Saturday, December 31, 2011

Southern Collard Greens for "Luck" in 2012!



With 2012 less than 24 hours away, I thought it would be fun to write a post about traditional, lucky foods associated with the New Years holiday.  What are you cooking to celebrate the new year?  

One staple around our house is collard greens.  This recipe is very special to me, because it was my GrannyRene's recipe.  I'll always cherish this handwritten copy that she gave me:



Here's a list of "lucky" foods for the new year!

- Grapes:  In Spain, it's a tradition to eat 12 grapes at midnight...one grape for each stroke of the clock.  The saying goes that if you are able to swallow all 12 before the last stroke of midnight, you are sure to have a prosperous year.


- Cooked Greens:  Greens such as kale, collards, cabbage and chard are eaten at New Years because their leaves resemble folded money.  This makes them symbolic for economic fortune.


- Lentils:  In Italy, lentils are a traditional new years food (eaten for good fortune) because they are thought to resemble tiny coins. 


- Black-Eyed Peas:  These are a common good luck food, especially in the southern USA, because they also resemble tiny coins (like lentils).  They are thought to bring prosperity.


Pork:  The high fat content of pork symbolizes wealth and prosperity in the coming year.  Pigs also symbolize progress, because the animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving forward.


Fish:  Since fish swim forward, many people associate fish with moving forward into the new year.  Others believe that fish are symbolic for abundance since they swim in schools.


Look at this beautiful bundle of collards!

Southern Collards Greens
Source:  Lorene Gainous

Ingredients:
1 2lb. bag cut up collard greens (or 1 to 2 large bunches of fresh collards)
1 package cured ham steaks (or 5 slices bacon, cut into lardons)
3 small turnip roots, peeled and cut into cubes
Salt, to taste
Black Pepper, to taste
Olive Oil, as desired

Directions:
Put cut up ham steaks (or lardons) and washed, cut up collards in a heavy pot.  Add the turnip root.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  As soon as water starts to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until collards and meat are tender.

***NOTE:  If you are starting with whole, fresh collards, first wash them thoroughly.  Next, fold each collard in half and remove the tough stem in the center of each leaf.  Cut the prepared collards into 1-inch wide strips.***

As collards become tender, you can let the liquid cook down, so as to have a small amount in your collards if you want it.  Add the salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.

Cooking time for collards and ham should be about 2 hours.

Serve with cornbread muffins.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Absolutely Sinful Cinnamon Rolls - 2011!


Before baking...look at those pecan pieces...Yum!

What a wonderful, wonderful holiday season it's been around our home!  I can't believe that 2011 is coming to a close.  It's been an awesome year, and we are excited to see what 2012 will bring!

If you've been following this blog for a while, you may know that homemade Cinnamon Rolls are one of our holiday traditions on Christmas Day.  The Pioneer Woman's recipe is BY FAR the best!  In fact, I've blogged about these rolls every year since 2009.  The maple and coffee glaze really sends these cinnamon rolls over the top...After all, I called them "Absolutely Sinful Cinnamon Rolls" for a reason!

I tried something a little different this year...I added finely chopped pecans before rolling them up, which was incredible.  I have a feeling that pecans will be a regular addition in the future.

You can find the recipe and posts from previous years HERE

This recipe rocks because you can put the cinnamon rolls together on Christmas Eve, pop them in the fridge for their final "rising" overnight, and then bake them on Christmas morning.  That makes Christmas morning breakfast a breeze, because who wants to be stuck in the kitchen??  Plus, I'm convinced that the smell of these babies baking in the oven is quite possibly the most scrumptious smell in the entire world.

I hope that you and yours have a SAFE, WONDERFUL, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Bon Appetit, my friends!  :)



Before baking...


Maple and Coffee Glaze...Oh my!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

White Chocolate Dipped Oreos with Peppermint Sprinkles



MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!

I hope that this Christmas brings wonderful family, friends and food to your dinner table, along with new memories made with loved ones and old traditions enjoyed.

