Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sausage and Dried Cranberry Cornbread Dressing

This is one of those posts where I don't have many pictures due simply to forgetting to take pictures. I'm going to apologize for the pictures I do have. They aren't great. You'd think after all those classes in photography that my pictures would be better. Sometimes, they're not so bad, and sometimes, well, they're just really bad. You must understand though, that I spent most of my time in the darkroom. That was the part I loved most. But, I digress. Let's get on to the dressing, shall we?
In the southeast we do a traditional cornbread dressing for Thanksgiving. The base of it is just that, cornbread. Sometimes turkey is added, sometimes not. I've tasted some that was dry as dirt, and others that tended to the soupy, sloppy side, if you know what I mean.
I may have my Southern Girl Status revoked for what I am about to say, but hear me out first. I was never impressed with most dressings. There I said it. Oh, dear. I can hear them coming for me now. I liked my grandmother's dressing, but I didn't dream about it. What? You don't have daydreams of food? Well, maybe this dressing might help remedy that sad situation. Food should be dreamt about. Trust me.
It was one year that I didn't make it home for the holiday that I embarked upon my very first dressing date. Oh, yes. I made a date out of it. I scoured magazines, cookbooks, web sites, and polled many, many people on what made dressing important to them. You see, after years of hearing people fawn over their favorite dressings, I knew there had to be more for me. So, after much research, and probably a glass of wine or two, I spent an entire day working on a dressing modge podged together from what elements I liked from all the research. This is what I've come up with. Since concocting what is my favorite dressing, I've found others similar out there on the web. That's awesome! I'm not the only one that likes this variation. So, take a look. If you like what you see, give it a go. But, you know your taste buds best, deviate and have fun. But most of all, make it yours, your favorite.

1 9x13 pan of baked cornbread
1lb of sage ground sausage
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 cup celery diced
1 Granny Smith apple cored and chopped
1 liberal cup of dried cranberries, I really wanted to make a political joke in there, but it was lame.
roughly 1 pint of chicken stock, I tend to use more because we like a moist dressing. Between 2-3 cups is fine.
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs lightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375. Saute sausage in a large, heavy skillet till brown. Remove sausage to a large bowl with crumbled cornbread.
2. Melt the butter using the same skillet; add onions, celery, and apple to butter and saute till tender.
3. Toss sauteed veggies into the large bowl with the sausage. Add the dried cranberries, salt, and pepper. You can also add more rubbed sage if you're really fond of it.

4. Add the eggs and chicken stock bit by bit mixing all ingredients together. Don't add too much and make the mixture mushy. As my grandmother always said, "You can always add more, but you can't take it out."
5. Pour dressing into a lightly greased 9x13 casserole dish. I tend to make more dressing than this dish holds and have to add the remaining dressing into an additional dish. I told you I really like this dressing.
6. Place dressing in oven uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Keep an eye on your baby. If the top looks like it's getting too dark, cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Think I left something out? Don't like what I put in? Change it! Make this dish distinctly yours. And, then have sweet dreams of you and your new crush.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding, Oh My

I'm from the south and we are most fond of our sweet potatoes. There's sweet potato fries, mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato pie, sweet potato casserole, and sweet potato souffle just to name a few of our favorites. Then there's bread pudding, another traditional Southern staple. You can imagine my excitement when I ran across a recipe for sweet potato bread pudding several years back. I can't be sure, but I believe there was jubilant dancing.
And, while I would like to give credit for this most yummy of yummy recipes, I can't. Unfortunately I'm not completely sure where I came across this one. If memory serves me correctly, and that's a rare thing on some days, I believe it came from the Loveless Cafe from Nasvhille, Tennessee. Again, I'm not sure. All I have is a recipe written down on a bar napkin.
This bread pudding is everything you would think it to be and more. You get the creamy, rich, custard mixed in with a healthy cup of mashed sweet potato, molasses, and heaping mounds of meringue folded not only into the pudding, but heaped on top as well. The only thing to make this taste any better than a warm serving drizzled with caramel sauce, is having good kitchen help to make it.
2 loaves of French bread cut into 1/4 inch segments. For this batch I made two loaves using my old fashioned white recipe but only used 1 1/2 loaves.
8 egg yolks
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup roasted and mashed sweet potato
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 cup molasses
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
bourbon, optional
8 egg whites
1 cup granulated white sugar

Step 1. Cream egg yolks and sugar.

