Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sour Cream Walnut Bread

I am lucky enough to have a family that is very proud of it's heritage.  As a result, I know quite a bit of my lineage (there may be rumors of French royalty, in your face!).  I also have quite a few recipes from family members who are long gone.  These recipes use phrases like "a good amount" or "in a warm oven".  I'm sure back in the day, everyone knew what this meant.  Unfortunately, not so much now.
For our family cookbook, my Aunt Anne translated a couple of these recipes and last night I made one.  Holy Cow!  It is really good.  Now I want to look through the old recipes and translate more to try!  In the meantime, here is what I made last night.  It is a quick bread that is slightly sweet and beautifully nutty.  It is amazing with a little butter smeared on it.  I am thinking of whipping up a maple cinnamon butter to go with it next time...

Sour Cream Walnut Bread
1 egg
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. sour cream
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. walnuts

Combine the egg, sugar and sour cream in a large bowl (I also added a splash of vanilla, cinnamon would be yummy too).

Whisk this together.  This is what I love about old school recipes.  These women didn't have a Kitchen Aid mixer so they are all made to be mixed by hand and they can be thrown together easily without hauling out the power tools.

I put my walnuts in the food processor and pulverize them because I do not like big chunks of nuts in food, but I like the flavor.  If you do this be careful not to process them too long or you will have nut butter.  If you do like big nuts, (I heard what you just thought, and you have a dirty mind)  chop them by hand.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Add half the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture and blend.

Add the other half of the flour mixture and stir until mixed completely.

Fold in the nuts

and spread the batter in a well greased loaf pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.  You will be tempted to take it out sooner.  DON'T!  It is not done and the center will collapse and you will have to put it back in the oven to finish cooking and then cool it upside down to try to get the center to pop back up.  That's what I heard anyway.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mondays With the Maid

If you are a mother or wife, chances are real good you are also the maid.  I don't mind really.  I am a little OCD and my husband is a little not OCD.  To him, doing laundry means washing clothes and drying clothes.  All of them.  Mixed together.  On high heat so it is done efficiently.  Luckily I learned this about him very early on while we lived separately and before he could ruin an expensive bra, or cause jean depression (we have all suffered needlessly from this ailment caused by jeans being put in the dryer).  Cleaning house means moving everything to a different spot where no one will see it, including me.  As a result of this (as well as the fact that he works like, sixty hours a week and I work like, eighteen),  I am the maid.

Little known fact: I was previously married.  It did not go well (hence the previously).  After the divorce, a good Samaritan left this book
on my mothers porch.  I'm sure this anonymous donor was someone I knew who may or may not have critiqued my mother's housekeeping skills... ass.

The book did not have it's intended effect, as my mother and I laughed and continue to laugh about it to this day.  I kept the book because it is full of good ideas (and some comical ones), and I keep the book (and enjoy it) out of spite.  I have found it extremely gratifying to enjoy things simply out of spite.  Try it sometime, you might be surprised how enjoyable it can be.

I have decided to continue my spiting (I was surprised it was a word too!) of this someone who may have also critiqued my housekeeping skills (and I'm sure is positive I currently live in squalor) by starting Monday's with the maid.  I will share tips from the book my mother received as a gift (snort).  Sometimes they will be good and sometimes they will be laughable.  I will also share things I have learned along my housekeeping journey (Do you know how to get Sharpie out of carpet?  I do.).  Next Monday I will introduce you to the best cleaning product I have ever used.  Period.  You should check it out.  I bet you will be shocked and use it everywhere just to see if it will work... and it will.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken Fried Steak with Brown Gravy

I love to cook, but even those of us who enjoy spending hours in the kitchen need some quick and easy recipes.  This is quick and easy as well as family friendly (we all know this means our husbands will eat it, the kids are not really the issue). 
Chicken fried steak was not something I ever had as a kid.  Probably because my dad wouldn't have eaten it (see!).  As an adult, I battled vegetarianism.  When I was pregnant with my second child (a boy) I became a raging carnivore.  This of course made my husband love me more than ever (not the fact I was growing him a son, the fact that I made beef, like, all the time).  It was during this time, I discovered chicken fried steak.  It was easy and meaty and my daughter could smother it in A-1 (she is always looking for things to drown in that stuff). 
So if you are looking for a simple and easy steak(ish) dinner try this sometime.  I'm positive the man in your life will love you more than ever once you make it.

