5-finished

Spiced Potatoes

1-recipe

Ah, to be young again. The lack of responsibility! The freedom from having to pay bills! Being able to run around all day and climb trees! And, of course, the liberty to be absolutely illegible in one’s personal notes. I wrote down today’s recipe when I was about 8 years old, and my handwriting was completely atrocious.

There are two keys to this recipe. The first is slicing the potatoes into small cubes: this helps them to become crispy on the outside and mealy on the inside without burning. The second is adding the onion near the end of cooking. If you add it at the beginning, it will crisp and burn. Cook wisely, cook well, and enjoy the potatoes!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

2-butter

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat.

3-potatoes

Add the potatoes and cayenne pepper, and fry until crisp, stirring occasionally.

4-onion

Add the onion, and cook for 1 more minute.

Serve hot and salted.

5-finished

Serves 2-4.

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Smoky Pasta and Bean Soup

1-recipe

Thanks to everyone on Facebook and elsewhere for the birthday wishes! One of the awesome things I received was a camera upgrade; my old camera was top-of-the-line when I bought it, but that was in 2004. The new model is super easy to use, and takes great pictures. I still have a few recipes to work through which were photographed with the old camera, but expect better photography to filter in over the next two weeks. I’m excited!

I am sometimes cautious about serving soup for dinner; I don’t want to leave anyone hungry, and some soups are a little on the wimpy side. Today’s dish is far from wimpy: it is hearty, wholesome, and permeated with the wonderful flavor of bacon. The recipe gives the option of using either macaroni or “other small pasta”. I chose to use miniature farfalle, because I feel that they are more interesting to have in a soup than macaroni. :) Everybody does macaroni. Why not be a little different?

I modified the quantities of the canned ingredients in this recipe. It’s a little inconvenient to measure canned ingredients by the cup. How many cups of any particular ingredient are in a can, anyway? Isn’t it dependent on packing? And what about the leftovers? I find it much simpler to simply add however many cans are required. I measured the can contents myself before modifying the recipe, and the modified amounts given below are pretty close to what the original recipe called for. No more half cans of tomatoes sitting in the fridge!

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans white beans, drained
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cups macaroni or other small pasta
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional

Directions:

2-bacon

In a large skillet, sauté the bacon over medium heat until it is cooked.

3-add_veg

Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, and red pepper to the skillet, and sauté for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables become soft.

4-add_tomatoes

Add the tomatoes, and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes.

5-add_liquid

Add the beans and chicken broth, and bring the mixture to a gentle boil.

6-add_pasta

Add the pasta and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender but firm.

Top with Parmesan cheese if desired.

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Serves 8.

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2-mixture

White Sangria

1-recipe

It’s starting to warm up where I am, and I feel like I’ve lost track of time a bit. Wasn’t it February just last week? Spring has sprung, and in honor of that fact, I’m posting one of my favorite visual puns ever:

om20030423

The days are longer, the weather is pleasant, and it’s a great time to sit outside with a pitcher of White Sangria. This is a truly civilized and enjoyable beverage, and the preparation is effortless. Combine ingredients, chill, serve, and enjoy the mellow. What more could one want?

The original directions instruct one to slice the various fruits without peeling them. I chose to peel my fruits and section them, because it is easier for me to remove the seeds. In retrospect, following the original directions would have resulted in a more attractive presentation: if I were providing this for a spring soirée, I would certainly slice without peeling. However, you may use whichever method you prefer. Additionally, if peaches are difficult to find due to being out of season, substitute one small can of peaches canned in water. The sangria will be just as good!

Ingredients:

  • 1 peach, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1 orange, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 lemon, peeled and sliced
  • 2 12-inch stalks fresh mint
  • 750 milliliters fruity, light white wine (I used Barefoot’s Pinot Grigio, and it worked great)
  • 2 cups sweet lemonade
  • 4 ounces triple sec

Directions:

2-mixture

Mix together all ingredients in a large pitcher, and refrigerate for several hours, or until thoroughly chilled.

Stir and serve: ice is optional, but permitted.