As I type this, the Cinnamon Rolls have been started (I'll make them today so that all I have to do on Christmas morning is pop them into the oven!) and there are only a few gifts left to wrap.  I've got to get started on a Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, and whip up some homemade doggie treats for our fur babies.  :)


Brad and I have been so blessed already this holiday season.  We've gotten to spend time with lots of family over the past several weeks and even more tomorrow.  What a wonderful holiday, so far!


Today, I want to share a quick and simple holiday treat that is incredibly easy, yet wonderfully scrumptious.  It technically probably doesn't even need a formal recipe, but here's one anyway...

Merry Christmas and Bon Appetit! 




White Chocolate Dipped Oreos with Peppermint Sprinkles


Ingredients:
1 package "Winter" Oreos (with red creme filling)
2 lbs. white chocolate morsels
1 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
5 candy canes

Directions:
Break the candy canes into large pieces and place them in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse several times, until the peppermints are broken into tiny pieces (but not so much that they turn to powder!)

Next, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, stirring often.  If needed, add a little canola oil to the chocolate to keep it smooth.  One at a time, dip the Oreos into the melted chocolate and place on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet.  Before the chocolate dries completely, sprinkle the peppermint pieces over the Oreos.


Enjoy!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Peanut Butter Logs - A Family Favorite


Only 4 more days left to Christmas!  Can you believe it?  I sure can't...It seems like the holidays came so fast this year.  We are so excited, though...What a wonderful time of the year!

There are piles and piles of Christmas candy around our house right now.  There have been chocolate covered pretzels, martha washington candies, chocolate covered oreos, cinnamon rolls....and these peanut butter logs!  Much have that has been given as gifts to co-workers and such.

This recipe for Peanut Butter Logs is something that my family has made during Christmas time as long as I can remember.  They bring back special memories every time I make them and are SO easy to whip up!  There are only 4 main ingredients, plus the dipping chocolate, so they really do come together in a flash.  

They make great candies to take to family gatherings during the holidays and can be decorated with your favorite sprinkles or white chocolate drizzles.

Bon Appetit and MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Peanut Butter Logs
Source:  Family Recipe

Ingredients:
1 stick butter or margarine
2 c. crunchy peanut butter
1 box (1 lb) confectioners sugar
3 cups Rice Krispies
Melted chocolate for dipping

Directions:
Melt together margarine and peanut butter. In a separate bowl, mix together sugar and Rice Krispies. Pour melted mixture over sugar and Rice Krispies;  Mix well.  Roll into logs. Place the logs on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and chill in the refrigerator (this makes them easier to dip).  Once chilled, dip in melted chocolate using a toothpick and place on wax paper to dry.
 
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
 
***TIP:  When melting the chocolate on the stovetop, you may need to add a little vegetable oil. This will help smooth the chocolate and make it easier to use.***
 
 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Martha Washington Candy - A Family Tradition


Merry Christmas to all my wonderful readers out there...I hope that you are all having an amazing holiday season so far.  

This time of year is so special to me.  Many of my very best memories from childhood were made during the Christmas season.  Christmas was such a magical time around our house.  When I was little, my grandmother would read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to us, as we lay there filled with the excitement that only Christmas Eve can bring.  As we tried and tried unsuccessfully to go to sleep, there would always be some sort of noise on the roof, and she'd exclaim, "WAIT!  DID YOU HEAR THAT?!?  I think that I just heard Santa on the roof!"  She'd look at us with a twinkle in her eye and a huge smile on her face, and it's moments like those that make me still believe in Santa to this day.  ;-)

I can also remember going to visit family on Christmas Eve, and it would usually be dark outside on the drive back home.  My grandmother would look out the car window, see a red light in the sky, and excitedly exclaim, "LOOK, LOOK....I see Rudolph's red nose!!!  We better hurry home because Santa is getting close!"  I'd see that red light and be overcome with giddiness. 

