Celebrating Holiday Traditions

During my growing up years, the holiday traditions in my family were part of what made the Christmas season so wonderful.

The first tradition came Thanksgiving evening. My sister and I would haul out leftover Christmas wrapping paper from the previous year, cut strips and glue them together into a paper chain. It hung on the fireplace in our living room and we took turns removing the paper links, counting down the days until Christmas.

On the second Saturday in December, regardless of the weather, we piled into four-wheel drive vehicles and headed to the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. A few times, my dad and brothers took advantage of being up there to cut a big truck load of wood. Other times, they brought the snowmobiles and zoomed around the mountains in search of the perfect tree. One of my favorite tree-hunting adventures was the year my oldest brother brought an assortment of soda pop and made snow cones. The craziest expedition to the woods would be a tie between the year the snow was so deep, only Dad, brother #2, and me were brave enough to make the trip. I think I was eleven that year and the snow was so deep, Dad couldn’t get off the road. Since everyone else was smart enough to stay home where it was safe and warm, he parked on the road and we waded (the snow was waist deep on me!) to the first tree we could find and cut it. The second crazy trip was the year I had a broken foot. Instead of staying home like a normal, sensible person, I pulled on three pairs of Dad’s wool socks over my cast, wrapped it in a garbage bag, and went along for the fun. When the cast came off in mid-January, it was full of pine needles. Huh! Wonder how those got in there!

Mom had a big box of Christmas decorations she got out as soon as the tree was set up in the living room. If I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath, I can almost smell the scent of bayberry that lingered in the box and wafted out each year when it was opened.

We always sent Christmas cards ( a tradition I’ve also kept each year).

One family tradition my grandma passed to my mom and she passed to me is making holiday goodies. Grandma made the best fudge with Hershey’s bars. My mom made so many yummy treats like divinity, peanut brittle, hand-dipped chocolates, and toffee. I tend to make more cookies than candy for sharing during the holiday season, but each creation is baked with love.

I loved to bake when I was a kid and received my first Easy Bake oven when I was 5. That was a great Christmas. I remember whipping up something to give to my grandma who had come to stay with us for the holiday. Experimenting with recipes was something I did, and still do, enjoy. It was this love of experimenting that led me on a quest for the best sugar cookie when I was in my early teens. It had to be soft and moist, light and flavorful. After many, many trials and errors, I came up with this recipe that never fails to deliver soft, delicious cookies. I’ve been baking it every Christmas since I was 17!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of lemon juice

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups flour

Frosting

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix dry ingredients together and gradually add into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Generously flour a flat surface and your rolling pin. Scoop out half the dough and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. You want to work fairly quickly at this point because the warmer the dough gets the stickier it becomes and you don’t want to add more flour. Cut into shapes and bake about 6-8 minutes or until cookies are just set. You do not want them to get brown at all. Cool in pan for one minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate then watch them disappear.

You can use a royal icing if you are of a mind to stir up a batch or, if you are a lazy slug like me, I whip out a can of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting and frost away. I also like to use decorator gels, especially the sparkly variety, along with sprinkles!

NOTE: If you are in a rush, you can press the dough into a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the edges are just barely starting to brown. Remove from oven, cool, frost, and cut into bars.

 

Gingerbread Bars

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 ¼ cup butter, softened

1 ¼ cups packed light-brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 bag white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 17×12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment cut to fit and coat parchment with spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and spices.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and molasses. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Store in an airtight container.

 

The first time I tasted these, my taste buds did cartwheels. My aunt made them for a holiday gathering and I probably ate far more than my share, but they were so good. When she shared the recipe with me, I started making them every year for Christmas. They were one of my mom’s favorite treats!

Nut Goodie Bars

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag butterscotch chips

1 bag peanut butter chips

1 large bag mini marshmallows

1 small can (about 1 1/2 cups) cocktail peanuts

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and set aside. In a large microwave safe bowl, mix chips. Microwave 45 seconds. Stir. Continue heating in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until chips are melted. Stir well. Mix in peanuts and marshmallows then spread in casserole dish. Let cool and cut into bars.

 

 

As 2021 comes to an end and we look forward to a new year with anticipation, I thank you for reading our blogs, commenting on our stories, cheering us on, and offering encouragement and friendship. Here’s to a fabulous 2022! May it bring you happiness, health, and abundant blessings and love!
Happy New Year!

 

 

Christmas Time Sweets!

My great gift as a cook is……….easy.

