Kitchen Organization 101

Posted by Tara on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

spice drawer

I spent a good part of Tuesday “degreasing” and organizing my cook top and drawers under it.  It was a messy sticky icky job.  One of the tasks involved with this project was organizing the spice drawer.  I’ve had jars and boxes of spices thrown into this drawer for a decade.  The spices would spill out into the drawer, and were in no order whatsoever.  Part of my spices were stored in this drawer and the rest in another drawer on the other side of the kitchen.  Locating a spice wasn’t easy and left me frustrated.  Solution?  36 Ball jars, 4 oz size, filled with spices, stored neatly and clearly labeled with CHALKY TALKY chalkboard peel and stick labels.  I ordered these labels and the CHALKY TALKY liquid chalkboard pens from Amazon.  The cool thing about the labels is the liquid chalk can be wiped off with a damp paper towel and reused.  There were 40 labels which fit standard size jars.  I plan to order another pack of 40 standard labels along with wide mouth labels for another organization project.  For now, I am one happy happy OCD gal!

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Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings

Posted by Tara on Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

ChickenNDumplins

I can think of few main dishes with more Southern flair than Chicken and Dumplings.  I do not recall either of my parents making this dish in our home.  Chicken and Dumplings were given the respect they deserved.  Only my Grandmothers were worthy enough to make them.  There was no special family recipe written down. And both my Grandmothers instinctively knew how to prepare this family favorite.  By the way – the Blue WIllow plate in this photo belonged to my great grandmother Hancock.

I think the secret to perfect Chicken and Dumplings is having rich chicken broth.  Although boneless, skinless chicken breast could be cooked and diced, a whole hen with the skin on will produce a richer broth with more fat. Short on time?  Pickup a deli chicken and boil it for a few minutes skin and all before shredding the chicken meat.  Save the broth to make the dumplins.

Remove any bagged chicken pieces or parts from the cavity of the hen.  Rinse her well. Fill a large deep pot halfway with water. Add the chicken and bring water to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium or a low boil.  Cook chicken until tender.  Remove chicken from broth.  SAVE BROTH in pan to cook dumplings.  When chicken is cool, pull meat from bones, removing skin if desired.

Dumplings:

  • 2 ½ cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • milk

Mix together and add enough milk to make a stiff batter. Knead dough using plenty of flour.  Roll out to the thickness of pie crust.  I use a pizza cutter to cut dough into 1 inch by 2 inch pieces.

Bring chicken broth to a rolling boil.  Drop dough pieces into boiling broth and cook slowly until done.  You may need to cover pot with a lid and allow the excess liquid to cook down.  Add chicken and let stand to blend the flavors.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot!

Printable Recipe

Chicken-N-Dumplings

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Better Than Zaxby’s Fried Chicken and Jezebel Sauce

Posted by Tara on Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

fried-chicken

Fried Chicken Tenders

You will need:

  • 2 pounds fresh chicken tenders
  • Salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups plain flour
  • 1 ½ cups Ritz cracker crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 2 teaspoons Lowry’s seasoned salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun spice
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • Vegetable Oil for frying

Fried chicken is better when made from fresh, not frozen chicken. Remove fresh chicken tenders from package (I’ve also used the chicken breast and cut my own tenders). Rinse chicken and place in a bowl of water along with 2-3 Tablespoons salt. Soak chicken 30-60 minutes. Pour water off chicken and rinse again. Return chicken to bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let chicken soak in buttermilk at least 30 minutes. Place chicken in refrigerator while soaking in salt water and buttermilk.

While chicken soaks, prepare the breading. Crush the crackers, and then add the flour, all the seasonings, mixing well. Sometimes, I will place the breading in a zip-lock bag to coat the chicken. Sometimes I simply toss chicken with the breading in a large bowl. Either way, the some of the buttermilk needs to be drained off the chicken before the breading takes place. Also, place only 4-6 tenders at a time in the breading. Too many tenders at once are harder to coat. I like to lay the breaded tenders on paper towels as I continue breading and begin frying.

I use a fryer that has a metal basket, along with a thermostat. I fill the fryer up to the maximum oil line. Then I preheat the fryer to 400 degrees. When oil is hot, I add 4-6 tenders to the basket and fry for about 6 minutes, or until the breading is golden brown, but not overdone. If the tenders are very thick, I like to cut into the thickest ones to test for doneness. Sometimes the tenders must be fried a little longer. Remember, pink chicken is not very healthy.