On Christmas morning, me and my sisters would wake up and excitedly rush out of bed and wait at the top of the stairs until everyone was ready with cameras in-hand for us to come down.  It always seemed like we had to wait for 2 hours, while we actually probably only had to wait for 2 minutes.  Once we were given the okay, we'd rush down those stairs, making a b-line for the Christmas tree to see what Santa had brought.

In the days leading up to Christmas, my mom and grandmother would make mountains of candy, and I can remember standing on a chair up next to the counter so that I could help.  My grandmother would always put one of my granddaddy's undershirts on me over my clothes so that I wouldn't ruin them...haha.  Oh, the memories!  It brings such a smile to my face just writing this post.

We got to make some new memories last weekend, when my Aunt Julie, Uncle Hal and cousin William came to visit.  We had SUCH a wonderful time and stayed up late making delicious candies...One of which were these Martha Washington Candies!  This is the same recipe that my family has always used, so it's my favorite.  

Before last weekend, it had been such a long time since I had made this recipe.  I forgot how amazing they are!  The candy mixture comes together really quickly with the help of a food processor (for the pecans) and a stand mixer, and the fun part is dipping them in the chocolate.

Make these with your loved ones soon...you'll be guaranteed to make holiday memories that you'll cherish forever.
Bon Appetit!


Martha Washington Candy
Source:  Family Recipe

Ingredients:
1 stick butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
2 cups pecans, finely chopped
2 lbs confectioner's sugar
1 pkg. chocolate squares

Directions:
Combine first four ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined.  Gradually add powdered sugar.  Roll into balls and chill.  Melt chocolate squares.  Dip the balls in the chocolate with a toothpick, and place on waxed paper to cool.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yields 80 to 90 balls of candy.

***The traditional versions of this recipe incorporate paraffin wax in the dipping chocolate to yield a hard, shiny chocolate coating on the candies...That is how my grandmother used to make this candy.  To do this, you will need:
  • 1 cake paraffin wax
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Melt wax and milk chocolate chips together in double boiler. Dip candy in mixture then cool.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sausage and Grits - Creamy, Cheesy and Decadent!



When was the last time you had breakfast for dinner?  Breakfast foods are so delicious, so why don't we eat them for dinner more often?  That's exactly what Brad and I did recently with this comforting recipe for Sausage and Grits.

It had been a particularly long day, and this casserole was just the thing we both needed.  It's creamy, cheesy and decadent with every bite, which makes it oh-so-perfect!

While a lot of recipes for Sausage and Grits incorporate TONS of butter, cheese and eggs, my version is somewhat conservative when it comes to fat content.   I say "somewhat" because these ingredients are still included, just not at heart-stopping quantities.  

If you have guests visiting for the holidays, this Sausage and Grits Casserole will make such a wonderful dish for them to wake up to.  One bite, and they are guaranteed to feel loved!

Plus, you can make it up to 2 days in advance, keep it in the fridge and then bake it whenever you are ready.
Bon Appetit!



Sausage and Grits

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked grits
1 lb ground sausage
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 stick butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp paprika
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  

Cook grits in 4 cups of salted water until thick.  Saute sausage, breaking it into small pieces.  When sausage is almost done, add onion to sausage and continue to saute until onions are soft and sausage is cooked through.  Drain sausage mixture to remove excess fat.

Add butter, egg, and 1 cup of the cheese to grits.  Combine grits mixture with sausage mixture.  

Pour into a 13 x 9-inch casserole dish and garnish with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, paprika and parsley.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the casserole is bubbly and lightly brown on top.

The casserole can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking, and it also freezes well.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Pioneer Woman's Buttermilk Biscuits + Tips!



If you're a Southern gal like me, you've probably passed your fair share of buttermilk biscuits around the dinner table.  It's hard to beat those buttery, delicious layers that are accompanied so perfectly by your favorite fruit preserves, fresh honey or jam.  

I've made homemade buttermilk biscuits several times with pretty good results, but they don't always come out the way I want.  THESE from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home cookbook were particularly yummy.   I do have to say that this recipe from Ree Drummond was excellent, and it was fun to watch them rise in the oven!