I’ve actually written a cookbook and published it on Amazon. A fact I forget quite often but it just occurred to me now.

Faster Than Fast Food

This title is true unless you have a McDonalds right on the way. Still, they’re fast.

Here are some of the Christmas sweets…maybe they’re in the book. I forget.

CANDY

Connealy Crunch

2 pound package Almond Bark (melted)

Melt in microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Melt 1 ½ minutes. That should be enough. You might need slightly longer. Almond bark doesn’t lose its shape when it melts so you have to stir it to see if it’s enough. Add:

3 C. Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal

3 C. miniature marshmallows

3 C. Rice Krispies

3 C. mixed nuts

Spread out on waxed paper. Let cool. Break into bite sized pieces

Baby Ruth Bars

½ C. white sugar

½ C. brown sugar

1 C. white syrup

Mix together in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute. Add:

1 C. peanut butter

Mix thoroughly. Pour over:

6 C. cornflakes

1 C. peanuts

Press into 9 x 13 pan.

Frosting:

1 C. chocolate chips

1 C. butterscotch chips

Melt in microwave. 1 ½ minutes, then stir. 1 minute then stir. Should be enough.

Spread over cornflake mixture.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

3 quarts popped popcorn

1 ½ C. peanuts (optional. I prefer no peanuts. I think the microwave is hard on them)

Pick out unpopped kernels as best you can to avoid extensive breaking of teeth. Put popcorn in large brown paper sack. Set aside.

1 C. brown sugar

½ C. butter ¼ C. white syrup

½ t. salt

Microwave 3 – 4 minutes. Stir each minute until it boils. Cook 2 minutes more. Add:

½ t. baking soda – stir

Pour over popcorn, shake, microwave on high 1 ½ minutes. Shake. Microwave 1 ½ minutes more. Shake.

Holiday wreaths

1/3 C. butter

10 ounces marshmallows

Microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Microwave again 1 ½ minutes. Continue until smooth. Add:

1 t. green food coloring

Add:

6 C. cornflakes (crushed)

Wet hands work as well as buttered hands to prevent sticking. Roll into balls. Poke thumb through center or make snakes and form a circle. (Balls work better) Decorate with red hots.

 These four recipes will keep you cooking for like…a half hour!

These recipes, the caramel corn is by far the most work.

Merry Christmas!

Coming next week, more Christmas fun!!!

A country Christmas wreath.

 

 

Meal-In-A-Loaf

Hello, Winnie Griggs here. The other day I was going through my old recipe files as I’m gradually digitizing them. Some of these were handed down from my mom, slipped to me by friends or relatives, or developed by me over time. Just reading through the creased and food-stained notes had me reminiscing over my childhood an early married life – I’d never realized how foods could be so deeply associated with comforting memories.

Today I thought I share one of those with you – a hearty, perfect-for-Fall recipe called Meal-In-A-Loaf.

First of all, since most of these rcipes are more than twenty years old, they come from a time when I was a working mother with four youngsters and a 45 minute commute to and from the office. In those days time was always at a premium (but isn’t it always!). So when it came to meals I took advantage of the weekends and my great big freezer. I’d cook up meals like soups, gumbos, and one-dish casseroles in double or triple sized batches so I could freeze part of it to prepare for a future meal. I would also cook large batches of what I called my meat base.

Ground beef dishes – whether cooked up in a casserole, tacos, chili or spaghetti – were big hits around my house – not only with the diners but with this cook.  However, I’ve always found having to deal with browning and draining the meat itself to be time consuming and something of a hassle.  So I got in the habit of getting that prep work out of the way ahead of time, during one of my not-too-frequent down times.

This is how I do that .

  • Place 5 lbs of lean ground beef and 1 lb of ground pork in a large pot and cook until browned
  • Drain then return to pot with a little water or stock
  • Add seasonings such as chopped onions, green onions, peppers and celery – this varies based on what I have on hand and what mood I’m in. Sometimes I just use Sloppy Joe mix.
  • Continue cooking, adding liquid as needed, until seasonings are tender and flavors are well blended.
  • If I haven’t used Sloppy Joe mix, I’ll add some tomato sauce and cook a little longer
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool
  • Then I separate the batch into six individual one pound portions and freeze them until I’m ready to use one or more in a favorite recipe