Step 2. Mix in remaining custard ingredients. Layer bread into a well greased, read buttered, oven safe dish and saturate with the custard. In the past I have soaked the bread in bourbon before transferring to the baking dish and saturating with the custard. It's fabulous either way.

Step 3. Remind your brood it must be baked before consumption. Proceed to bake for 25 minutes at 325.

Step 4. While baking mix together the 8 egg whites with the cup of granulated white sugar till stiff peaks are formed.

Step 5. After the pudding has baked for 25 minutes gently fold the meringue into the bread pudding and mound on top. Return to oven and bake an additional 25 minutes at 325.

It's best to let this cool a few minutes once out of the oven, if for no other reason than not to scald the roof of your mouth. Serve with whipped cream, caramel sauce, or ice cream. Or, if you're feeling especially sassy, all three.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Old Fashioned White Bread

Sunbeam ain't got nothing on me. There. I said it. What's more, I meant it. I have stumbled upon the best recipe for old fashioned white bread. Folks, this bread is the real deal. It's simple. It's wholesome. It's the kind of food that'll send you back to a different time altogether. I could go on and on and on and on.....but I won't. I'm just going to give it to you straight so you can march yourself straight to the kitchen and get started.
Before I go any further I want to provide you with a link to where I first found the recipe on All Got to give credit where it's due, you know.

4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp of white granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups warm water
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp salt
6 - 7 cups of bread flour

Dissolve the yeast and the sugar into the warm water. Take care that your water isn't too hot or it will kill off all the little yeasties. And, that's not what you want. After your yeast has proofed and your water has a nice creamy froth on top add the oil, salt, and flour one cup at a time. Once the dough has pulled together, generally around the 5th cup of flour, turn it out onto a well floured surface.

This dough is a sticky dough and I always end up adding more flour than what the recipe originally called for. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I use oil instead of lard which the recipe also originally called for. Whatever the case I tend end up using around 7 cups of flour.
Knead the dough for roughly 8 minutes till the dough is smooth. Be mindful not to handle your dough too much. Learning to bake bread calls for walking a fine line. Kneading is a wonderful tool for working out some built up frustration, but if you handle your dough too much then it can turn out tough. My grandma told me that kneading dough was a lot like learning to dance. I'm still not exactly sure where she was going with that.

Using butter, and I mean real, honest to goodness butter, lube up a large bowl. I even go a step further and butter the dough round. Then place in the buttered bowl, covered with a well moistened kitchen towel.

Here's one of the reasons I truly love this bread. It rises beautifully and quickly in little less than an hour. I've never seen a more beautifully risen bread. I'm not even sure the grammer was correct in that last sentence, but who cares? Just look at that rise!

After rising for an hour, punch down your dough and turn out onto a well floured surface.

Divide the dough in half and place into buttered 9x5 loaf pans. Let rise another hour covered with a well moistened kitchen towel. When waiting for dough to rise, I preheat my oven to 425. I leave the dough sitting on top of the stove and the warmth helps the dough rise so very quickly.

Bake at 375 on the top rack for half an hour or until golden brown on top. I often have to pop one out of the pan and check the bottom for doneness. And, often they have to go back in for a bit longer. Once they've reached your desired doneness turn out onto cooling racks.

The only thing left to do now is slice and butter.

Or, slather it with goat cheese and some sweet red onion marmalade. I swear this particular slice jumped off on its own free will and demanded those toppings. What was I to do but oblige?

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cowboy Candy, the Texas Taste Teaser

Cowboy Candy, candied jalapenos, bread and butter jalapenos; no matter what name you give them these tasty taste teasers really pack a punch that leaves your mouth wondering which way to twist.
I'd never heard of them till just a few months after moving to Texas. Then it seemed every which way I turned I was faced with testimonies of pure, unadulterated love for the these sweetly brined peppers too many to count. Being something of a pepper head I was intrigued. The facebook canning group I belong to was all a twitter over the recipe listed in the documents section. It seemed each day there were new photos of recently processed half pints on display. I knew I had been converted without ever having taken a taste when my friend Amy sent me a link to a similar recipe.
I was so sold on the idea that I was determined to make a double batch my first go round. And, boy am I glad I did. I had to make another double batch this week since I was almost sold out of my first batches.
The first thing you'll want to do is wash your peppers. Well, that's a lie. The very first thing you should do is put on a pair of gloves and then wash the peppers.

Then you will cut the stems off and slice the peppers into 1/4 inch slices.

