.

Madison is ready to eat.  She actually started "fixing her plate" before everyone sat down, but I didn't get a picture of her then. I think Lori had taken her plate away from her when I took this picture. Since the last time we saw her, she is saying more words.  She has also started saying, "No way." when she really means no.  Neither Patrick or Lori knows where she picked that up.





Finally eating.  Yum Yum.









Tyler had his own special menu.  (Didn't look as good as what everyone else ate....just my opinion.)











Everyone finally finished eating so then it was playtime.  Yea!!!!!

Playing with Daddy's Cupid doll. (Yes, it was  Patrick's when he was little.)












Tyler playing with the doggie.






























Madison remembered how to play the piano from last Christmas.









He will soon be crawling...











He's getting more comfortable with us.












He wanted to play the piano also.










Standing on his own... with the help of the baby grand.




















 I almost got that cute dimple of his.













Madison is such a loving little girl.  She had the two baby dolls kissing each other as she rocked them.











So much fun especially playing with the blocks.















It was a perfect evening, my Black Friday Thanksgiving, with my husband and our younger son and his family.  I am surely blessed that I was able to spend this Thanksgiving with both of our sons even if it was on different days and 500 miles apart.  If you missed the pictures of our early Thanksgiving celebration in CO with Jeffrey and his family, check it out HERE.

Friday, November 23, 2012

FESTIVE CRANBERRY PINEAPPLE SALAD

Today is Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year (according to the TV) and I stayed at home all day.  Didn't go out early last night either.  I usually would have gone with my dil Sara in CO, but since we celebrated Thanksgiving early this year and we are back home, I just stayed at home.  Read some last night (trying to get that book finished).  

I had a busy day yesterday.  One of those days when except for sitting down long enough to eat a sandwich, you realize at 3 that you have been on your feet all day.  Why?  I decided to clean out and reorganize my pantry and some of the cabinets in my kitchen.  Once you get started on something like that, you can't quit until you are finished.

I did take time enough to get my salad made for this evening when my son Patrick and his family come over for our Black Friday Thanksgiving.  (I will try to get that posted as soon as I can.)

I thought I would go on and share the recipe for that today and then when I write the post for our BFT, I will share my complete menu with you.

This salad is a favorite for this time of the year.  It is so good that it is a shame that I only make it now.  I will try to do better and make it several times over the next year. The recipe is in my infamous notebook I have talked about before.   The only date I have on it is 12/24/08 so I guess that is the first time I made it.  I also made a star to remind myself how good it is.  I usually use the sugar-free gelatin, but didn't this time because Patrick doesn't like artificial sugar (he gives me a hard time if I use it in food that I make for him.) If you have never made this, I hope that you will.  


FESTIVE CRANBERRY PINEAPPLE SALAD

1   can (20-oz) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
2  pkgs. (4-serving size each) raspberry flavor gelatin (I used 1 big box --  8-serving size--it was cheaper)
1   can (16-oz) whole berry cranberry sauce
1   medium apple, chopped
2/3   cup  chopped walnuts (see note below)

Drain pineapple








 reserving juice.








Add enough cold water to pineapple to measure 3 cups.







Pour into large saucepan.  Bring to a boil; remove from heat.







Add gelatin; stir at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved.






Add cranberry sauce; and stir until well blended.







Pour into large bowl.  Refrigerate 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until slightly thickened (consistency of unbeaten egg whites.)

Stir in pineapple, apple and walnuts.

Pour into serving bowls.
 
Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.




Note:  Patrick and Lori do not like nuts in their food.  So I put some aside for them and then added 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts to the rest for my husband and me. 



I hope you were able to enjoy this special time of the year with someone you love.  After tonight we will have enjoyed two special times with our two sons and their families.


 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

AN EARLY THANKSGIVING IN COLORADO



One last picture of Sadie, Colby, and Hallie before we left. But wait...I'm getting ahead of myself.

 EARLIER...

This year we were invited to celebrate Thanksgiving a week early with our son Jeffrey and his family in CO.  It was an exciting time for us, as it always is when we get to spend time with them, but this was our first time to see their new home.  They have been in the house less than a month, but are settling in.  While we were there the new granite countertops were installed in the kitchen and the plumber came and set in the new sink.  Yea!!!!

Just before we got to their house, we had a little excitement due to a brush fire along the side of the road.  They had the traffic stopped because of their firetrucks parked along the road.



Jeffrey was at the house when we finally got there.  He showed us the house, my husband unpacked the car, and then Jeffrey asked me if I would put the chickens in the coop, so we could go meet Sara and the kids at a nearby restaurant.  "Sure," I said.














I got some of them cornered...
I ended up having to pick them up because as soon as I would get one in the coop and shut the door, and then try to get another one in, the first one would run out when I opened the door. 

When most of them were in, the rest went in more easily.

That first night was spent mainly checking out what "Grandmother" had brought them and reading some of the books.  The next day was play and errand running.

The colored shapes they had were most popular.  We had fun making trails, flowers, parks, and other shapes.  Even involved the dolls after we were finished with our park.
  Hallie's little house with grass around it.
Colby also had to make his own creations.


My husband had bought a telescope at Hillcrest Thrift Shop and it was quite a hit.
We took it outside and looked at the moon.  It was really exciting to see the moon and its craters so clearly.  They also were able to see Jupiter one night.  

We also had to play games.  Our favorite is Clue, but we also played Disney Trivia Pursuit.  Colby is reading a question for me.
 
Sadie was supposed to be helping me, but she has her own way of playing with the extra pieces.
 
And the winner was......
  
On one of our trips to the nearby Wal-Mart, Sadie chose this pretty dress over a doll.

Here is Hallie in the T-shirt dress I made for her.

And Sadie in hers.

One afternoon I made some 2-ingredient fudge and before I finished Sadie came in the kitchen and had to pull up a stool so she could see what I was doing.  (Hopefully on our next trip we can make something together--that is always a favorite thing to do together.)  She was dressed for "dress-up".
 
 Since I had made the girls a number of jean skirts and the T-shirt dresses, I told Colby I would buy him something when we went to the store.  He chose a Lego set and then wanted me to help him put it together.  He could have done it all by himself, but it was fun to have that special time just with him.
All done.

 One more pretty picture of Sadie.  She likes having her picture taken.  Can you tell?

We had a really good time.  The weather was great....daytime temps in the upper 50s and low 60s, sunny all four days, cool night temps, but except that it made looking through the telescope a little chilly, we weren't outside at night.  We went to two antique malls and one really small craft fair in Falcon.  Our "Thanksgiving ham" was very delicious and everything that went with it.  We also had fun (frustration on my part mostly) playing with Wii games.  I can never drive those go-carts, etc.  I did manage to get 4 stars in one of the dance numbers.  I need to practice more. I will miss shopping with Sara on Black Friday this year, but the kids gave me their Christmas lists and showed me the toys at the store, so I should do okay.