Now, on to the recipe I promised you

Meal-In-A-Loaf

Ingredients

  • 1 large unsliced French or Italian bread loaf
  • 1 pound meat mixture, thawed
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup, undiluted (Note: I will sometimes take a can of Rotel tomatoes and chili peppers, drained and substitute it in for half of the soup)
  • A large dollop of sour cream (I don’t measure, I just plop it in)
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite cheese, shredded

Directions

  • Heat meat and soup together in a saucepan. Just before you remove it from the stove, stir in the sour cream, mixing well
  • Slice the bread loaf lengthwise, making sure the bottom portion is slightly larger than the one on top
  • Scoop out both halves of the sliced loaf, leaving a roughly 1/2 – 3/4 inch shell
  • Break about 1/2 of scooped-out bread into bite-sized portions and stir into warm meat mixture.
  • Spoon meat and bread mixture into the bottom portion of the hollowed loaf, allowing it to ‘mound’ above the top of the bowl
  • Sprinkle the shredded cheese evenly over the top
  • Cover with the top portion of the bread shell
  • Wrap loosely in foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes

To serve, unwrap the loaf and cut it into serving-sized slices.  This will make 8-10 servings, depending on the size of loaf and thickness of slices.

NOTE: I sometimes stir in taco seasoning to change it up a bit

That’s it – Enjoy!

Do you have any meal prep or planning shortcuts of your own to offer?  And if you have any quick and easy recipes of your own, especially one that would utilize this pre-cooked meat mix, share!

Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for winner’s choice of any book from my backlist.

 

 

Strawberry Shortcake

Growing up, we always had an abundance of strawberries during the summer months. My mom made strawberry shortcake at least once a week.

Now, I know everyone has their own take on what “shortcake” should mean. Some people like to use biscuits. Others a sponge cake. Some might go for angel food cake. For me, it means the baked-from-scratch white cake Mom made only when she served it with strawberries.

At the end of a long, hot, hard day of working on the farm, a serving of that shortcake soaking up sweet strawberry juice and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream was a little bite of summer heaven.

Even the few years my brother decided to grow strawberries and sell them in town (and roped me into picking them way too early in the mornings), those berries still tasted so good.

My dad liked to say the variety of berry, Ogallala, might not make the biggest berries, but they were the sweetest. I had to agree.

The Ogallala is known as one of the hardiest strawberries because they can handle both cold temperatures and drought. After the first year, they are a heavy producer, spreading out runners and falling in the category of everbearing (meaning they’ll bear fruit all summer).

According to the information I found, 25 years of research and testing by the North Platte Experiment Station and the Cheyenne Horticultural Field Station went into developing this strawberry which debuted in the 1950s. Created by Dr. LeRoy Powers, the Ogallala combines Rocky Mountain wild strawberry with cultivated varieties of Fairfax, Midland, and Rockhill.  The result: big husky plants with abundant dark green foliage and deep red berries that are red all the way to the center. The leaves make finding the berries a bit of a challenge, but helps protect against bird damage, hot winds, and unseasonable frost.

All I knew as a kid was how good those berries tasted. Mom would make jam so we could enjoy that delicious summer flavor all winter long. And sometimes, if she was in a rush, instead of making shortcake, she’d simply roll out a pie crust, sprinkle it with sugar, and bake it on a cookie sheet. Then we’d break off pieces of the crust, layer berries and ice cream on top, and savor the wonderful treat.

A few years ago, I was craving those sweet berries of my childhood, not the big, flavorless things we so often find at the grocery store. Of course, when my parents sold the farm, they didn’t bring along any of the berry plants to their new place. So I started searching for them online.

When I finally found a nursery that sold them, I decided to order 20 plants. I figured if even half of them survived, that would be plenty for Captain Cavedweller and me to enjoy. When they arrived, they were the most pathetic looking starts you’ve ever seen. They looked more like shriveled little sticks than hearty root stock. But I planted them – in between the roses that line the fence along our driveway. I was sure none of the plants would grow. The first year, they didn’t do much, but the following spring, gorgeous leaves unfurled and soon we were picking sweet, juicy berries that took my back to my childhood days on the farm.

And this summer, it looks like we’re going to get a bumper crop of berries with berry plants coming up everywhere. Yum! I can hardly wait to make shortcake just like Mom used to serve! (Right after I trim back all those runners!)

Strawberry Shortcake

¾ cup sugar

½ cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flour

4-5 cups of strawberries

½ cup sugar

Vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and baking powder, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together ¾ cup sugar and butter, then add egg and vanilla extract. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk to the bowl until batter is well blended.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 baking pan and bake until the top is a light, golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Cool completely.

Remove stems from strawberries, wash and hull them, then place in a large serving bowl.  Mom always used a potato masher to break them down a little. You don’t want to pulverize them like you would if you were making jam, just mash them enough they get good and juicy and break into nice little pieces. Stir in ½ cup of sugar until sugar dissolves, then let rest for at least 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, cut slices of cake, top with strawberries and a scoop of ice cream.

~*~

Do you have a favorite childhood dessert

you enjoyed in the summer?

Or a favorite dessert you look forward to

making during the summer months? 

Post your answer for a chance to win a copy of Farm Girl, a collection of humorous stories from my childhood years.

 

 

A Little History, a Margarita Recipe, and a Giveaway!

When I realized my post fell on Cinco de Mayo, I wondered how the day became such a big United States celebration. Okay, I hear those who remember I live in Texas saying, “You’re just asking this now?” Yes, I should’ve researched this sooner having lived in Texas over 35 years, but as my father said, I was born two weeks late and have been late ever since!

The first thing I discovered, that celebrating Cinco de Mayo is primarily a US festivity, surprised me. I also mistakenly thought some that the day commemorated Mexico’s independence from Spain. (This occurred on September 16, 1821.) What Cinco de Mayo originally celebrated was 1862 Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. On that day, Mexican peasants with South Texas and Rio Grande Valley vaqueros led by Goliad, Texas, born General Ignacio Zaragosa defended forts in Puebla. Though poorly trained, short on ammunition, weapons, and artillery, they defeated the French.

In 1864, Mexican American associations in California organized an event to memorialize the battle. To these people, the win was a symbol of Mexican pride and hope for freedom over tyranny. Soon after, communities in South Texas started commemorating the day. Newspapers from the 1880s and 1890s contained stories on Cinco de Mayo celebrations in San Antonio, Laredo, and El Paso. In the 1960s Goliad created the General Zaragoza State Historic Site in Goliad State Park. In 1973 the town held Fiesta Zaragoza which included music, ballet folklórico performances, and a barbecue cookoff. (After all, this was Texas!) In 1980 Puebla gifted Goliad with a statue for their historic site, and in 1990, the Texas Senate declared Goliad the “official place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.”

As to how Cinco de Mayo has become the huge event it is today in the US? Part of the reason could be because as some claim winning the Battle of Puebla, slowed Napoleon III’s taking of Mexico and installing Maximilian I, and prevented the French’s involvement in the US Civil War on the Confederate’s side. But most agree the celebration’s huge popularity is due to marketing folks realizing the day’s potential.

Tonight if you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and toast General Zaragoza and the bravery of those Texans that fought with him against the French but aren’t big on crowds, here’s my dear hubby’s margarita recipe.

          Into a shaker with ice, place the following:

          1 shot Tequila

          1/2 shot orange liqueur such as Triple Sec

          1/2 shot Fresh squeezed lime juice

          1/2 shot Simple Syrup (Make by bringing equal parts of sugar and water to a boil and cooling.)

          Shake well. Strain into a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt (optional).

Note: You can make a margarita mix to store in the fridge by mixing equal parts of fresh lime juice and simple syrup.

As an extra bonus, here’s my hubby’s great fajita recipe to go with the margaritas. The meat is also super in quesadillas.

Fajitas

INGREDIENTS

1  lb skirt steak

2  limes

1  pkg tortillas

Rub

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp cumin

1 tsp coarse salt

1 tsp coriander

1 Tbl chili powder

DIRECTIONS

Sprinkle meat with tenderizer. Combine dry ingredients to make the rub. Apply the rub to the meat, let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle meat with fresh lime juice. Refridgerate 30-60 minutes covered. Grill on high heat for 6-8 minutes per side. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice against the grain.

To be entered in today’s giveaway of a margarita car air freshener, car coasters  (they also fit in my couch’s cup holders), and a copy of The Rancher and the Vet leave a comment about your favorite Mexican dish, dessert, or cocktail. My favorite is a tie between sopapillas and flan!

DID COWBOYS EAT CHICKEN FRIED STEAK? by Cheryl Pierson

Many years ago when my mother-in-law came to visit us in Oklahoma all the way from her native West Virginia, the thing she loved best about my home state was CHICKEN FRIED STEAK! Mom had never had it before, and it never dawned on me that someone might not have ever eaten that wonderful delicacy. When we took her out to eat, she asked “What’s the best thing on the menu?” I told her “Chicken Fried Steak.” We both ordered it. I don’t think she ordered anything else the entire time she stayed with us–around 10 days, after I had my first baby–whenever we went out to eat after she tasted Chicken Fried Steak. 
 
I wonder if cowboys ever ate this? I know they ate a lot of beans and so on, but gosh, I really think this had to come from the trail drives or ranches “back in the day”–it is WONDERFUL. It’s one of the foods that’s common, and that we are known for in this part of the USA.  In fact, it’s part of the official STATE MEAL OF OKLAHOMA, as of 1988! (WHO KNEW?) My mom never made it often, but maybe it was because she knew if she did, it would be all I’d ever want to eat
 
I found this great recipe online for Chicken Fried Steak BITES that looks wonderful–whether you’re entertaining or just want something different and good for yourself and family members. 
 
 
Chicken Fried Steak Bites 
 
Prep Time: 10 minutes 
Cook Time: 25 minutes 
Cooking Level: Intermediate 
 
The secret to true “chicken fried steak” is frying beef in cooking oil that was previously used to fry chicken. If you use fresh oil, it is considered “country fried” with less authentic flavor. The same batter recipe and method we’ve given below can be used to fry up some chicken breasts for lunch before cooking for the party for improved pre-party satisfaction. 
 
Fried Steak:
 
Ingredients 
 
• 2 lb. cube steak, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces 
• 4 cups canola oil Batter 
• 1/2 cup milk 
• 1 egg 
• 2 cups all-purpose flour 
• 1-1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt 
• 2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper 
 
Directions 
 
1. Prepare a paper towel-lined plate for finished steak pieces and set aside. 
2. Heat oil in a deep cast iron skillet over high heat until the temperature reaches 350F, then reduce to medium. Note: if not using a thermometer, test the temperature of the oil by sticking the end of a bamboo skewer into it. When the indicated temperature range is reached, the end of the bamboo will sizzle, then reduce heat to medium. 
3. In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg and milk for batter until well mixed. 
4. In a shallow dish such as a pie plate, combine the dry batter ingredients well. 
5. Dredge each piece of steak in flour mixture, dip into the egg mixture, the roll in flour mixture again to coat well. 
6. Shake off excess flour, then place into the hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. 
7. Remove cooked pieces to plate and allow to rest for 2 minutes before serving. 
 
Gravy:
 
Ingredients
 
• 2 tablespoons bacon drippings 
• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
• 3/4 teaspoon salt 
• 3/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper 
• 3-1/2 cups whole milk 
 
Directions
 
1. Melt bacon grease in an 8-inch iron skillet over medium heat. 
2. Brown the flour in the bacon grease along with the salt, and pepper, whisking constantly until golden in color, about 5-7 minutes. 
3. Gradually add 3 cups of milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent curdling. Add more milk as necessary to keep from becoming too thick. 
4. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. 
 
Tip: Gravy can be made ahead of time and refrigerated overnight or frozen. Allow to defrost overnight in fridge before use, and heat slowly in the microwave stirring at 30-second intervals or over low heat on the stovetop. Add more milk as necessary to achieve desired consistency. 
 
 
I will definitely be making this, and it looked so great I just had to share. I’m thinking my cowboy ancestors must have had this delectable dish many times! 

Holiday Dip Recipe

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.

The ingredients are simple and few.
 
 
You start by draining the pickles on paper towels. It’s important they are dry and not overly juicy.
 
Then you just chop them into little bits of pickle-y goodness.
 
Stir in the remaining ingredients, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour (but overnight is even better because the flavors have time to blend).
 
And enjoy!
 
Ingredients:
2 cups of Nalley Dill hamburger chips, drained and blotted dry
2-3 tablespoons pickle juice
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
 
Directions:
Drain juice from pickles, set aside. Place pickles on paper towels, blotting dry (if they aren’t dry, your dip will be runny). Pulse them in the food processor to chop or chop by hand.
Mix pickles, sour cream, mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce. Slowly add pickle juice until dip is a good consistency. The more juice you add, the better the pickle flavor – just don’t overdo or you’ll have runny dip.
Serve with potato chips or crackers.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups of dip.

Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with joy, health, success, and blessings!

Christmas Crispies

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!

Easy Tex Mex Baked Eggs

Holiday Greetings!

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.

Serves 6.

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!

Cheers,

Jeannie

Let’s Talk Gumbo – With a Cowboy Twist

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 

Ingredients: 

  • 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)

 

Directions:

  • 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?