Remove cooked tenders from fryer basket and drain/cool them on clean paper towels. Transfer to your favorite platter when all tenders are ready to serve. See this platter – it belonged to my husband’s grandmother. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas this year. This was the first meal served on it in our home.

Our children love all types of dipping sauces. These tenders are excellent served with Jezebel sauce. Other favorites are honey mustard dressing, ranch dressing, and barbeque sauce.

You will make many friends when you serve these tenders.

jezebel-sauce1

Jezebel Sauce

What in the world is Jezebel sauce? Well- its zippy, its zesty, and its zingy! And it peps up a lot of fried meats and boring dried beans.

Mix together and store in Rubbermaid or Tupperware bowl:

  • 1 pint apple jelly
  • 1 pint pineapple or peach preserves
  • ¼ cup horseradish
  • ½ cup mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard

Mix well, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve as a dipping sauce for fried chicken, shrimp, or fish. This sauce is also tasty served with pinto beans, navy beans, crowder peas, or black eyed peas. Keeps up to 4 weeks in refrigerator.

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Aunt Debbie’s Poppy Seed Ham Rolls

Posted by Tara on Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Ham Rolls

Do you need a recipe for all that leftover Christmas ham?  Make my Aunt Debbie’s Ham Rolls.  This recipe can be made ahead, refrigerated, and baked for breakfast. It can be easily put together for a quick snack, party appetizer, picnic, or even a Super Bowl item.

To make good use of any leftover ham, cut it off the bone and place it in a food processor.  Lightly pulse until ham is chopped into fine pieces.  If chopped ham is not to be used right away, fill Zip-Lock bags with 2 cup portions and freeze them.  Use frozen ham later to make ham salad, or this recipe.

  • 2 packages twin rolls (these come in rectangular foil pans) cut in half  lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 sticks melted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons Worchestershire
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Mix the melted butter, mustard, Worchestershire, poppy seeds, and onion powder together in a small bowl.  Using a serrated knife, cut each pan of rolls through the middle lengthwise and remove the top half and set aside.  Place the bottom half back in the foil pan. Brush the bottom halves with the melted butter mixture.  Put one cup of chopped ham on each lower half, then add 1 cup of Swiss cheese to each pan.  Place top halves back on and brush tops of rolls with any remaining butter mixture. Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until tops of rolls are golden brown and cheese is melted.

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Cranberry Orange Sugar Cookies

Posted by Tara on Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Cranberry Orange Cookies

These cookies were served to guests of the annual Lebanon Historic Tour of Homes this year.  One guest returned to grab all but one cookie, mentioning the cookies were the best she had ever tasted.  I didn’t really think that could be possible. Thankfully one cookie was left, and I was next in line. I took it. I tasted it.  And I loved it.  Yes these are just about the tastiest cookies I’ve ever eaten.  Thankfully I was able to secure the recipe for family and fans.

  • 3/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup sugar mixed with another Tablespoon orange zest for rolling cookies to coat them

In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla.  Cream well with a mixer.  Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder to a sifter.  Sift and combine the flour mixture with the butter mixture.  Fold the chopped cranberries and the orange zest into the flour/butter mixture. Stir to combine.  Form 1″ balls with cookie dough.  Then roll the balls into the 1/2 cup sugar and extra orange zest.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree pre-heated oven for 7-11 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned.  I like to lightly flatten each cookie with a spatula before they cool for a softer center.

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Christmas Cranberry Salsa

Posted by Tara on Friday, December 19th, 2014

Cranberry-Salsa

I enjoy creating new recipes for Christmas each year.  This recipe was inspired by a photo I thought I pinned to Pinterest but never could find when I wanted to make the dish.  So I have created my own recipe for Christmas Cranbery Salsa.  It can be served with corn chips. But I like to spread the salsa over 2 bricks of soft cream cheese and dip Wheat Thins or Pita Chips in the salsa.  It’s tart and sweet at the same time with a hint of cilantro, orange zest, and a jalapeno pepper.  Remove the seeds from the jalapeno for a milder salsa or leave the seeds for a hotter version.  Either way this dish makes a festive party appetizer.  I took it to my daughter’s Christmas program reception last night and found the following note on my empty dish:

please note

Place the following ingredients into a food processor and pulse until ingredients are finely chopped:

  • 1 12 oz package fresh whole cranberries
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro (about a cup)
  • 1 small purple onion – skin removed and onion quartered
  • 1 jalapeno pepper – remove seeds for mild salsa, leave seeds for some heat
  • zest of one orange
  • 2  1/4 ounce packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 cup sugar – More or less to suit your tastebuds

Pulse all ingredients until cranberries and onions are finely chopped, but not pureed.  Pour salsa into a large bowl, cover and place in refrigerator at least 4 hours.  While salsa is chilling, let 2 8 oz packages of cream cheese set on counter to soften. Spread cream cheese over a pretty plate or dish, then top with the salsa.  Serve with pita chips, Wheat Thins, or Triscuits.  Refrigerate leftovers IF there are any leftover!

Filed in Appetizers, Christmas, Holidays | 9 responses so far

Orange Cranberry Bread-Gluten Free or Not

Posted by Tara on Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Cranberry-Bread

You are going to have to try this recipe to believe how moist and tart and tangy and tantalizing the taste is.  And this bread is so festive and can be made into 2 regular size loaves or 6 mini loaves – either size suitable for gift giving at Christmas time.  Use Bob’s Gluten Free Baking Mix for a Gluten Free bread or just use plain flour if you prefer.  I think this recipe was originally in Sunset Magazine but I’ve adapted here just a bit by using fresh instead of dried cranberries and gluten free baking mix.

  • 3 sticks soft butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 2 Tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups flour (all purpose or Bob’s Gluten Free Baking Mix)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • For the glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 7-8 Tablespoons Grand Marnier or Orange Juice
  1. Preheat oven to 330°. Butter two 6-cup-capacity loaf pans (or, if making the mini loaves, butter six 2-cup-capacity pans). With an electric or standing mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add orange juice, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla; mix until blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture and cranberries to wet ingredients and mix just until dry ingredients are absorbed; do not overmix.Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers of breads comes out clean, 70 to 75 minutes for large loaves and 60 minutes for mini loaves. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and 7 tbsp. Grand Marnier. Glaze should have consistency of thick maple syrup or corn syrup. If it is too thick, thin with an additional tbsp. of liqueur. Let loaves cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack set over a large baking sheet. With a thin skewer or long toothpick, poke deep holes in tops of loaves. Drizzle with Grand Marnier glaze so that it coats the top, runs down the sides, and seeps through the holes. Let loaves cool completely, then slice. Refrigerate or freeze leftover bread.

Filed in Breads, Doughs, and Crusts, Gluten Free | One response so far

Pumpkin Pie – Gluten, Dairy, and Sugar Free

Posted by Tara on Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

pumpkin pieI needed to create a gluten, dairy, and sugar free recipe recently for a family gathering.  This was my first attempt at pumpkin pie without sugar.  This pie is delicious – so delish I’m not sure your guests would ever know it is free of dairy and sugar and gluten.  I found organic gluten free ready made pie crust at my local Kroger grocery store.  But you could also make a crustless pie just as easily.  This pie got rave reviews with the dinner guests, and there wasn’t a single bite left over.

  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut or almond milk
  • 1/2 cup erythritol
  • 2 Tablespoons Maple syrup
  • 2 individual packets of Stevia
  • 2 individual packets of Monk Fruit sweetener
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more if you prefer)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl beat the pumpkin puree with the eggs until smooth and creamy.  Add the sweeteners, spices, and the coconut or almond milk.  Beat the mixture until smooth.  Have your favorite gluten free pie crust prepared and in a pie plate.  Pour the pie filling into the crust. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.  Let pie cool before serving.

Chopped walnuts or pecans could also be sprinkled on top before baking.

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Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

Posted by Tara on Monday, November 17th, 2014

southern banana pudding

I don’t know why I equate home made banana pudding with church gatherings, but I still do. I have pleasant memories of attending many a church social where somebody’s grandmother had made banana pudding from scratch.

I have always been fond of home made banana pudding. This is a southern tradition I hope never dies. Although we southern cooks have instant JELLO pudding available, NOTHING beats the taste of home made pudding whipped up from real ingredients. And guess what? Real banana pudding is MUCH easier than you think. I have a secret to share – I make mine in the microwave!

In large microwave safe glass bowl add and mix together:

Banana-Pudding-Ingr

  • 1 ½ cups organic sugar
  • ¼ cup plain organic flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Add and stir with a wire whisk:

  • 4 cups organic whole milk

Microwave milk mixture for 2 minutes. Stir with wire whisk and microwave 2 more minutes.

While mixture is microwaving, separate 6 egg yolks from the egg whites. Save egg whites if you and your family prefer meringue topping on your banana pudding. Mix the eggs with a fork.

By the time the milk mixture has been in the microwave for 4 minutes, it should be warm. Remove about ½ cup of the warm milk mixture and add it to the beaten eggs. Mix well, then pour egg mixture into the bowl with the warm milk mixture. Whisk to blend and then return the mixture to the microwave. I continue microwaving and stirring 1 minute at a time until mixture has thickened almost to the consistency of pudding. This mixture will thicken a little more as it cools.

Add 1 TABLESPOON of vanilla extract and stir.

I like to use my trifle dish, but any 2-3 quart casserole dish will do just fine for the grand assembling of the banana pudding. Our kids like to take over here and layer the pudding with a 16oz package of vanilla wafers and 4 peeled sliced bananas. Organic vanilla wafers are available now in the organic section of most grocery stores.

(Some folks I know like to dip the banana slices in Sprite or ginger ale to keep them from turning brown. Personally- I don’t care for the citrus taste, but other folks may not like brown bananas. My thinking is that banana pudding typically doesn’t last long enough for the bananas to turn brown!)

Pour about 1/3 of the pudding mixture into the dish; add about ½ the banana slices and 1/3 of the vanilla wafers. Repeat this process using 1/3 pudding, ½ bananas and 1/3 wafers. Top with the remaining 1/3 pudding and vanilla wafers.

If you are a BIG fan of meringue, beat the eggs whites on high speed in a glass, grease free dish until soft peaks form. Keep beating and gradually pour ½ cup sugar. Spread over top of pudding. Bake meringue in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

Here at home, we like REAL whipped cream on ours. I whip up a PINT of whipping cream until soft peaks form and gradually add ½ cup POWDERED sugar. YUM!

On a final note, I have some members of this household who DESPISE bananas. If you have any anti-banana people and want to keep peace in the household, feel free to omit the bananas and add extra wafers. This is how we manage to keep everyone happy.

Printable Recipe

old-fashioned-banana-pudding

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LOADED POTATO SOUP

Posted by Tara on Monday, October 13th, 2014

Loaded Potato Soup
  • 12oz package bacon – cooked and crumbled, save 2 T bacon drippings
  • 2 medium sized sweet onions – diced
  • 2 stalks celery – diced
  • 2 32oz boxes vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 chicken bullion cubes (I use NOT CHICKEN brand – gluten free, MSG free)
  • 6 medium potatoes – peeled and diced (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup flour (use cornstarch for gluten free recipe)
  • 4 cups whole milk – divided
  • 12 oz sour cream – 1 cup for soup, 1/2 cup for garnish
  • 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese – 2 cups for soup, 1 cup for topping
  • 1 cup green chopped onions – 1/2 cup for soup, 1/2 cup for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon strips in large skillet or in microwave. Reserve 2 Tablespoons of the drippings.  Crumble cooked bacon and set aside.

Sautee the diced onions and celery in the large skillet with the 2 Tablespoons of drippings and set aside.

In a large Dutch oven add the vegetable or chicken broth.  Bring broth to a boil, then add the diced potatoes.  Reduce heat to medium and let potatoes simmer 10-15 mintues, or until potatoes become tender.  Add chicken bullion cubes. While potatoes are simmering in broth,  place the stick of  butter in a saucepan.  Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium heat then add the flour (or cornstarch). Whisk the mixture quickly to blend the flour and butter, then gradually pour 2 cups whole milk into the butter/flour mixture and continue whisking over medium heat.  Mixture will begin to thicken.  Continue whisking until mixture is smooth but slightly thick.  Then add thicken mixture to the tender potatoes and broth.  Stir gently to mix the flour mixture with the potatoes and broth.  Then add the other 2 cups of milk to the dutch oven. Also add the sautéed onions and celery to the Dutch oven.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Reduce heat to low and add 2 cups grated cheddar cheese.  Stir gently to melt and blend the cheese with the soup.  Add 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup diced onions, and 1/2 cup of the bacon.  Stir to blend all the ingredients and serve right away. Use remaining cheese, bacon, sour cream, and onions to garnish individual bowls of soup.

1 cup of diced ham could be used in place of the bacon.  Chopped chives could also be used for garnish.

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