Friday, November 29, 2013

Whiskey Sour

Back to my mantra of making things from scratch, I even do that with my cocktails.  Yep, I make my own simple syrup and sour mix.  It's just better that way, honestly, and is worth the extra few minutes you take to do it.

Here is a simple recipe for a Whiskey Sour.  The sour mix is made by simply combining the lemon juice, sugar and water so you could potentially mix that ahead of time in larger portions, store in your frig, and keep on hand.  If doing that, you would use 4 ounces of mix for this recipe.

 Whiskey Sour   

Yields: 1 Servings
1 1/2 ounce Whiskey
1 ounce Lemon juice
1 ounce Sugar
2 ounce Water
Crushed ice
Maraschino cherry 

Combine the lemon juice, sugar and water to make sour mix. Mix sour mix with whiskey in shaker of crushed ice. Pour into high ball glass, garnishing with cherry. Or strain into martini glass, again garnishing with cherry.
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Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Thanksgiving Feast

I have to say that out of all the meals and holidays throughout the year, Thanksgiving is my most favorite to cook.  I cook it every year and usually it's just me here - no crowd, no family and friends, etc.  No, it's okay because this day was also my most favorite with my family.  I spend the day reminiscing of all those Thanksgivings long ago when Mom was still here and we would all be home cooking or at least helping Mom, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and then football for my Dad and brother.  I continue the tradition of watching the parade and have to, have to, watch the National Dog Show.  No football here if I can avoid it!! And I use this day also to put up my Christmas tree and decorations so, yes, I have incorporated some traditions of my own.

Back to the Thanksgiving feast, we ALWAYS had lunch later than we wanted.  You see, every year we had to wait on my Dad and brother to return from deer hunting.  It seems that no matter what time Mom would tell them to be home for lunch, they'd always wander in the door 2-3 hours later.  Meanwhile, my sister, Mom, and myself would already be full from munching on everything while we waited and waited.  It was a yearly ritual that we all tolerated!

My Mom included all the usual things for Thanksgiving including the turkey, of course, simply roasted.  No brine, no dry rubs, just salt and pepper and oil on the outside skin.  It was always fabulous.  It would roast in the oven for hours and hours or so it seemed .  She would make the usual sweet potato casserole (burning the marshmallows every year), green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, shoepeg white corn, giblet gravy, and the best ever cornbread dressing you ever tasted. We'd also always have deviled eggs and chicken and dumplings. 

Toward her later years, she made these most delightful yeast rolls that were to die for.  These were the rolls you need "starter" for which she always had on hand.  On our table were all the trimmings as well including the cranberry sauce from the can.  You know the sauce I speak of, that which resembles cranberry flavored jello!  Regardless, my Dad loved it!

So, with all those memories of fabulous dishes, I try to incorporate some with new ones every year.  I have since ditched the green bean casserole (although I love it) and the sweet potato casserole and the canned cranberry sauce.  Instead of corn out of the can, I opt now to make Corn Pudding with fresh corn.  It is so delicious that I look forward to it, the most, every Thanksgiving.  And, funny enough, that's the only time I make it!!

But the thing that I always try to incorporate and let's also say I try to "recreate" is Mom's Cornbread dressing.  She had no recipe that was written anywhere - well, none that we ever found after her death.  Like most Mom's she just mixed a little of this and a little of that and wha la, you'd have this most delicious concoction of cornbread dressing that you had ever eaten.  We'd eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days after Thanksgiving.  She'd make pans of it, just so we'd have lots of leftovers. Yes, it was that good.

It's funny - my sister also tries to recreate Mom's dressing.  I've come close a few years but neither recipe actually hit the nail on the head.  So, we continue to try and try.  This year, I am trying again and have found a recipe from Southern Living that is simple yet has the major components needed to duplicate Moms.  I think this one might be THE ONE!  We shall see. It's only 7 a.m. and thus far I've only made the cornbread itself for the dressing while working on the other components of the feast.  It will be later today before the truth is known about the dressing but I will certainly report back my findings!

So, to start the preparations as I mentioned, I've made the cornbread for the dressing. That recipe will follow.  I also have made the Cranberry Relish (see below).  This is so delicious, I could just sit and eat it straight from the bowl.  I'd probably have a sugar coma afterwards but it would be well worth it.  So yummy!!

For the turkey, I'm trying this recipe from McCormick.  I usually use a rub of some sort and thought this one worth a try.

For sides, I'll be making Carmelized Brussel Sprouts (minus the anchovies), Mimi's Cornbread Dressing, Tee's Corn Pudding, Creamy Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes, and for dessert, Miniature Pecan Tarts.  These recipes are all below.

Yes, I'll be in the kitchen all morning but I wouldn't have it any other way.  Now to get that turkey ready to go into the oven!! 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family!  I'll be sure to post back about the dressing!

 Cranberry Relish    

Yields: 15 Servings
4 cups cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
13 ounces orange marmalade
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup walnuts

Mix sugar, cinnamon, and cranberries in a lightly greased pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Mix in remainder of ingredients and serve hot or cold.

 Tee's Corn Pudding    

Yields: 8 Servings

1/4 cup Sugar
3 tablespoon All purpose flour
2 teaspoon Baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
6 large Eggs
2 cups Whipping cream
1/2 cup Butter melted
6 cups Fresh corn kernels (about 12 ears)

Combine first 4 ingredients. Whisk together eggs, whipping cream, and butter. Gradually add sugar mixture, whisking until smooth. Stir in corn. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 13 x 9-inch baking dish.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until golden brown and set. Let stand 5 minutes.

(For Southwestern Corn Pudding, stir in one 4.5 ounce can drained and chopped green chilies and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin.)

 Creamy Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes    

Yields: 8 Servings

8 Russet potatoes
8 ounce Rondele Garlic and Herb Spreadable Cheese
2 tablespoon Butter
Milk as required
Salt to taste

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 20 minutes or until tender.

Drain potatoes and mash. Mix in the cheese, butter, and enough milk to reach desired consistency.

 Minature Pecan Tarts    

Yields: 40 Servings

1 1/2 sticks butter softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour sifted

1 cup sugar
8 teaspoons flour
4 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 cup pecan chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add flour a little at a time and blend. Form small balls and place in ungreased muffin tins. Press the dough to cover bottom and side of tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or more until pastry is slightly brown around edges.

Next, combine sugar, flour, butter, milk, pecans and vanilla in saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until bubbly and thick. Spoon one teaspoon in each pastry. DO NOT FILL TO TOP. Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Garnish with whipped cream when cool.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

From Scratch

As everyone knows, I much prefer to make things from scratch as opposed to using a box, can, or package.  The reason is simple - anything made from scratch tastes so much better and more importantly, it is so much better for you!

With all that being said and with all this time off from work, I've decided to pursue this very idea with a few different items.  First up - making tortillas from scratch!  Whoo hoo!!  Yes, I first made some corn
tortillas using the recipe (which is simply the masa flour and warm water) on the back of the bag of masa harina flour bag and I most definitely was hooked.  They were hands down, the absolute best tortillas I had ever eaten.  And from my own kitchen!!

Obviously rolling them by hand was not ideal (I have since read that adding 1/4 teaspoon baking soda will give them more "lift") and very time consuming but the end result was so much worth it. 

So worth it, that I decided to get a tortilla press.  I opted for the cast iron version.  And with the new press, I was compelled to try the flour tortilla.  I sought the best possible recipe and decided on this one from Pioneer Woman.  (hint - do use lard instead of shortening)

Her tips are dead on so read them and heed her advice.  Mine were so delicious!  I put the remaining tortillas in a zip loc bag in the freezer so I can pull them out, as needed.  My only advice, in addition to Ree's, is to be sure you roll them into ping pong size balls.  Obviously, if you don't, you'll have pretty small tortillas. 

I loved having the tortilla press as it does make it so much easier to flatten the tortillas.  It had been suggested to use plastic sheets between the presses but I found flouring each side of the press seemed to work better.  I would definitely suggest kneading them as in the recipe as that will make a huge difference in their pliability or lack thereof.

Good luck and if you do decide to make these (or the corn version), be sure to post your results in the comments.  I'll be interested to hear how your's turned out and how your family like them!


  • 2-1/2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 cup Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 2 Tablespoons (additional) Lard Or Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 cup Hot Water

Preparation Instructions

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large wooden bowl. Stir together. Add spoonfuls of lard or shortening (use 1/2 cup PLUS 2 tablespoons), then use a pastry cutter to combine the ingredients. Cut mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. 

Slowly pour in hot water, stirring to bring mixture together. Lightly knead dough 30 to 40 times, or until it becomes a cohesive ball of dough and is less sticky. Cover with a tea towel and allow dough to rest for at least an hour.

Roll into ping pong size balls, place on a tray, cover with a tea towel, and allow to rest for another 20 to 30 minutes.

When you're ready to make the tortillas, heat a dark or cast iron griddle to medium/medium-high heat. One by one, roll out balls of dough until very, very thin. Throw tortillas (one by one) onto the griddle. Cook on each side for 20 to 30 seconds, removing while tortillas are still soft but slightly brown in spots. Remove and stack tortillas, and cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing tortillas in a container. To warm, nuke tortillas in the microwave, or wrap in foil and warm in the oven.

Helpful tips:
* Make sure the water you pour in is very warm.
* Allow the dough to rest, both after kneading and after forming into balls.
* Roll out very thin.
* Get the heat right on your stove: Too hot, and the tortilla will burn in spots. Not hot enough, and the tortilla will begin to crisp before you can get it to brown. I get my stove between medium and medium high heat; that seems to do the trick.
* Use a dark griddle or cast iron skillet to brown the tortillas.
* Cook just long enough to lightly brown the tortilla in spots; don't cook too long or tortillas will crisp. You want them to be soft and pliable when you serve them.
* Finally: Have fun! And enjoy them. They're absolutely scrumptious.

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