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7-finished

Favorite Caramel Corn

1-recipe

As promised: I deliver. :)

I haven’t had this particular snack for at least 10 years. My mother used to make it when I was a kid, but somehow I never really got around to making it for myself after I became independent. That’s one of the wonderful things about living with another person: it gives me an excuse to make all sorts of delicious things.

There are a few “secrets” to this recipe. When I’m making popcorn for this, I do it the old-fashioned way. I pop it in a skillet on the stove, using butter-flavored Crisco as the oil. It beats the daylights out of any microwave popcorn I’ve ever had. Also, when heating the sugar mixture, use very low heat and go slowly! Stirring is not allowed, as it will disturb the forming foam, but you can slide the mixture around a bit in the skillet to make sure that it does not stick. Be patient: this may take a few minutes, but the result is absolutely worth it.

The pictures shown in this post are for a double batch, but the quantities listed are from the original recipe, which makes 1 batch. Feel free to scale this recipe up as needed: it works great.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 cups popped corn

Directions:

2-butter_corn_syrup

In a large skillet, melt the butter and corn syrup together over medium heat, and stir until well blended.

3-add_sugar

Add the brown sugar, and stir until smooth.

4-foam

Reduce the heat to low, and heat the mixture without stirring until it is all boiling foam.

Allow the foamy mixture to boil for 2 minutes.

5-stir

Add the popped corn all at once, stirring to coat all kernels.

6-cool

Spread the coated corn onto greased cookie sheets, and allow to cool.

7-finished

Enjoy!

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Sesame Chicken

1-recipe

Hooray for weekends! This one couldn’t come too soon… the week has been a little more hectic than I would prefer, and I’m happy to have a small break. Perhaps I’ll make a batch of homemade caramel corn over the weekend to relax. Watch this space. :)

I’m really pleased and impressed with how today’s recipe came out. The original card has a question mark and a note of “T.M.” by the sugar amount. Working on the assumption that this meant “too much”, I added sugar to the sauce slowly, and found that it was really delicious with only half of the recommended amount. I also made a slight change to the chicken: instead of using chicken wings, I cubed a couple of chicken breasts and used them instead. I have nothing against wings, but I didn’t have any in the freezer, and they are less convenient to eat than pre-boned meat.

The flavor of this dish is excellent. The ginger has a fairly strong “bite”, which is well balanced by the honey and sugar. The garlic is less of a flavor than an aromatic, and the sesame seeds are primarily cosmetic. When I make this next, I may try either toasting the sesame seeds or adding a bit of sesame oil to bring out the flavor.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2-make_sauce

In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, sugar, water, honey, ginger, sesame seeds, and garlic.

Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 2 minutes.

3-in_pan

Place the cubed chicken in a 13” x 9” Pyrex baking dish, and pour the sauce on top.

Bake for 35 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, basting occasionally.

Serve over white rice.

4-finished

Serves 4.

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10-finished

Chuck Wagon Skillet

1-recipe

“The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!”
– Robert Burns, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough”, 1785

All ingredients assembled per recipe directions? Check.

Heat reduced to low? Check.

Checking the food every ten minutes or so to make sure that all is well? Check.

Smell of burning? ……Dang. Check. :(

I had my trepidations about this recipe, and I ignored my gut feeling. The result was somewhat of a disaster. I’m noticing a pattern here: this recipe is from the same source as the failed Easy Pork Chop Rice Bake, and has a very similar problem. There simply was not enough liquid to prevent the dish from burning. Not a good sign for future reliability.

The flavor of the unburned portion was pretty good, but the pasta was still hard and crunchy. I think that I could rework this recipe without too much trouble, by doing the following:

- Cook the pasta in advance. Hoping that it will miraculously self-cook, as the author of this recipe seems to have done, is unrealistic.

- Brown the ground beef and onion together, and layer over the pasta in a 13” x 9” Pyrex dish.

- Layer the remaining ingredients per the original recipe directions, omit the extra water, cover with aluminum foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour.