I don't know if it's the environment or the fact that everything in Texas is bigger, faster, spicier, but the jalapenos from my first go round were super hot. And, that's coming from someone who has been known to hold a habanero above her opened mouth all the while taunting the pepper with shouts of, "Bring it!"
I had someone ask me if I could leave the seeds out the next time I made Cowboy Candy because the heat was so intense. I didn't want to slice the ribs out of the pepper and lose the integrity of the "spoke" so I opted to soak the peppers in a sinkful of water to coax more seeds out. It worked pretty well. But, it's really a matter of preference. If you want to scoop out the insides, be my guest.

Next you'll want to gather all your ingredients together as well as prepare your jars and canner. Organization will be your best friend in canning. Besides the three pounds of jalapenos sliced, you will need two cups of apple cider vinegar, six cups of granulated white sugar, one half teaspoon each of turmeric and celery seed, three teaspoons granulated garlic, and one teaspoon ground cayenne powder.

My go to cooking pan is an 18 inch Calphalon dutch oven. It's a work horse and always gets the job done. It heats quickly and has plenty of room. Of course this is not a necessity, but a large, and in charge saucepan is. Add all the above listed ingredients except the peppers, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Next you will want to add the jalapeno slices and simmer exactly four minutes.

Using a slotted spoon pack your hot jars to within 1/4 inche headspace.

And, a quick word on how I get my jars hot:
I fill my jars with water and then place the jars within the canner and fill the canner with water. I always add two to three more jars than I think I will use, because again, organization is your best friend. And, it really sucks to be in the middle of ladling yummy goodness into jars and realize you need more jars. Place your canner on the stove, cover, and heat till boiling while you're working on said yummy goodness. Just let it boil away happily while you work.
After you've packed your jars with the peppers turn the heat up on your syrup and bring to a full, rolling boil and boil hard for six minutes. Ladle the syrup into the jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Using a chopstick or your handy dandy, Ball tool remove air bubbles by running around the entire inside of the jar.

Wipe the rim with a papper towel moistened with white vinegar, center lids, and tighten bands. Pop these peppers in the canner and process 10 minutes for half pints and 15 minutes for pints.
Now, for the hard part. You really need to let these guys sit and mellow out for a month before tearing into them. Easier said than done. You'll be woken from peaceful slumber as they call out to you through your dreams. I promise.

I'd like to give a big thank you to Bev Dobson for posting this recipe in our group documents. This stuff is awesome!

Cowboy Candy
Yields: 4 half pints
Prepare canner and jars
* 3 pounds Firm, fresh jalapeno peppers, washed and sliced into 1/4 inche slices ***WEAR GLOVES***
* 2 cups cider vinegar
* 6 cups white granulated sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
* 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
* 3 teaspoons granulated garlic
* 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

In a large saucepan, bring all ingredients except peppers to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer roughly 5 minutes. Add peppers and simmer exactly 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon ladle peppers into hot jars leaving 1/4 inche headspace. Turn heat up on syrup and bring to a full, rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes. Then ladle syrup into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace again if necessary. Wipe rims down with a paper towel moistened with white vinegar. Center lids and tighten bands to fingertip resistance. Then tighten a scosh more. Place jars in canner and process in boiling water for 10 minutes for half pints and 15 minutes for pints.
After processing remove lid from canner but leave jars in for another 5 minutes. Slowly remove jars to a quiet resting place. If you remove jars too quickly they will hiss at you. They might even boo a bit if they happen to be the sassy mouthed type.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yup. That's Why.

Thanks to several great ladies on my Facebook canning group that shared this. I just love it.
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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mmmm, Poptart Pastries with Firstborn

With yesterday being a holiday and Firstborn out of preschool for the day, I knew some sort of project would be in order during Secondborn's nap time. I decided that we should bake homemade poptarts.
Firstborn was ecstatic as I'd not bought the Kellogg's brand in some time. In fact, I'd not bought any in some time in efforts to really watch what I was feeding my kids. Now, I'm not the "food police" and I don't pretend to be. I believe in most things in moderation. We do grab the occasional fast food grub every few weeks or so. We even keep candy in the house, in small portions. Right now we're blessed with a store of Russian type candies thanks to my sweet sister-in-law. The next time I see her I'll have to ask the names of all the different types since I have no idea how to read the labels. But, I digress. What I am trying to say is I do try to be conscientious of all the additives in convenience foods.
I let Firstborn pick out all the fillings we'd use in our double batch of poptarts. He chose Nutella, Monkey Butter, strawberry-banana freezer jam, and blueberry butter. Poptarts, what a great way to use up some of those extra jars of homemade jams!
We set to work by buzzing two cups of all purpose flour, one teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of sugar, and two sticks (one cup) of butter cut into pieces in the food processor. If not using a food processor you could work the butter in by hand till your dough is pulling together nicely.

