Sweet Potato Casserole – required for Thanksgiving

This is such a family tradition that I am sure I have posted about this to the point that everyone might just be sick of it. That said, I just cannot help myself. It is not Thanksgiving without it. Or Christmas either, for that matter.

D&D_2344The recipe is from my brother’s wife. It was a tradition in her family and when she brought it to our family – well, let’s just say that was it. One of us, usually me, always made it for Thanksgiving and now I have been making it for our family, including the MotH’s family that I just cannot get out of it – not that I would want to. It is just dumbly good. It is just expected on Thanksgiving and Christmas too. Never hurts that this is when sweet potatoes are really cheap either.
How cool is it that one family’s recipe becomes another’s and then another’s. I guess that is the value of tradition – that, and excellent food.

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes – lately, I prefer roasting them ahead of time
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes or more
1 cup chopped pecans – or more if you prefer, which I do*
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Put sweet potato mixture into glass casserole dish**.

In another bowl, blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture – use your fingers, it is easier that way. Bake 20 – 25 minutes or until brown on top and slightly bubbly around the edges.

D&D_2306*I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup because that is what you should do.

**You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – thinner sweet potato layer and more crunchy bits on top).

22 November 2017 – Thanksgiving

Pecan Pie – necessary for Thanksgiving

In my family, you always got what you wanted for your birthday meal. That included dessert. In my case it was tacos with corn tortillas and all the fixing and then … guess it, and it makes to no sense at all – pecan pie. I think I might have been a very strange person when you get right down to it. Yeah, I was, and still am, strange. But at this point in life I really do not care anymore.

D&D_2326I have made the recipe for at least five years and possibly more, but I like the idea of making the custard on the stovetop before filling the crust. It is a little bit of extra security in making a pie. The custard is half way there and then you bake – lovely when it is all said and done. And there is the other requirement – the Boy always wants this for Thanksgiving and to be honest, I cannot blame him, because I do too.

1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs molasses
4 Tbs unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1/2 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted – Renfroes
1 – 9 inch unbaked pie shell, chilled in the pie plate for 30 minutes*

Adjust oven rack to second-lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees.

In a sauce pan, heat syrup, brown sugar, cream, and molasses oven medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter and salt and then whisk in egg yolks until incorporated.

Take pie pan out of the fridge and put the pecans in the pie shell. Pour in the filling and place in oven, but immediately reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake until filling is set and center is slightly jiggly, somewhere between 45 and 60 minutes. Cool pie on a cooling rack for at least and hour and then set in the fridge for at least 3 hours more, but a day would be better. Bring to room temperature before slicing and serving.

D&D_2342This is lovely gooey in a non cloying way – I think it is the lack of corn syrup. Maple and molasses bring so much depth to the pie. Really do not think I will ever do anything else but this.

*Used a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust and it worked really well (need to figure out what to do with the other one, hm?). Just make sure you put it in a glass pie pan (Anchor) and put it in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Makes a difference. Oh, and do chill it for 30 minutes. Again, makes a difference.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country or whatever – why do they need two names after all. It is just confusing. At least to my little blonde self.

22 November 2017

My refrigerator… and ham salad.

So I didn’t go to the grocery store like I should have today, and now I feel like making something but I have to make do with what’s in my refrigerator. And here is what I have to work with: Boursin, chutney (not homemade, boo), puff pastry, dates, bleu cheese dressing, a lemon, eggs, butter, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie, Kerry Gold Reserve Cheddar, and Hormel ham steak.

What should I make? What can I make? It is a weekend and I will get to the Publix at some point and then I have a whole other list of things to make for my work week lunches.

So here is what we are going to try and make work – we shall see how it goes. I feel confident that it will not be a disappointment. At least I hope not. We shall see.

Another no recipe recipe. That is not a bad thing when you get right down to it. D&D_2093

8 oz smoked ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge (what is that?), and cube it. Into the food processor it goes for 8-10 pulses.

3 Tbs sweet relish, drained like you would do for deviled eggs.  Totally subjective – add more or less to your taste, but do make sure you drain it. I like relish in my ham salad.

Yellow or Vidalia Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater and make sure you get all the onion juice – that is really important. Or if you are like me, you can use the food processor for this too – no need to clean it since the ham and onions are going in together.

Freshly ground black pepper. A great spice in my opinion. But it must be freshly ground – I think that goes without saying.

Duke’s Mayo* – just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last. 2-3 Tbs seems to work, though to be honest, I don’t measure, I just wing it.

This must site for at least a day or two. Same thing with chicken salad – do not try to eat it the day you make it – it just do not work. ~

*No substitutions, I mean, if you live in the South anyways. Not sure what the rest of you do for Mayo – sad to say.

~The same thing can be said for hummus too. The flavors need to come together to really work.

M & M Cookies – the best ever.

Okay – best M & M cookies ever. My mom always made these for Christmas, I am not sure why, but I tend to make them year round. I guess it just one of those things I make to make the Boy happy at anytime of the year – and, yes, it really does seem to work. I think I need picture of him eating them, but do not expect he will allow that at all.

D&D_20831 cup Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups M & M’s, plain or peanut, but no – do not do peanut – just saying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together Crisco and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add vanilla. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 2 batches, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed. Add M & M’s and stir to combine.  Use a #30 disher to scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden – turning half way through.

D&D_iPhone_image6I am not sure what else there is to say about this recipe that I have not said before. I keep Crisco in the fridge just for this recipe because I love it so much. Maybe it is just a reminder of my mom, but at the same time it is a really good cookie recipe too.

I am guessing it is a bit of both. Yep, it is.

 

Chili Jj

About a zillion years, or at least it feels that way, I found a recipe for Chili El Cid. It was very different than the chili I had grown up with, but it was intriguing beyond words. It was so weird – in a good way. It had a cinnamon stick and a jalapeño that was slit and they both simmered in the chili.dd_1796

Question: Who puts cinnamon in chili?
Answer: A very enlightened person.

Seemed so strange. Still does, but it works so well. The source, originally, was not the Parade Magazine though that seems to be where everyone else knows it from. I found it via my love of Sheila Lukens.

I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of beans in my chili. Not sure what camp that puts me in – maybe Texas, but I do put a few (read: 1 can of light kidney beans, rinsed very very well) for the MotH. It is a concession I am willing to make. Though am still not really a fan, which is interesting since all the chili of my childhood had beans in it.

We have had a bit of a mild winter, even for us, so I have not been in chili mode, but we just are having a crappy weekend this weekend. Windy, rainy, and whatnot, so I think I that fits the bill. Maybe my last chance till next winter.

Steve (MotH) says that it is fine to make chili when it is not cold – he’ll just turn the A/C down and we will make due. He is probably right, but I always hold out hope that we get just a smidge of winter in February. One can only hope.

Olive oil
1 pound ground sirloin
2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
2 mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 Tbs McCormick – Montreal Blend
1 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs dried basil
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 – 14.5 ozs cans beef broth
1 – 28 ozs can whole tomatoes
1 – 28 ozs can crushed tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
1 jalapeño, slit lengthwise 3 times
1 – 14.5 ozs can light red kidney beans, rinsed well, no, really rinsed well, otherwise ugh

Heat olive oil, about 2 Tbs in a large pot.  Add sirloin, sausages, and onion. Once it is all cooked though, with the meat being no longer pink and the onion translucent. Use a potato masher to break the meats up. Add the chili powder, Montreal blend, basil, oregano, and cumin. Cook until the spices are fragrant, a couple of minutes.

Add beef broth and both kinds of tomatoes. Add the cinnamon stick and jalapeño. Bring to a boil briefly and reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally while breaking up the whole tomatoes -with said potato masher. When there is about 30 minutes more of simmering to do, add the very rinsed beans. Stir well.

Before serving, remove cinnamon stick and jalapeño – duh. Garnish with grated cheddar, lime crema* and if you are a great person, serve over cornbread.  Yes, I am that person (see below).

*sour cream with some fresh lime juice – sounds cooler to say crema, maybe? Not sure. Yep. It does.

Sour Cream Cornbread – necessary
1 cup of self rising cornmeal (though you can make it from regular cornmeal if you make the correct modifications*)
2  large eggs
1 small can of creamed corn
1 cup sour cream  – full fat people, I mean really?
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes. In my opinion – closer to 30 minutes.

From my great friend Dawn, who taught me a great many things about Southern cooking and baking. 

* 3/4 cup cornmeal + 3 Tbs
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

I just do not like to buy self rising anything so …

Sour Cream Cornbread Muffins

I finally decided to make my favorite cornbread recipe into muffins, and I’ll be damned if it did not work out amazingly. I just took my favorite cornbread recipe that I always make for chili and tried to make it in muffin form. I am happy to say it worked really really well. Super happy – yep. dd_1789

1 cup self-rising corn meal*
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 small can of creamed corn – Publix brand is great – like most Publix brands
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients well.  Line a 12-well muffin tin with foil liners and spray with cooking spray. Fill cups 3/4 full – or basically just make them all even so the baking time is the same. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Do the toothpick thing just in case you are wondering.

* 3/4 cup cornmeal + 3 Tbs
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

So this past week I have eaten really moist cornbread muffins for breakfast**. Split in half and put in the toaster oven and heat up and make a little crunchy. And then just go all in with the ridiculously rich European butter – that is some serious good eats. Might be better than biscuits for breakfast but that is almost blasphemy for a good Southern girl to say. Well ….

**Before, I just cut pieces of cornbread and brought them in. But then there was the problem of running out of cornbread for leftover chili, so I went all in – a pan of cornbread and then cornbread muffins – pretty good solution. And more cornbread for me. I didn’t even share this with the office. I think I just might be terrible, no, just selfish.

Vanilla Taffy

I have never posted this recipe. It is a family recipe that is so special to me. It may mean nothing to anyone else – probably will not. But this is one of those handed-down recipes for something not many people make at all … and there is a story to it.

My mom made this every winter, not every Christmas because this recipe depends on the weather. There has to be low humidity and in the South that usually will only happen sometime between late December and late February. So this did grace the Christmas Eve party on occasion -yes, but there was no guarantee. It is North Florida after all. We oftentimes wore shorts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was a recipe from my mom’s mom, Daisy, and my mom would describe how Daisy made it in the winter* and then to get the taffy hard they would toss it in the snow. We never were able to do anything like that, but it is kind of cool to understand where a recipe really comes from.

To be honest, I have never seen a recipe like this. Most people, when they think of taffy, think of salt water taffy which is soft,  but this is not. We (me and the Boy) have taken to calling it crack because when you pull it right and put enough air in it, it gets opaque and, well, looks like crack – at least the kind I have seen on Cops  (read: have no practical experience in the real stuff, but from TV, I can totally see it).DD_9068

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Necessary – candy thermometer – not kidding. Necessary.

Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 266 degrees.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and stir until dissolved. Pour onto sil-pat lined baking sheet. When still hot, but cool-ish enough to pull, pull small bits in cords until opaque – you will burn at least your thumbs, but probably a couple of other fingers in the process. Twist into ribbons and lay on wax paper-lined baking sheet. When hard, break into pieces (just drop on baking sheet and see what happens) and wrap in cut waxed paper, or if you want to be fancy, wrap in pieces of parchment. We used waxed paper growing up, but I have taken a liking to parchment in the last few years.  

*They also butchered a pig each winter. Something I completely understand, but an not likely to be involved in.

2016 – Tomato Soup with Spinach and Mozzarella