Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jiffy Creamed Corn Bread

As much as I love to make everything from scratch, sometimes it's just easier to throw everything into a bowl with a mix and you're good to go. That's usually the case when I'm in the mood for corn bread. It's absurdly simple, and it takes no time at all. The thing that turns up the volume is the addition of creamed corn. It makes it sweet and moist and yummy. I guess it's more of a recipe variation than a recipe (since you follow the directions as written on the box), but it's still worth mentioning! So, the next time you use a corn bread mix, crank it up a little. It makes it so much better!
Try it!

2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup milk
14oz can of creamed corn
2 tablespoons butter

Put a 12″ cast iron pan in the oven at 375F for about 15 minutes.
Mix together the 2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix with the eggs, milk, and creamed corn.
Pull the pan out of the oven, drop in the butter and swirl it around, make sure it gets up on the walls of the pan.
Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for 30 minutes.
Check for doneness, the edges of the crust should be starting to brown.
Let it cool for a few minutes, run a spatula up under the pan to loosen the corn bread. Flip it onto a plate and serve.

Since there's only one of me, I usually cut the recipe in half and bake it in a smaller cast iron pan. It works just as beautifully.
I guess you don't have to specifically use Jiffy brand corn muffin mix, but it's usually the one that I buy. 
I always use this as a side note to go along with a meal, but if you want something more substantial, have a look at Chris and Dan's Cracklin Bread. It's kind of the same sort of revved up corn bread idea, only you add breakfast ingredients. Love it!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Apple, Bacon, and Cucumber Salad

 I usually don't think of a salad as being a recipe because anyone can just throw anything into a salad and it'll work. But every so often, I'll find a really good combination of salad ingredients that really hits the spot and is worth sharing. This is the basic flight of ideas as I was browsing around the supermarket:
  Ok, salad ... lettuce and tomatoes for starters. great. next......well, I have apple vinaigrette, so I guess I should include apples. So far so good. Apples are sweet, tomatoes are sweet, vinaigrette is sweet...need something salty to balance it...thick cut bacon...yum. What else.....something crisp and fresh to round everything out.... cucumber! Perfect!
And there you have it. It was just as easy as that, and was exactly what I wanted. Fresh. Crisp. Perfect for a light meal. Sometimes the best things are the simplest!

1 head Romaine lettuce
1 Macintosh apple, cored and sliced into small wedges
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 strips super thick sliced bacon
1 medium cucumber, thinly sliced
Apple Vinaigrette, or your favorite other vinaigrette

Over medium heat, saute bacon strips until slightly crispy. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Slice into small strips. While the bacon is cooking, slice the lettuce (across the width) into 1/2" slices. Separate the leaves and toss in a large bowl. Add cucumber and apple slices along with the tomatoes and bacon. Give everything a good toss. Serve with Apple Vinaigrette.

To make a decorative edge on your cucumber slices, simply run a fork down the length of the cucumber, making small grooves with the tines of the fork. Do this all the way around the cucumber, then slice across the width making cucumber rounds. So simple, but very effective!

Chuck's Apple Vinaigrette

 Do you ever watch Chuck's Day Off? I watch it all the time. Chuck Hughes owns a restaurant, which keeps him pretty busy, but then on his day off, his goes into the kitchen and cooks a meal for his employees or friends or family or colleagues or neighbors. Usually, the reason he's cooking for them is to tell them how much he appreciates them or to say thank you. I just love that. I kinda feel like I'd probably do the same thing if I had a restaurant. I guess that's why I like the show so much. Well, that, and he's adorable and his food looks awesome.
 Anyway, I've noticed that he makes this vinaigrette pretty often. He doesn't always use apple juice, but it's always the same idea. It's just a simple vinaigrette with a sweet something added to it, such as apple juice or pear nectar. I absolutely love it!
So, give it a try.
If you like a sweet vinaigrette, you'll love this one!

1 c. apple juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
freshly ground black pepper
pinch coarse or kosher salt
dash apple cider vinegar
3 tbs canola oil

Pour the apple juice into a small pot, then boil it on high to reduce the liquid by half.
Into a bowl, add the mustard and grind over some black pepper.
Add a nice pinch of coarse salt, then add a dash of the apple cider vinegar. Whisk in your reduced apple juice along with the canola oil. Taste for seasonings and adjust if necessary.

I used apple cider instead of apple juice and it worked beautifully. Seems to me that it would also work perfectly with other fruit juices or nectars. Hmm....maybe peach??  I think I might have to give it a try!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Heirloom Carrot Spoon Cake

I recently saw this recipe on Semi Home made with Sandra Lee. It's pretty much the same recipe as the Warm Chocolate Pudding Cake that I posted a while back, but it just substitutes carrot cake ingredients instead of the chocolate cake ingredients. FABULOUS! It's warm and gooey and more like a bread pudding than a cake. OH so yummy! And one of the best parts about it is that you make it in a crock pot, so you can do it early in the day an it'll be ready for tonight's dessert!
I love that!

1 (18.25-ounce) box spice cake mix (recommended: Betty Crocker)
1 (3.4-ounce) box instant butterscotch pudding mix (recommended: Jell-O)
1 cup water
2 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup canola oil
4 eggs
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 cup sour cream

Spray a 5-quart slow cooker with butter flavored cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker. Place a couple paper towels over the cooker and then place the lid on top. (this will absorb the water that forms under the lid from the steam). Cook on LOW for 4 1/2 to 6 hours.

Note from Joey:
Serve it warm as is, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or with a scoop of my Cream Cheese Frosting Ice Cream.

Joey's Tips:
When I made it, I could only find sugar free instant pudding, so I went with it. I also used regular vegetable oil instead of canola oil. Turned out great!
I like a really spicy carrot cake, so I added a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. I probably would have added some coconut too, (since I love coconut in a carrot cake) but I didn't have any on hand. I'm sure I'll add some next time!
The crushed pineapple is a nice touch, but you can just omit it if you and pineapple don't get along so well.
When I made it, it seemed to take a little longer than 6 hours to cook all the way through. Maybe all crock pots are not created equal, who knows? Just keep an eye on it and let it cook until it's set all the way to the center.

Oh, btw, sometimes I can't seem to get the photo to be just right, so I just decided to borrow the one from FoodTV.com. I hope they don't mind!

Joey's Cream Cheese Frosting Ice Cream

When I made carrot cake for Danny and Emma's wedding reception, I had a ton of leftover cream cheese frosting. Well, I certainly wasn't gonna throw it out (because, seriously...it's cream cheese frosting!), so I just kept it in the fridge for a couple days, waiting for a moment of brilliance to hit me. Then I had the AHA moment! I remembered the Carrot Spoon Cake that I saw Sandra Lee semi home making once upon a time, and I thought why not make ice cream? Every carrot cakes needs cream cheese frosting, right? And every warm pudding cake needs a scoop of ice cream on top. So why not put the two together? So I mixed up a few things, poured it into my ice cream maker, and VOILA! It's the perfect thing! It's almost like eating frozen cheesecake! Pretty cool, huh? If you don't have an ice cream maker, maybe this is your perfect excuse to buy one!
It's totally worth it!

2 cups cream cheese frosting, either purchased or home made
1 1/2 cup milk, either whole or 2%
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix until it is completely smooth. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours, or overnight. Pour into the freezer bowl of your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's directions. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours, or until it firms up a bit. It may not freeze hard (depending on your cream cheese frosting), but if it does, just let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before scooping.

Serve over warm Heirloom Carrot Spoon Cake, over grilled peaches or pineapples, or with fresh Blueberry Sauce. (Or use the blueberry sauce recipe to make a sauce of strawberries or raspberries!)

You really don't even need to add any sugar because there's plenty of sugar in the frosting, but go ahead and give it a quick taste before you freeze it. If you like it super sweet, add a half cup of sugar and then mix it up until the sugar is dissolved.
I usually use salted butter when I make the frosting, so if you like, add a little pinch of salt to your cream mixture before you freeze it. It makes it taste SO good!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Smothered Pork Chops

 Ok, this is seriously one of the easiest and yummiest recipes I've tried in a long time. I've literally made it TWICE in the last week! Actually, I think I might need to make it again. The recipe comes from Paula Deen. Well, actually, it comes from a guest she had on her show. As soon as I saw it I knew I had to try it, and OMG they're just fabulous.
 Do you know how when you cook a pork chop, sometimes it can be a little bit dry? Or maybe the meat is a little bit tough? Well, you don't have to worry about that anymore. This is the recipe for you. The meat just falls off the bone and it's so moist and juicy....MMMMMM it's so good you might just have to slap someone. You should make this for dinner, like TONIGHT! Seriously.

 4 center cut pork chops, 1" thick
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup ll purpose flour, spread on a plate
2 medium green bell peppers, cut int strips
2 yellow onions, cut lengthwise
3 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken broth
2-3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Trim the excess fat from the chops and season well with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Lightly roll the chops in flour, shake off the excess, and slip them into the pan. Brown well, about 3 minutes per side, and remove them to a plate.
Add the bell peppers and onions, to the skillet, and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about half a minute longer. Push the vegetables to the side of the skillet. Add chops to pan and place vegetables on top of pork chops. Pour in the broth and sprinkle with Worcestershire sauce. Cover pan with foil and allow to simmer for 45 minutes or until chops are tender.

Since there's only one of me, I just made TWO pork chops at a time instead of four. I only used half as many onions and peppers, but I still made the same amount of gravy.
To thicken the gravy, I just stir a a tablespoon of flour into a little cold water or chicken stock, then add it to the pan.
I served it with white rice, but I think this dish screams for mashed potatoes. Serve it with some applesauce and a green vegetable and you're all set!
If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can probably use any heavy skillet or even a dutch oven.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Joey's Pineapple Honey Braised Turkey Thighs

If you're a frequent visitor to my blog, you know by now that I LOVE the method of braising meat in a big heavy pot in the oven. It seriously makes the meat fall apart tender, and it makes the whole house smell like Mom's home cookin'. What's not to love about that???
 Not too long ago, I made Apple Braised Turkey Thighs and they were absolutely FANTASTIC. I had another package of thighs in the freezer, so I decided to do them again and try something new at the same time. Once again, I went with what I happened to have in the pantry, and this was the result. Now, I know the title of the recipe might lead you to believe that it's all sweet and sticky, but really it's not. The thyme in the poultry seasoning balances with the sweet ingredients and you end up with a savory thick gravy with just a few hints of sweetness here and there. I can't even begin to tell you how fabulous it is! I know I always say "this is one of the best things I've ever made" but seriously this is one of the best things I've ever made!!! I KNOW you'll love it!!!

2 turkey thighs
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
a few glugs of olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
4 carrots, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
2 or 3 bay leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 cup honey
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup dry sherry

1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup water

 Heat oven to 350F.
Trim excess skin from turkey thighs and season both sides with salt and pepper. Pour olive oil into a heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add thighs to pot, skin side down, for about 8-10 minutes, until the skin is golden brown. Turn the thighs over and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove thighs to a plate. Add onions and carrots to the pot. Saute for about 5 minutes until the onions begin to soften. Add garlic, pineapple, bay leaves, poultry seasoning, and honey. Give everything a good stir. Add broth and sherry. Nestle the thighs back into the pot, including any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Cover the pot, then place it in the oven for about 2 hours.
After the two hours, it's time to make the gravy.
Using a slotted spoon, remove everything from the pot to a serving platter, leaving the broth behind. Mix flour into cold water, stirring to make sure there are no lumps, then add it to the pot over medium heat. Stir until it thickens. Adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper if needed. Pour the gravy over the turkey thighs. Serve with mashed potatoes.

When you brown the turkey thighs in the pot, just leave them alone. They won't brown properly if you muss and fuss with them.
If you don't have chicken broth, just use plain water.
I used dry poultry seasoning, just because I had some handy, but I think fresh thyme sprigs would make it even better!
If you don't have dry sherry, use white wine or even a splash of vinegar, or simply omit it!