Once it's sort of pasty add two tablespoons of milk and one egg that have been mixed together. This is going to get really wet. I ended up adding more flour. Once you're satisfied with your pastry dough turn it onto a well floured surface, divide into half, and roll flat one portion into a rectangle, roughly 9x13 in shape and about 1/8in thick.

After the dough has been rolled out cut nine rectangles, 3x4 in shape and brush an additional beaten egg onto the entire surface of the dough. Think of this as your binder.

Next comes the filling. Place one heaping tablespoon in the center of each rectangle and smooth outward but not all the way to the edges. For some reason I was really excited about this part. Firstborn was as well. And, between our excitement it seems we may have administered more than the heaping tablespoon the directions required. Ooppsy.

A crucial step to making poptarts is tasting your work as you go. I discovered this the hard way once I realized we weren't going to have enough dough to cover all the poptarts we'd jammed. Note to self, do not leave Firstborn in charge of the tops of poptart dough next time.

Once you've jammed your rectangles, roll out the remaining dough into a 9x13 rectangle. Cut out nine 3x4 rectangles. Place the tops onto the jammed rectangles and press the edges together. Using the tines of a fork crease the edges together all the way around. You will also want to prick the tops of the poptarts to allow for steam to escape and puff up nicely.
Place the poptarts on a lined cookie sheet. Here's a tip my grandmother taught me. Save the empty butter wrappers and place in a baggie to keep in the freezer. When you need to grease something pull a wrapper out and use that.
And, since you will have two empty wrappers from this project why not go ahead and use those to oil your cookie sheet or aluminum foil. Normally I'd use parchment paper, but I was out.
After you've placed your poptarts onto the cookie sheet, tuck them into the fridge for a thirty minute chill while your oven is preheating to 350 degrees. This is also a great time to clean up.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes till golden brown.
We found our recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Check out her perfect poptarts and suggestions for fillings and other variations.
While our poptarts were far from perfect, in appearance, nothing could beat the taste, nor the time spent with my little chefs. Plural? Yes, Secondborn has an uncanny ability to always wake prematurely when there's a project she's not been included in. There were many hands and much love that went into these pastries, not only filling my belly, but my being as well.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blessed Bread

A few months ago my bread machine committed a murder suicide when it set fire to not only itself but the innocent loaf of honey wheat within. I was devastated, as tragedies often make one. And, being on a heavily restricted budget I couldn't pop onto Amazon and order a replacement Breadman.
So, I began baking bread the old fashioned way, by hand. I was not keen on this at first. It was time consuming and physically exhausting I would bemoan to my hubby. I would make pleas for the extra funds needed to purchase the kitchen appliance of my dreams to no avail. After a visit with the in-laws we were awarded a hand me down Sunbeam since they had just purchased a new Cuisinart. I was stoked.
The day after traveling back to Texas I set to work on making a loaf. I was let down. The capacity was much smaller than what I was accustomed to working with. I ended up making bread every three days. It's not that we're Carb-O-Vors, it's that I have two small children with PBJs as their main stay from starvation.....that and we really are Carb-O-Vores. So, I found a recipe that would make two loaves at a time and got to know my gas stove really, really well. Now, I'm proud to say I've taken the bread maker off my Wish List.
I never knew I would so thoroughly enjoy the task of baking bread. It doesn't even sound fair to call it a task. From the proofing of the yeast to the kneading, followed by the multiple rises, it fills me with contentment, joy, and peace. I look forward to baking several different types several times a week. I bake two sourdough rustic rounds, two loaves of an old fashioned white, two loaves of honey wheat, rolls, buns, and most recently a lovely simple oat loaf.
I love the smell of the sourdough starter sitting on my countertop. I love that smell even more because I started that starter by catching the wild yeasties using pineapple juice. I love that my son was amazed the first time he realized that loaf bread was also sold at the grocery store. But, mostly I love the smells of bread baking that fill our house making it smell more like a living, breathing home than just our address.
It's hard to be in a foul mood when there's bread baking. But, if you are, might I suggest making another loaf or two? If punching and pulling the dough into submission doesn't set your grumps free, then a slice of hot buttered and jammed bread surely will.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hmmmm....what does it mean?

