Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Traditions

Do we all have Thanksgiving traditions? Probably most such would include returning to a family setting that involved our childhood. In my case, my childhood Thanksgivings were not necessarily a big holiday event, but nonetheless celebrated with a special meal. We didn't buy turkeys, but I think probably a couple of times my folks chose to dress the old gobblers that were such pests whenever anyone was outside Other than that, fat, range-fed hens were plentiful, and my mother made the very best dressing to go along with that. We have not missed many Thanksgivings going back to that setting.

After my parents' passing, we continue to go back, have a marvelous feast, and the required walk in the woods before dessert. This year the leaves were so beautiful. I particularly noticed the black gum and hickory trees. Because of my renewed interest in composting, I was overwhelmed by the acres of fallen leaves that covered an already abundance of woods leaves, which I think we called leaf mold. I must be either compulsive or greedy, but I could just envision raking and hauling away that entire area to be spread over a garden. The not-too-easy access and the miles between where I am to there saved the day and my husband's patience. (I have more leaves and pine straw now on my own acre than I can take care of!)

Food was plentiful, but now back to the lifestyle change we are trying to stay loyal to, seeing as how we are both facing that annual physical exam and hoping that cholesterol level is still within normal range. The recipes I have been posting might not reflect that, but it may be a way I have of remembering good stuff without having to necessarily produce it. Memories might be a good way to handle that.



1 can blueberries, drained
1 pkg vanilla instant pudding
1 box yellow cake mix
¾ c. (scant) oil
4 eggs
One 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all dry ingredients. Add oil, eggs slightly beaten, cream cheese (room temperature), and vanilla. Fold in drained blueberries.

Pour into well greased bundt or tube pan. Bake at 350 deg for 45 to 60 min.

This recipe from a friend is such a winner. I like to keep the history of recipes as well as flowers, shrubs, etc. This cake is very easy to make but simply delicious. If you need a food gift for someone that won't break the bank, this is sure to please. Try it, you'll like it!

Speaking of history, this same special friend shared a start of trillium from her woods where it was so prolific. That was 22 years ago, and that has thrived all that time under an old apple tree in our back yard. This past spring after the most abundant blossoms I think that old tree had ever had, it sucumbed to the freeze and subsequent heat/drought. Sadly, the tree has to go, but what to do with the trillium? It must be shady, I think. That is one of the first signs of spring that we notice, and when it starts blooming, we make a spectacle out of it!

Anyway, do you have things that are reminders of special events or friends? This particular event, alone, digging in the woods, was to somehow fill an afternoon that I was not at work to do something to handle the sudden and shocking loss that week of my mother. I didn't want to be alone necessarily but I didn't want to have to cope with talking to people, my husband was at work, the office where I worked was closed on Wednesday afternoons, so I called this special friend and asked her if I could just show up and dig plants from her woods. I got dogwood, redbud and trillium. The redbud lasted about 15 years, the dogwood didn't like being transplanted, but the trillium has flourished. It is one of my treasures and I do not want to lose it. I will ponder what to do until I research its nature.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Southern Sweet Tea with SPLENDA

Makes about 6 (6 fl oz) servings. Prep time: 5 min. Steep time: 10 min.

3 cups water
2 family-size tea bags OR 3 or 4 regular-size tea bags
SPLENDA No Calorie Sweetener, granulated, to taste. (I use only 1/4 cup. I don't like really sweet tea. I recommend sweetening to taste.)
2 cups water
Optional: 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Garnish: mint sprigs and lemon slices

1. Bring 3 cups water to a boil. Pour over tea bags; cover and steep 10 min. Remove and discard tea bags, squeezing gently.
2. Stir SPLENDA Granulated Sweetener into tea. Add 2 cups water; serve over crushed ice. Add lemon juice and garnish if desired.

Calories: 15

I have made this, and it is good. I could never remember how to make consistently good tea, but I think this is it. I copied this off the bag of SPLENDA Sweetener, by the way, and give them full credit. I don't see any disclaimer anywhere about sharing it. It might help them sell SPLENDA if we do share!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mrs. Claus' Cookbook

This is the neatest thing! http//

For some reason, you have to copy and paste, but it's worth it.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Here's a quick one that is good but easy enough for kids to help.

1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine cocoa, flour and salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Add nuts. Bake in a greased and floured 13x9-in baking pan. Bake at 375 about 20-25 minutes. Cool. cut into squares. Makes 2 1/2 dozen pieces.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Quick Breads

How about baking quick breads for gifts or spoiling your family. May be frozen easily.

3 c plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
OR 3 c self-rising flour may be substituted.
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 c sugar
3 eggs beaten
1 and 1/4 c cooking oil
1 and 1/2 c chopped pecans
Two 10-oz pkg frozen sliced strawberries, partially thawed
Sift dry ingredients together in large bowl. Mix remaining ingredients well. Add dry ingredients. Pour into greased pans (may use Bakers Joy) and bake at 350 degrees. Two large loaf pans, one hour, or five mini-loaf pans for 45 minutes. Cook in pan 10 minutes before inverting to cool. VERY good.

3 cups plain flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
OR 3 c self-rising flour may be substituted
3 eggs
1 and 1/2 c milk
2 and 1/4 c sugar
1 and 1/8 c oil
1 and 1/2 tablespoons poppy seed
1 and 1/2 teaspoons almond flavoring
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
1 and 1/2 teaspoons butter flavoring
Mix all together in mixer bowl. Mixture will be very thin. Bake 1 hr at 350 for large loaf, and bake mini loaves approximately 30 min. Test for doneness by inserting toothpick. While still in pan, drizzle with glaze. After inverting, place right side up on wax paper.
GLAZE: 1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring, 1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring, 1/4 c orange juice, enough powdered sugar to make glaze the consistency you want, approx. 3/4 c or so. Lift loaf away from side of pan and let glaze run along sides into pan.

The poppy seed will look like little specks in the bread, but that's the way it's supposed to.
I plan to bake these breads for Christmas but probably will substitute Splenda. These make nice teacher gifts, friend or neighbor gifts, if they last long enough that is.

On A Recipe Kick

While I was doing the chicken dressing recipe, I ran across this old favorite of my family's (at least it was mine). I think I got it from my first Betty Crocker cookbook that I received my first Christmas with my new husband! (hint, hint) Anyway, it looks simple but it is delicious. Kids will eat it!


1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1 can (2 1/2 cups) or 1/2 pound cooked fresh green beans, drained
1 can condensed tomato soup
5 medium potatoes, cooked
1/2 c warm milk
1 beaten egg
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 350.

Cook onion in hot oil until golden. Add beef and seasonings. Brown. Drain.

Add drained beans and soup. Pour into greased 1 1/2 qt casserole.

Mash the potatoes. Add the milk, egg and seasonings. Spoon in mounds over meat mixture. Bake in moderate oven (350) until potatoes are slightly browned. Makes 6 servings.

It can be done without the potatoes. You can substitute any topping, or you may have it plain with potatoes as a side, or rice maybe?

Thanksgiving and Chicken & Dressing, Southern Style

Probably 20 years ago, in a bookstore in Tupelo, I was hurriedly browsing interesting recipe books. I had not been too successful making cornbread dressing and was always on search for a recipe I felt I could follow. I found my all-time favorite recipe for southern cornbread dressing, but I didn't think to jot down the author and name of the book, and now wish I had done that. I was in a hurry though and had only a scrap of paper in my purse, so I did some quick shorthand note taking. I didn't want to purchase the book for some stupid reason. But the recipe has survived, and I have altered it maybe just a little. It's easy. I make this every Thanksgiving but I double or triple the recipe for a crowd of hungry people.

Cornbread Chicken 'N Dressing

DO AHEAD: Bake enough cornbread to make 3 cups crumbs. Use 2 or 3 eggs when mixing batter. One could use egg substitute. Cool and crumble bread. Lightly toast, and allow to dry, enough loaf bread to make approximately 2 1/2 cups crumbs. Does not have to be brown, just dry. Crumble. Set all these crumbs aside.

Stew 1 chicken in 4 to 5 cups water. Save broth. Debone chicken and save to put in dressing if you desire, but dressing may be made without the chicken bits.

Set oven at 425 degrees.

Saute 1/4 cup chopped celery and 1 medium chopped onion in 1/2 cup melted oleo (I use either Canola oil or extra virgin olive oil) until just tender. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 2 or 3 beaten eggs and enough broth to moisten. Seasoning may be adjusted to taste. Batter will end up being about texture of cake batter--important. Mix well, add chicken bits, onion and celery. Mix well. Be sure mixture is moist! Pour into greased 13 x 9 1/2 x 2-in baking dish and bake at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes. Check at about 35 minutes. The dressing should be lightly or moderately browned.

If there is leftover broth, cooked, chopped giblets, boiled egg slices, etc., along with desired thickening and seasoning may be combined and heated to be used as gravy over dressing.

One could make this recipe once to get an idea of how many it will serve. Depends on how much people like dressing and how hungry they are. Any questions about this, please ask in comments and I will try to accommodate. BTW, my favorite cornbread mix is Sunflower cornmeal mix, but if you can't find that, any self-rising cornbread mix will do, I'm sure.

My family/extended family will be getting together Thursday. I am appointed to make the dressing, and I probably will triple this recipe. I really enjoy doing this. This probably could be made ahead and frozen. Somewhere I had the directions for freezing and thawing before baking, but that seems to have disappeared! Use your own judgment there.

Bon appetit!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

November already?

Where to begin. I have taken a break from raking leaves and pinestraw, regretfully. I have so much yet to do there. We found some plastic poultry wire, I guess it is, at Wal-Mart and some plastic stakes at Lowe's, all very reasonable, and made a border for our compost. It seems to be working well but is still in progress. Most of the leaves/straw is in the garden waiting to be tilled into the soil. This is making me anxious for springtime and we have only begun our cold weather!

We started cleaning up the old veggie stalks such as tomato vines, bean vines, etc. That goes into the compost and makes cleaning up faster and easier. I found that I had about 3 gallons of green Roma tomatoes and green peppers. What to do? I could always freeze the peppers, but I guess I googled what to do with green tomatoes and read about green tomato relish. There are some good recipes on line, but I found this one in my trusty old BALL BLUE BOOK. If I give them full credit, I hope they don't mind. (I didn't find a disclaimer anywhere.)


4 quarts peeled, cored, chopped green tomatoes (about 32 medium)
2 quarts chopped cabbage (about 1 large head)
2 quarts chopped sweet green peppers (about 4 small)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup salt
2 tablespoons mustard seed
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
4 1/2 cups vinegar

Sprinkle salt over vegetables and mix thoroughly; let stand 3 to 4 hours. Drain thoroughly. Press to remove free liquid. Add sugar, spices and horseradish to vinegar; simmer 15 minutes. Add vegetables and bring to a boil. Pack hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Adjust caps. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Yield: about 7 pints

Here's my take on this: I had Roma tomatoes, which I peeled and cored and chopped. I somehow have misplaced my food grinder so I just chopped the veggies. (note to self: find that grinder!) For the cabbage, I just happened to have on hand a bag of prepared cabbage slaw. It turned out to be the right amount! How lucky for me. What I didn't notice until later and was a bit worried, but it turned to be great, was slivers of carrots. I had plenty of fresh green peppers which were chopped, and then one medium onion, chopped. What I did substitute for the regular brown sugar was 1 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend. I think I had some cider vinegar and some white distilled, so I just combined that. Then I just proceeded as directed. This did yield 7 pints. Not hard to do. I couldn't wait to taste it and proceeded about a couple of days later with fear and trepidation as I could just imagine that it would be bitter. Not so! It was tangy but what we like. I may share that with family. I do have a few tomatoes and peppers left over and may make another small batch. Wonder what would happen if one put a bit of hot peppers in for a little heat...

Speaking of the Splenda Brown Sugar Blend, I found a good buy this past weekend on Granny Smith apples. Somewhere (I think on line) I read about paring and slicing the apples, adding the brown sugar and oil or butter and microwaving. I did that for breakfast this morning, and it is wonderful. I have a microwave dish made for making rice, but I have converted that to an all-purpose dish for any food I need to microwave, such as potatoes, onions, anything that will cook in a microwave. I cored the apple with one of those gadgets I found at Wal-Mart, spread the slices over the bottom of the container, sprinkled about 1 tablespoon brown sugar and some oil. You could use whatever you like there. I try to make the container air tight, and then cooked for 5 minutes. The oil blends with the sugar and moisture from the apple, and it is just so tasty!

My husband says I am either thinking about, reading about, writing about, talking about, cooking or eating food. I notice that he doesn't hesitate to share the proceeds.

On future blogs, I will try to give some of my old recipes I have enjoyed making for years...just good ole fashioned comfort foods. I have always conceded that my siblings are better cooks than I, but that's okay. I have a few favorites.

BTW, we did move the container of Gomphrena to the porch, next to the wall, and covered these past two freezing nights. So far, it looks fine. I know it has to go, but that's hard to let go. At least I have a zillion seeds to get started next spring and some cut stems for the house until spring. The volunteer lavender that I thought was lost, actually survived the drought/heat and bloomed heavily until now. Still several very sweet lavendar blooms today. We had volunteer yellow lantana by the mailbox that survived the summer also, but that seems bitten today. I think it looks hardy enough that with mulching for the winter will come back next spring. We look for it around April. I did get some pansies started in a whiskey-barrel-size container, lots of colors, and they look fine.

Will get back with pictures of my compost bin, etc., and more recipes soon.