I really don’t think that this would be a difficult fix, and I’m a little disappointed that the original recipe led to a burned mess of what could have been a really delicious casserole. The next time that I attempt a “Peggy’s Kitchen” recipe from the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company, I’m going to follow my instincts. I have been fooled twice now, and it’s time to wise up. In the meantime, here are the pictures and directions for what I did cook. While today’s post is filed under the ‘fail’ tag, I took on this recipe blog with the intent to be transparent and honest whenever things didn’t go according to plan. If I can learn from my own mistakes, others can learn from them as well.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 2 cups medium noodles, uncooked
  • 1 (16-ounce) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions:

2-onions

In a large skillet, sauté the onion in the butter until tender.

3-meat

Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper, and cook until browned.

4-cheese

Layer into the skillet the cheese,

5-celery

celery,

6-olives

olives,

7-pasta

and noodles.

8-tomatoes

Pour the tomatoes and water over the top.

9-cover

Cover, and heat to steaming.

Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

10-finished

Serves 6.

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3-finished

Lois’s BBQ Sauce

1-recipe

This recipe is definitely a family original. It’s incredibly simple to make: there is no complicated preparation, simply mix the ingredients and cook until delicious. I chose to make the sauce in my slow cooker rather than in a saucepan, and to incorporate a good-sized chunk of beef at the same time. The resulting pulled beef was excellent: spicy, sweet, and just a bit smoky. I recommend this as an all-purpose barbecue sauce which should match well with nearly any meat. Next time, I’m serving it with smoked Polish sausage. Yum…. :)

Ingredients:

  • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

2-cook

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or slow cooker.

Cook the sauce over low heat for several hours until thick and delicious.

3-finished

Makes 16 ounces barbecue sauce.

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6-finished

Banana Bread

1-recipe

I have a bad habit of buying fruit and then neglecting it. I’ll purchase a few pieces, stick them in the refrigerator, eat fruit for a few days, and then promptly forget that said fruit ever existed. A few weeks later, I may come across a few stray apples or an orange and wonder “Where did these come from?”. The good news is that when I want to make some sort of baked good which requires fruit, I may very well have it laying around. Today’s banana bread recipe was chosen on the basis of cleaning the refrigerator: I found two bananas, and decided that this would be an excellent use for them. Waste not, want not.

Unlike store-bought preparations, this bread isn’t overly sweet. The flavor of the bananas comes through nicely without being overpowered by added sugar. I might add a little bit of cinnamon next time I make this recipe, but it’s perfectly moist and delicious as it is.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2-cream

In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar, shortening, and eggs.

3-add_bananas

Add the banana and buttermilk, and mix well.

4-add_dry

Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, add the nuts to the mixture, and stir until blended.

5-in_pan

Pour the batter into a well-greased loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean.

6-finished

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3-finished

Vegetable Beef Soup

1-recipe

It’s a rare recipe where the directions can be summarized with the word “make”. My mother’s soup really is that simple: assemble ingredients, put the pot on to simmer, and let it do its thing. If you’d rather have more of a stew than a soup, simmer the mixture down until it’s nice and thick. If you want to make this recipe vegetarian, it’s equally simple: don’t add the meat. Bam. Done. Robust vegetarian dinner for several, coming up.

When I think of commercial vegetable soup, I remember watery broth with a few vegetables half-heartedly swimming in it. That isn’t a stand-alone dinner by any stretch of the imagination, and I’d be a little embarrassed to have it on my table. To use an automotive metaphor: if the store-bought option is a Ford Pinto, this soup is a Ferrari. It’s packed chock-full of every kind of delicious vegetable, plus chunks of tender, savory beef. This ain’t yo mama’s vegetable soup. It’s mine.

I chose to use chunks of round steak rather than a beef bone for this particular preparation, because I am currently city-bound and don’t have access to a good butcher. I also omitted the macaroni: I can’t remember my mother ever actually putting it in, and the soup doesn’t need it.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound round steak, cubed
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups diced potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 (15-ounce) can peas
  • 1 (15-ounce) can corn
  • 1/2 cup dried lima beans (you can use the canned ones, but they’re so much better cooked fresh)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

2-ingredients

In a large pot, combine all ingredients and add water to cover.

Simmer for 2-3 hours, or until all ingredients are tender and fully cooked.

3-finished

Serves 6-8.

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