Chicken Fried Steak
1-1/2 c. flour
1 Tbsp. seasoned salt
1 tsp. pepper
4 cube steaks
4 Tbsp. oil
2 Tbsp. butter
2-1/2 c. low sodium beef broth

Mix the flour, seasoned salt and pepper together in a shallow dish (I use a pie plate).

Dredge the steaks in the flour mixture and let rest on a plate for 5-10 minutes.  You will notice as they sit, that the flour starts to absorb the juice from the steak and the steaks get damp again.  This is when I dredge mine a second time.  This gives them more crunchy coating.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering and add the steaks to the pan.  After a few minutes they will be nice and brown on the bottoms and the tops will look like this.  Flip them over and give them about 5 minutes on the other side.  If they are browning really fast, turn the heat down.

While the steaks are frying, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Dump in about 3 Tbsp. of the flour mixture you dredges the steaks in and whisk together.  It will get kind of pasty.

Add in the broth in small amounts, whisking after each addition until smooth until you have added all the broth.

Heat the gravy to a boil and then turn the heat down low to keep it hot until the steaks are done.

Look at that!  The steaks are done!  Put the steaks on a paper towel lined plate to let the extra oil soak off for a minute

then serve immediately with gravy (and, as I prefer, mashed potatoes).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Canning 101

I decided to post a tutorial/recipe on some lime marmalade I just made because before you know it, all the goodness of summer will be here and I will be canning all kinds of jams and jellies along with beans, tomatoes and who knows what else.  I figured it would be nice to ease you in to the canning thing because it can be kind of intimidating. 
Jams and jellies (and marmalades) are the easiest thing to can because you do not need a pressure cooker.  The acid and sugar in the mixture kills off anything hazardous so all you have to do is pour the boiling hot mix into freshly cleaned jars, screw on the lids and flip them over for a minute (this heats the rubber seal to soften it so the jars will seal properly). 
You will find tons of recipes inside the box of Sure Jellto try, but no recipe for anything lime.  As we have established, I LOVE lime, so naturally I had to devise a recipe.  It is an easy intro into canning, and you need to be ready because we will be doing a LOT of it this summer.  So get ready, put on your big girl panties and lets go!

Lime Marmalade
What you need:
5-6 limes
1-1/4 c. water
2-3/4 c. sugar
1/2 pkg. Sure-Jell
1/16 tsp. baking soda
4 jelly jars with rings
4 new lids

What you do:
Wash and dry the limes.  You will need about1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups of zest, fruit and juice, so overestimate the amount of fruit you will need.  I used 6 decent sized limes and had the perfect amount (not sure how I managed that).

Zest all the limes into a bowl.  This sucks, I'm not gonna lie, but it is a great tricep workout (the fact that I think this is a workout explains a lot).

I even love the color of limes.

Fruit nudists.

Now you will peel and segment the naked limes.  Start by cutting a little off each end.  This will give you a sturdy lime.

Turn the lime on one end and use a sharp knife to cut off all the peel, being careful to leave as much fruit as possible behind.

Continue around until you have removed all the white pith.

Now cut out each segment.  Using a sharp knife, cut right beside one of the white segment dividers (I'm sure they have a name, clearly I don't know what that is).

Then cut along the inside of the divider directly across the segment.

This will give you all fruit with no membrane.  The pith and membrane of limes is VERY bitter so be sure to cut out just the fruit.

Once you remove all the segments, squeeze the pulp you have left, getting as much juice as possible out.

Repeat with the rest of the limes.

Add the fruit, juice and zest to the water and soda in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until reduced to about 2 cups.
While the fruit is cooking, get everything ready for the canning.  Start by washing the jars, rings and lids in hot soapy water.  Rinse well and dry.

It is VERY important to have everything ready before you start when you are canning.  Once you start, you cannot stop.  Set out the jars, lids and rings along with the amount of sugar you need already measured out, a ladle, stirring spoon, canning funnel, trivet, damp rag and Sure-Jell.  I set everything up on a towel because it can get sticky and you can throw a towel in the washer.