Here are a few tips for making delicious buttermilk biscuits:
1.  Don't overwork your dough, because it will make the biscuits tough.
2.  Cut straight down with the biscuit cutter...don't turn it as you cut, because that will seal the biscuits and prevent a high rise.  Also, use a sharp biscuit cutter!
3.  Keep your butter as cold as possible, and again...don't overmix!  When the biscuits are put into the oven, the cold butter will create steam and help those babies rise high!  Also, you may even want to pop your mixing bowl into the freezer for a few minutes before starting.
4.  Excess flour on the tops and bottoms may make the biscuits seem dry.  Be sure and brush it off before baking.
5.  You can use either a food processor or a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour.  I've used both methods, and they work pretty good.  I used a pastry cutter on this particular recipe.
6.  Flours with less protein will yield a lighter, fluffier biscuit.  A lot of folks here in the South swear by White Lily brand flour.  It has a low % of protein and is perfect for buttermilk biscuits.
So, just remember:
Less Protein = Better for biscuits and other quick breads
Higher Protein = Better for yeast breads


Bon Appetit!



Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup cold butter (5 1/3 tablespoons), cut into pieces
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. In large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and stir together. Add the shortening and cold butter pieces. With pastry blender, cut the shortening and butter into dry ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Pour in the buttermilk and mix gently with fork until just combined. The biscuit dough will be sticky,  not overly dry or crumbly.

4. Lightly flour a clean surface. Turn the dough out of the bowl and roll to a 3/4″ thickness. Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter and place them on a cookie sheet. Bake for 11-14 minutes until golden brown.  Do not underbake, or the biscuits will be doughy.
 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Roasted Peanuts - Alton Brown



Here's something many of you don't know about me....I grew up in a city that is proclaimed to be the "Peanut Capital of the World."  What city is that, you ask?  Well, Dothan, AL of course!  :)

Not only do we have the best peanuts in the world right here in Alabama, but we've got some pretty awesome football, too!

On the eastern side of the state, you'll find a town called Auburn, and another little town called Tuscaloosa on the western side.   These two cities are home to the state's biggest rivals in college football, and the folks around our state sure do take their football seriously!  Your battle cry is either ROLL TIDE! (University of Alabama)  or WAR EAGLE! (Auburn University).  There's absolutely no in-between, people.  You must choose a side.  We're talking serious business here.  :)

Last weekend, the two teams played each other in the Iron Bowl.  Fans of both teams look forward to the big game every year, and this year I'm proud to say that "my" team - the Alabama Crimson Tide - came out on top!  They won 42 - 14.  Not only that, but we are currently ranked No. 2 in the country!  

ROLL TIDE!

On game day, we had a little football viewing party at our house, and these roasted peanuts made a scrumptiously perfect snack while we watched the game.  Not only that, but the smell of them roasting in the oven was heavenly.  This recipe couldn't be simpler, and there just isn't any comparison between peanuts right out of the oven and the roasted peanuts at the grocery store.

I'll definitely be making these again soon.

Bon Appetit!


Roasted Peanuts
Source: 
Alton Brown

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds in-shell raw peanuts*
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Directions:
*Cooks note: If eating peanuts roasted right out of the shell, use Virginia or Valencia peanuts. If utilizing roasted peanuts to make peanut butter, use Spanish peanuts as they have a higher oil content.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the peanuts under cool water to remove excess dirt. Pat dry and place in a large bowl and toss with the peanut oil and salt until well coated.

Place on 2 half sheet pans, making sure to spread them out into a single layer. Roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking. Once you remove the peanuts from the oven, let them cool slightly before eating. They will continue to "cook" and become crunchy as they cool.

If using peanuts to make peanut butter, remove shells and discard. Remove the skin by rubbing the peanuts together in your hands held over a salad spinner, allowing the peanuts and skins to fall into the bowl. Once the skin has been loosened from all of the peanuts close the salad spinner and spin until all of the skin has been separated from the peanuts.