You're with me, right? Even if it's not canning related? What about bread? No? What about bread ingredients stored in jars? Really? Great! You guys are great! Now, just stay tuned m'kay? Love, Lolly

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Taking Stock

Stock. Chicken stock, veal stock, beef stock, veggie stock, fish stock, and all manner of fowl stocks are easily made. And, they're easily daunting to those who are more accustomed to grabbing a can off their grocer's shelves than making their own. But, fear not and read on. I'll tell you how I do it. Which, is by no means the only way to do it.
For this post I'll be talking about chicken stock. And, before I go any further, please forgive me for not getting pictures of the entire process. I hope to remedy that the next time I make stock. Did I mention I have a small tribe of toddlers/young kids that often give me pause to try and remember if I put my underwear on under my clothing instead of on top? Laugh all you want, that is until it happens to you.
But, back to stock talk. I rarely ever buy chickens any other way but whole. For me it's not only a matter of frugality. But, it allows me many more options. We're wild about roasted chicken in my family. It's an extremely versatile dish that tastes as if you've spent from sun up to sun down slaving over it. But, no such thing. And, the taste is wonderful. Whole chickens are also great if you've got a busy day ahead and forgot to plan out the coming night's menu. Toss a frozen whole chicken into your slow cooker and add seasoning, marinades, salsas, or just about anything else that comes to mind and you'll have supper set in a breeze.
This past week I boiled our bird. I do that often when I want to stock my freezer with baggies of shredded precooked chicken for quick go to meal preps, such as in casseroles or tacos. And, to do this you'll need a large stock pot.
After you've removed the goody bag of innards and neck bone from the cavity of the chicken....What? That's gross? C'mon, now. You can do this. I have the utmost faith in you. Take a deep breath. Now, take a deeper one. Take a shot of the cooking wine too, if you must, but only if you must. Reach in carefully and pull it all out. Careful, now. The rib cage can knick your knuckles if you plunge in too quickly. See, I knew you could do it. Go ahead. Have another shot of the cooking wine. You deserve it.
You can save the innards to freeze to make additional stocks later, or you could throw them into the pot with your bird as well. Or, if you and the goody bag aren't really on the best of terms you can always toss them.
After you've rinsed the inside and out of your chicken thoroughly place it in your stock pot along with 4 quarts water, 2-3 stalks of celery roughly chopped, 2 medium onions quartered, 10-12 whole black peppercorns, 2-3 bay leaves, 1-3 cloves of garlic, depending upon taste and optional, and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently for 2 hours, or until your chicken is tender. At this point you can remove your chicken and use it for whatever you have in mind.
Strain your stock through a sieve and let cool. I usually let it cool counter side and then place in the fridge over night.
After your stock has cooled and the fat has solidified on the surface of your stock, skim it off. If you plan to freeze your stock just fill the containers of your choosing, label accordingly, and freeze.
A word on containers. I used to freeze my stock in quart size freezer bags. And, I still do freeze stock, just not as much as I can. I do this for several reasons. Freezer bags have a tendency to puncture once frozen. And, when it comes time to thaw them your bags will leak. This isn't a problem if you've planned ahead and pulled your stock the night before, placed it in a bowl, and then tucked it into the fridge. It is a problem if you've forgotten about dinner entirely and are rushing around like a mad woman. Because then you're left with only a few options of thawing your stock quickly. If you thaw it under running water it leaks from your punctured bag and becomes diluted with the tap water, or you nuke it and it runs all over your microwave. I have since started freezing my stock in plastic freezer containers, but have found when they're dropped frozen they often crack.
Canning stock does require a pressure cooker, and a little work, but it tends to make things easier at the time of using it. And, once you get the hang of it you'll find it's no trouble at all.
You'll want to prepare a pressure cooker and your jars half an hour ahead of time if you plan to can the stock. Place 2-3 inches of water inside your pressure cooker. Fill your jars halfway with water and place on the rack in the cooker. Let it come to a boil while your stock is coming up to a boil as well.

Once your stock has reached a boil let it boil for just a moment to kill off any bacteria that may be hanging around. Using your jar lifters, carefully pour the water out of the jars and fill with chicken stock leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean with a paper towel wet with vinegar after you've removed any air bubbles. Center your lids and screw down your bands. Then, tighten just a scosh more. Place your jars back into the pressure cooker and lock the lid and bring to a boil over medium high heat.

Vent the steam for 10 minutes and then close your vent. You'll want your weight set to 10lbs pressure. You'll process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes.