New Year’s Eve spent on the farm during my growing up years meant an array of tasty snacks, a bucket full of confetti made by yours truly from newspapers I spent an hour cutting into teeny pieces and spent twice as long cleaning up the next morning, and the family gathered in our family room around a cozy fire as we waited for the clock to strike midnight.
Mom would serve a variety of chips and dip, meat and cheese with crackers, and there were always cookies and candies left over from Christmas. Those crazy people who wanted healthy options would find a veggie tray and apple slices.
When midnight arrived, we’d all grab big handfuls of confetti and dump it all over my dad, who knew it was coming but took it all in good-natured stride.
Captain Cavedweller got in our family craziness a few years before we moved too far away to join in the fun. While my family loved ranch dip the best, CC was a big fan of a particular brand of dill pickle dip.
Then the manufacturer stopped making it and it was a sad, sad day for CC.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I happened upon a recipe for dill pickle dip. It tastes exactly like the dip he used to love so much. Best part? It’s so easy to make!
If you love dill pickles, you are sure to enjoy this dip.
Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with joy, health, success, and blessings!
Don’t you just love all the decadent goodies at Christmas time? I do. Probably more than I should. But, hey, that’s what New Year’s is for, right? No counting calories until January 1. It’s a Christmas law. Or should be.
My hubby always buys Christmas M&Ms to fill my candy bowl and, of course, I have to have the Christmas-wrapped Dove dark chocolates on hand.
Some of my favorite things to bake at Christmas include snickerdoodles, butter toffee, and shortbread. But the one goody that gets made every year without fail are my Chocolate Peanut Butter Crispies. Super easy to make and scrumptious to eat.
I hope that you and your family had a marvelous Christmas holiday whether together in person or in spirit. Keep enjoying those leftover goodies, and go ahead and make a few more. Don’t forget . . . calories don’t count until January 1!
I don’t know about you, but when I have a houseful of guests, I love to cook, but three meals a day gets a tad overwhelming. That’s why I love this recipe. It’s quick and easy, and I get rave reviews, even from people who don’t think of themselves as Tex Mex folk.
Here we go:
6 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream (I cheat and use half and half)
1 cup of grated cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 4 oz. can mild diced chilies
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray or butter a shallow baking pan. I often use a 9×9 brownie pan. In this case I used my fancy pan.
In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs. Mix in cream, salt and pepper.
Add chilies to egg mixture.
Spread the cheese in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour egg mixture over the top.
Bake for 25 minutes or until eggs are set. (Living at altitude, it always takes longer where I live–usually between 35-40 minutes. Keep an eye on it.)
Broil the top if you want more browning.
I’ve doubled the recipe and cooked it in a larger pan quite successfully, because funny thing–in our house, this only serves 4. Hmmm…
We always top the eggs with hot sauce or salsa and serve with bacon or ham.
Looking forward to seeing everyone in 2021!
Hi everyone, Winnie Griggs here.
Did you know that, in addition to this being Columbus Day, it is also National Gumbo Day? And since I was born and raised in south Louisiana , gumbo is one of my favorite dishes – especially this time of year when nothing hits the spot like a nice hearty dish of soup or stew – or gumbo!. So today, I thought I’d pull out a recipe I shared here over 10 years ago and present it again.
Gumbo has, of course, been a staple of south Louisiana cuisine for nearly 300 years and there are as many variations on it as there are cooks. While I learned from my mother who learned from hers, and my daughters are now learning from me, you can sample gumbos from each of us and you’ll discover no two taste the same. All true gumbo cooks put their own spin on their dish.
Gumbo is a true multi-cultural dish. While there are debates over its origins, there is no doubt that it contains strong influences from the French, African, Acadian and Native American cultures as well as lesser influences for the Spanish, Italian and even Germans.
There are two theories as to where the dish got its name. The most popular theory is that it originated from the West African word for okra, ki ngombo. The other theory is that it comes from the Choctaw word for sassafras, which is kombo. (filé powder, a common gumbo ingredient, is ground sassafras).
Gumbos start with a roux, a mixture of flour and oil employed by French cooks as early as the 14th century. Much of the thickness, color, and texture comes from the use of this flour and oil mixture. As for the rest, some cooks prefer to thicken with okra, some with filé.
I actually love to cook (it’s the cleaning up after part I hate!). I also like to experiment in the kitchen. I call it being creative. My less generous friends call it my inability to let well enough alone. <g> I especially like dishes that I can make a big batch of and freeze portions of for later use. The recipe below is one such.
For this version of gumbo, I’ve added a few extra elements to give it a little western twist (not entirely my idea – I saw the concept in a magazine and then added my own spin to it). As with any gumbo you can just use whatever meats you have on hand (For instance, it’s a great way to use leftover turkey from those upcoming holiday meals!)
So without further ado, here is my take on a Cowboy Gumbo
- 1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
- 2 tblsp flour
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped bell pepper
- 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
- 4 cups water
- 1 can (14-15 oz) diced tomatoes
- 1 can (6-8 oz) tomato paste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 lb sliced okra (sautéed with ½ teaspoon vinegar until ‘slime’ is gone)
- 4 lbs meat – you can get away with less but I like to be generous with the protein. Meats that work well in this gumbo are sausage (I like andouille sausage), deboned chicken or turkey, pork, or game meats. You can use any one of these or a combination of two or more
- Tobasco sauce or liquid crab boil to taste (optional)
- Use flour and oil or butter to make a roux.
Do this by combining them in a heavy saucepan and cooking over a low heat, stirring constantly until the mixtures is a medium brown color (about 10-15 minutes).
- Add garlic, onions, green onions, celery and bell peppers. Cook until tender
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes
- Add okra. Return to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for another twenty minutes.
- Remove bay leaves, skim excess oil, and serve over rice.
As you can probably guess, this makes a very large batch. Leftovers (if there are any!) can be frozen for later consumption.
So how about you? Do you like gumbo or do you have another favorite hearty dish for fall and winter?
It’s National Tortellini Day!
There’s a “National Day” for everything, it seems, right? But this one caught my eye because, well, who doesn’t love tortellini?
I don’t recall my mother ever making it. Being Italian, my family had plenty of pasta in our lives, but we were pretty much restricted to spaghetti, mostaccioli, macaroni, bow ties, and occasionally orzo. (Although, in fairness, grocery stores in my day were decidedly limited compared to the super-stores we shop at today,)
So I began wondering just how long has tortellini been around? Macaroni has been available in mercantiles throughout the west, and the noodles filled many a cowboy’s stomach, but something as fancy as tortellini?
Well, lo and behold, tortellini has been around a lo-ong time.
Legend claims that Tortellini was inspired by the goddess Venus’ navel. An Italian medieval legend tells how Venus and Zeus, weary one night after their involvement in a battle between Bologna and Modena, arrive at a tavern in a small town on the outskirts of Bologna. After eating a hearty dinner and becoming slightly drunk, they decide to share a bedroom. The innkeeper, captivated after watching them, creeps to their room and peeks through the keyhole of the bedroom door. However, all he can see through the keyhole is the navel of Venus. This vision leaves him spellbound – so much so that he immediately rushes to the kitchen and creates a pasta inspired by Venus’ navel…and so was born the Tortellini.
Cool, eh? Fun, fascinating, and true? Maybe. Maybe not.
It’s a legend, right? But I’ll bet you’ll always remember that tortellini was inspired by a famous goddess’ belly button! I know I will.
How about I share a super-simple and refreshing salad recipe?
Tortellini Caesar Salad
3 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb water
1 1/2 Tb vegetable oil
1 tsp anchovy paste
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1 close garlic, crushed
9 oz cheese tortellini, cooked, drained, and cooled
1 head lettuce, cut up
Plenty of FRESH grated parmesan cheese
Combine dressing ingredients and whisk well.
Place lettuce and tortellini in a large bowl. Toss in dressing and top with parmesan cheese.
**Note: I never make the dressing included in the recipe but use a good bottle of Caesar salad dressing. The above recipe is low in calories, but the dressing is what a salad is all about, right?
Happy National Tortellini Day!
How about you? Do you love legends? What’s your favorite? Robin Hood? Lady Godiva?
Do you love pasta? How do you prepare your tortellini?
Please share, and since Valentine’s Day is TOMORROW, I’ll send one of you who comments this gold, sparkly, heart-shaped bottle opener!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Have y’all been enjoying Jingle Jangle Spurs?
As most of you know, the fillies take the last two weeks off from the regular blogging schedule so we can enjoy the holidays, too. But we want to keep the festive spirit alive and let you know we’re still thinking of you. So every year, we try hard to stir up something fun for everyone.
I’m bringing up the tail end of Jingle Jangle Spurs, and even though Christmas is over, New Year’s is just around the corner. Have you ever wondered how the custom of ringing in the New Year with champagne or a lively cocktail began?
It’s said that after Julius Caesar fiddled with the pagan calendar and ultimately added January, he ordered Roman consuls to begin their new terms then. Hence, in addition to looking forward to the end of winter, the people heralded in some new politicians as well, and took up the opportunity to celebrate.
The practice of heralding the new year spread across Europe and eventually America in the 1800s. Settlers stayed awake until midnight firing their guns, setting off fireworks, and tolling church bells. Some even went door to door demanding drinks like spiked punch and lemonade, along with snacks. Can’t you just imagine the festive atmosphere with the air filled with noise and raucous (and maybe a little drunken) fun?
Later in the decade, champagne emerged as the cocktail of choice in society parties and fine restaurants. I suspect most of you reading this can recall lifting a glass of bubbly after 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve?
My husband and I don’t go out to celebrate like we used to, but I’d love to share my favorite Sangria recipe that’s easy to make, festive and LOW CALORIE to boot!
Even better, you don’t have to wait until New Year’s Eve to enjoy it.
1 750 ml bottle of white zinfadel wine (use red wine, if you prefer!)
1/4 cup orange liqueur like Cointreau
1 unpeeled orange, thinly sliced
1 unpeeled lime, thinly sliced
8 oz can pineapple chunks or slices, undrained
2 cups lime or lemon-lime seltzer, club soda or carbonated water, chilled
Combine all into large pitcher EXCEPT seltzer. Stir and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.
Add the chilled seltzer just before serving.
Wishing you all a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year!
I hope you had an amazing, beautiful, memorable, sweet Christmas!
Are you out hitting the after-Christmas sales today? Or maybe taking it easy, lingering over a leftover piece of pie and cup of spicy tea?
I’ve been thinking about these days that fall between Christmas and New Years. They were always such fun during my growing up years (and not just because I didn’t have to go to school!).
Both of my parents came from good-sized families and we were often the house that hosted one side or the other for Christmas Day.
Often, relatives who didn’t come for that year’s Christmas dinner would trickle in over the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, bringing fun surprises and joining in our outdoor fun of sledding or ice skating.
In particular, I remember a year when we hosted my mom’s side of the family for Christmas but all of Dad’s family came on New Year’s Day bringing a bounty of delicious treats and filling the house with laughter. My mom made a huge pot of chili and batches of gooey cinnamon rolls that were quickly devoured.
However you spend these last days of 2019, saying goodbye to the year and preparing to welcome in a new one, I hope they bring you great joy and a bounty of hope, grace, and love!
2 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tbsp. salt
1 cup melted butter
¼ cup cinnamon
1 cup sugar
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
3 tbsp. melted butter
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Scald the milk, oil and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat (bring heat to nearly a boil, but don’t let it boil!). Set aside and cool to lukewarm (think temperature of a baby’s bottle). Sprinkle yeast on top of milk and let rest for one minute.
Add four cups of the flour and stir until just combined. It is going to be sticky. Cover with a tea towel and set in a warm place for an hour.
Remove the towel and add baking powder, baking soda, salt and final 1/2 cup of flour. Stir to combine.
On a floured surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, somewhere in the proximity of 10 inches by 30 inches.
Pour melted butter over dough. Use your fingers or a knife to spread evenly. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. You can also mix cinnamon and sugar into the butter before pouring over dough. Either way works fine.
Beginning at the long end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly toward you. Use both hands and work slowly, keeping the roll nice and tight. Some filling may ooze out and that is OK (and give you something to snitch later.)
When you have the roll finished, pinch the outside edge of the roll to create a seam. You should now have a long log. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 1 1/2 inch slices. You should get about 25 rolls.
Spray a pan with non-stick cooking spray and place rolls in the pan. I like to use smaller pans and freeze them. If you want to give cinnamon rolls as a holiday gift, put them in disposable aluminum pans, then they are ready for gift giving!
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover the pans with a tea towel and set aside for about 20 minutes. Remove towel and bake for about 15 minutes or until rolls are golden brown. Do not overcook! While the rolls are baking, whip up the icing.
Mix the powdered sugar, butter, cream cheese, milk and vanilla in a bowl. Icing should be thick but pourable.
When the rolls come out of the oven, pour on the icing. Make sure you cover every last bit of roll. This step is vitally important for the overall happiness of your taste buds.
Put one on a plate, take a deep breath inhaling that decadent cinnamon aroma, and enjoy!
Today is the release day for the third book in my Gifts of Christmas series. If you’re looking for something new to read, I hope you’ll take a look at this sweet historical romance that can stand alone.
When their faith is tested
Will Christmas bring a miracle?
Handsome and engaging, Marc Rawlings could have his choice of girls, but he only has eyes for gentle Amy Madsen. Ready to begin a future with her, he instead asks her to wait for him while he heads off to war. Bound by his duty to his country, Marc leaves his heart with her, counting on the day they’ll be reunited.
Amy Madsen spends her days working in her family’s bakery and her nights gazing up at the sky, hoping her fiancé knows she’s thinking of him. When tragic news arrives, Amy refuses to believe it, clinging to her promises to Marc and her faith that he’ll return to her.
It will take a miracle and a unique gift of faith to bring a happy holiday during a wartime Christmas in 1942.
Gift of Faith is the third book in the Gifts of Christmas series, a collection of heartwarming, wholesome historical romances, featuring precious gifts given straight from the heart.
I enjoy baking, but I rarely make the time for it. Except at Christmas. I still don’t do a lot of baking, but I always make at least a few yummy goodies to have on hand. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without cookies.
Growing up, we would go to my grandparents house for Christmas every year. I have so many wonderful memories of playing games with my cousins, singing carols, playing Skipbo (once I was old enough to join the adult card table – BIG moment in my life – ha!), and finding the delicious treats Grandmother had strategically placed around the house. My favorite was the shortbread hidden under a covered pink glass dish in the living room. It was such a simple cookie. Dry yet sweet. No special flavoring. A simple sheet cut into rectangle fingers. I loved it!
Strangely enough, I never tried baking it myself until about 5 years ago. Now it is a Christmas staple. The perfect cookie to have with hot tea while curling up with a fun Christmas read.
Shortbread Christmas Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pre-heat over to 350. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter and sugar. Add vanilla. In a medium bow, sift together flour and salt. Add to butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined. Form dough in your hands and mold into 2 flat disks. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Roll dough 1/2 inch thick and cut into shapes. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Karen’s tip: Instead of rolling dough out on a floured surface to cut into shapes, since this dough is already dry, it is much better (and easier) to roll the dough onto a piece of wax paper. Lay a piece the plastic wrap you covered the dough in earlier over the top and roll dough between the plastic wrap and wax paper. No additional flour is needed. I do dip my cookie cutters in flour, however, before cutting the dough to prevent sticking.
This year I decided to cut my cookies into cute mini Christmas shapes. These are my guilt-free cookie bites. And they are just adorable!
I sent a batch to my publishing house as a thank you to my publishing team, and I saved a selection in my secret kitchen stash.
If you make these mini cookies, reduce baking time to 15 minutes.
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas! May you have lots of yummy goodies to enjoy along with great Christmas stories to read.
I spent my growing up years in an area where row crops were every bit as prevalent as wheat and hay fields.
One of the most popular row crops (next to onions) happens to be potatoes. Some of our neighbors grew acres and acres of them. One year, as a fundraising project for our senior class, we went and picked up all the “cull” potatoes from their field and sold them for something like a $1 per bag by going door to door in our small town. That was not the most fun any 17-year-old ever had.
I also just happened to grow up in the same valley where one famous potato company started and continues today, known as Ore-Ida.
If you’ve ever stood in the freezer section at your grocery store and looked at the selection of frozen tater tots, French fries, or hash browns, you’ve probably seen Ore-Ida potatoes with their trademark red bag and distinctive logo.
Ore-Ida is currently produced and distributed by the H.J. Heinz Company, now part of Kraft Heinz. The primary production facility for Ore-Ida is located in the community of Ontario, Oregon, that sits right on the border between Oregon and Idaho. The company once employed more than 1,000 people, but today has around 600 employees.
Back in the mid-1930s, entrepreneurs and brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg began growing sweet corn in eastern Oregon. Their first company, Grigg Brothers, became one of the largest distributors of sweet corn in the United States.
Then, in 1949, with financial backing from their brother-in-law Otis Williams, the brothers rented a frozen food plant located in Ontario, at the border with Idaho, and converted it into a potato-processing facility. The three men purchased the facility in the early 1950s. In 1952, Oregon Frozen Foods Company was founded.
Initially, the company produced and sold frozen corn and French fries. In 1953, Tater Tots were invented and patented by Ore-Ida. The tots were made from seasoned slivers of potatoes left over from the French fry production. (Oddly enough, Tater Tots are the brand’s most popular product).
The company went on to build a second plant in Burley, Idaho, where many of their potato fields were located. The company’s name became a syllabic abbreviation of the two states where they ran the companies and the original logo consisted of outlines of Oregon and Idaho with Ore-Ida superimposed in italicized letters.
Ore-Ida was acquired by the H.J. Heinz Company in 1965. Ore-Ida’s headquarters were located in Boise, Idaho, until 1999 when a new frozen foods division was created at Heinz’s corporate headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
So the next time you reach into the freeze for a bag of fries or tots, you’ll know a little history of the company of you bought the Ore-Ida brand.
Of course, I have to share a recipe with you today. This one includes Tater Tots and is easy to whip together for a fast meal.
Tater Tot Casserole
2 pounds of ground beef
1 package of Ore-Ida Tater Tots
1 cup shredded colby-jack cheese (or cheddar)
1 tsp. onion flakes (or grated fresh onion)
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon seasoning (like Mrs. Dash)
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place tater tots into a 9 x 13 casserole pan (I lightly spray mine with non-stick spray first) and set in the oven while you brown the ground beef. I add the onion flakes, seasoning and salt and pepper to the ground beef. When the hamburger is browned, mix it with the cream of mushroom soup and spoon over the top of the tater tots. Layer on cheese and cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes or until soup is hot and bubbly. Remove foil and bake for a few more minutes until cheese is a melted layer of luscious gooey-ness. Remove from oven and serve. I like to sprinkle the top of my casserole with a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Captain Cavedweller likes his straight up “without any of that weird green stuff on there.”
What is your favorite fast or easy dinner recipe using potatoes?
Stop in later to see if your name has been added to the list of semi-finalists!
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