Lets make some marmalade!  Combine exactly 2 cups of fruit with the Sure-Jell (remember to only use 1/2 pack) in a large pot.

It is a good idea to use a much larger pot than you need.  You will be cooking this at a full rolling boil which can splatter so it is nice to have extra pot space between you and screaming hot sugar.

Before you start to heat the fruit, put the lids in a bowl with very hot water to get let the seals to soften a little while you make the marmalade.

The pictures of the actual cooking were a little tricky, so I apologize they all look like they were from Brigadoon.  Heat the fruit and Sure-Jell mixture over high heat to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  This means that even when stirring, it is still bubbling violently.

Dump in the sugar all at once and bring back to a full rolling boil.

Boil for exactly 1 minute.

Remove from heat to the trivet and immediately begin filling the jars.  A canning funnel makes this much easier and neater.  I found mine at Walmart for a couple of bucks.

Fill the jars to the bottom of the threads.

Quickly wipe the lip and threads of each filled jar with a damp cloth.

Top each jar with a dried lid and screw on a band.

Flip the jars upside down for about 10 minutes, then flip back right side up.

Make sure your rings are still on tight and let sit at room temperature 24 hours.  As the jars cool, you may hear a popping sound when the buttons on the top of each lid pop down and seal.  After 24 hours, run your finger across the top of each jar to be sure the button is down.  If a jar did not seal, put it in the fridge and use it first.  I have never had this happen and if you follow the directions, odds are you will not have this problem either.  Remove the screw bands on the sealed jars, and store in a cool spot until ready to use.  Once opened, store in the fridge.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chile Cheese Stuffed Cornbread

This is what I made to go with my Tex-Mex Bean Soup.  It is soooooooo good.  You could stuff cornbread with so many things, but chiles, cheese and corn seemed like a good compliment to my soup.  You could try substituting jalapenos and cheddar, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella or try a lightly sweetened cornbread stuffed with cranberries, cream cheese and pecans.  I might have to try that one.  I will let you know how it goes.

Chile Cheese Stuffed Cornbread
3/4 c. cornmeal
1-1/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil
1 egg
1-8 oz. can diced green chiles
1 Tbsp. minced cilantro
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 ears corn

Whisk together dry ingredients.
Measure the milk and oil in a 2 c. measuring cup (put in the milk first then just add oil to push the mixture up to the 1-1/4 c. mark) then drop in the egg and whisk a little bit.  Stir the wet ingredient into the dry, until moistened.
Cut the corn kernels off the cob.
Stir together the corn and chiles.  Add in the cilantro.
Spread half of the cornbread mixture in a greased 9"x9" baking dish.
Spread on the chile corn mixture and top with cheese.
Dollop the other half of the cornmeal over the top and spread with a spatula.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. 
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tex-Mex Bean Soup

I really love Mexican food.  I really love soup.  My kids really love beans.  Put that together and a slightly spicy, smoky bean soup is born.  It is really easy and really yummy.  I served mine with chile and cheese stuffed cornbread (Intrigued? You should be. Check back tomorrow.). 

Tex-Mex Bean Soup
1-12 oz. pkg. andouille sausage
1 onion
1 green pepper
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. coriander
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can Rotel tomatoes with chiles (I use mild, my people are delicate flowers)
6 c. chicken broth
1-15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
minced cilantro to taste
Dice the sausage up.  I quartered each link and then sliced across the quarters.
Toss the sausage into a dutch oven over medium heat.
While the sausage browns, dice up the onion and green pepper.
When the sausage is browned and you have yummy goodness sticking to the bottom of the pot
toss in the veggies and stir them around to sweat the fond (look at me using fancy words!) off the bottom of the pot.
Once the veggies are getting soft, but not browned, add in the spices and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until it is fragrant.
Now stir in the can of tomatoes and be sure to scrape up anything left stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Stir in the chicken broth and beans and bring to a boil then turn to low and simmer about 30 minutes to let the flavors blend.
Before serving stir in the cilantro.  I don't stir in very much because then my people whine about it so I top mine with extra cilantro (as well as grated monterey jack cheese and sour cream).

See that cornbread?  It was freakin' awesome.  It is coming your way tomorrow!