Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Savory Cornbread

Here's another cornbread recipe!  The other cornbread recipe on my blog is just as good, but the sweet type.  This one has no sugar at all and is a little smoky if you use bacon grease rather than butter.  Unlike a lot of cornbread, this is not dry at all.  It pairs very well with chili or as a topping for any casserole that calls for cornbread batter poured on top since it isn't sweet.  I'll bet it would be very good dried and used for cornbread stuffing as well.
This recipe comes from Southern Plate.  My main change is to cut back on the buttermilk by 1/2 a cup, it just turns out too wet when I make it with the 2 C buttermilk described in the original. I also bake it at 350 instead of 450 and use a glass baking dish.  The glass baking dish is because I don't have a cast iron pan, and the lowered temperature is because it bakes much more evenly at the lower temp.
I suppose I should add that if you want to get really picky, you should use white cornmeal instead of yellow.  Apparently yellow cornmeal is a no no in southern cooking because livestock typically eat yellow corn.  I, however, like the color of yellow cornmeal better and the brand I like only comes in yellow, so yellow it is.
Savory Cornbread
1 1/2 C fine cornmeal
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 egg
2 Tbsp bacon grease or butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 7 by 11 baking dish.  Set aside.
Stir together dry ingredients.  Pour in buttermilk and egg, stir to combine, then stir in bacon grease until mixture is smooth.  Pour into prepared baking dish.
Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Yield: 6 large servings

Monday, August 27, 2018

Chicken Scratch Seasoning & "Rotisserie" Baked Chicken Breasts

This is one of our favorite and most commonly made chicken dishes.  It really could not be any simpler to make and is shockingly delicious, considering how easy it is.  Surely there are even easier chicken recipes out there, but I don't bother making something easy if we don't also enjoy it.  I'm not sure why exactly the chicken is so good.  The seasoning blend doesn't look particularly awe inspiring and the cooking method is very basic, but it really is very good.  The paprika gives boring old boneless, skinless chicken breasts a nice color, and the seasoning blend tastes makes the chicken taste like somewhat spicy rotisserie chicken.
The cooking method is my own (if I can even call "bake with butter" my own method!), but the Chicken Scratch recipe comes from the blog South Your Mouth.  I changed it by using more black pepper, leaving out the white pepper (I hate white pepper), and leaving out the cayenne (didn't want it that spicy).  I would like to experiment sometime with smoked paprika in place of regular paprika, and adding a tablespoon of chili powder.  For now, I've always just made it as written below!
Chicken Scratch Seasoning:
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp pepper
1/2 Tbsp thyme
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
Put everything in a jar, shake to mix, and store in the pantry.

Chicken Scratch Chicken:
cleaned boneless, skinless chicken breasts or boneless, skinless thighs
butter (1 tablespoon per chicken breast/1 tablespoon per 2 chicken thighs)
chicken scratch seasoning to taste
Pick a metal baking dish big enough to hold all your chicken.  Put in the butter.  Place the pan in oven and preheat to 350.  As soon as the butter has melted, remove the pan from the oven and swirl around to coat the pan.  Coat chicken breasts on both sides with butter, and sprinkle both sides generously with chicken scratch. Rub the seasoning in a little bit.  Arrange chicken evenly in pan.  Bake until chicken is cooked through, between 20 and about 40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces.  Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese

This is definitely the healthiest mac and cheese on my blog.  Whole wheat pasta, a whole can of pumpkin, and less cheese than most of my other recipes.  It's also not as decadent as my other mac and cheese recipes, but is a great everyday meal!  Who doesn't like a quick to make, creamy, cheesy pasta dish?  It also whips up in less than 20 minutes, which can't be said for that many other healthy-ish recipes.
The original recipe is from Paula's Plate.  I doubled it, added a little butter, changed the type of macaroni to whole wheat, and significantly cut back on the amount of nutmeg because nutmeg overwhelms dishes so easily.  I also added hot sauce and mustard to punch up the flavor a bit, plus mustard accentuates the cheesy flavor in mac and cheese.  My method is also a tiny bit different.
Even though this is a really quick recipe, please do try it at least the first time with freshly grated cheese.  You can easily grate it (and stick some frozen veggies in the microwave to steam) while the macaroni cooks.  The powdery stuff on pre-grated cheese may negatively affect the texture of the finished mac and cheese.
Whole Wheat Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
2 1/2 C chicken broth (or veggie broth to make it vegetarian)
2 C milk
3 Tbsp butter
1 lb whole wheat macaroni 
16 oz can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, only ingredient should be pumpkin)
1/8th tsp nutmeg
2 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco or Frank's Red Hot, not something too over the top spicy)
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
2 C freshly grated sharp cheddar
1/2 C freshly grated parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
Pour broth, milk, and butter into a large nonstick skillet.  Milk burns easily, so nonstick is very helpful!  Heat over medium-high until it starts getting a little bubbly, but watch it carefully because milk boils over very quickly.  Add macaroni noodles, stir, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until macaroni is cooked through, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes.  This took about 12 minutes for my box of pasta but how long it takes will 100% depend on the brand and type of macaroni you're using.  If the liquid gets completely absorbed, add a little more milk and broth.
When macaroni is cooked through, stir in the can of pumpkin, nutmeg, hot sauce, and yellow mustard until nice and hot.  Remove skillet from heat and stir in cheese, then salt and pepper to taste.  It's important to remove the skillet from the burner before adding the cheese so the cheddar doesn't get too hot and become grainy!
Serve immediately.
Yield:  About 6 main dish servings

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Strawberry Swiss Roll Cake

I've always been fascinated by cake rolls.  They just look so pretty and yummy!  A while back, I finally decided to make one and settled on this recipe over at Home Cooking Adventure.  For once in my life, I followed the recipe to the letter.  I know when it is and is not safe to tinker and this type of cake definitely seemed like one to follow precisely!
Mine turned out beautiful and delicious.  The lovely, moist sponge cake is perfect with all the creamy, fluffy filling and strawberries.  It was also very heavy on the filling, which was not a problem at all!  To my surprise, it lasted quite a few days in the fridge without the cream filling deflating.
I will for sure make this again and would like to experiment with different fillings.  I'm not too eager to mess with the cake itself because it was so good and rolled so perfectly, but adding citrus zest or spices certainly wouldn't change it any.  I wonder how many chocolate chips would fare?  Next time, I want to make the cake and creamy filling as written, but substitute Nutella for the strawberry part, just because I can.  Lemon curd or, ooh, rhubarb curd would be great as well.  Lots of options!
Strawberry Swiss Roll Cake
strawberry filling:
10 oz strawberries, chopped finely (this is by weight)
4 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
3/4 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
3/4 C sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp canola oil
creamy filling:
1 C whipping cream

9 oz cream cheese, softened (I know this is a weird amount, but go with it)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C powdered sugar
Make the strawberry filling first so it has time to cool.
Combine strawberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until slightly thickened and jammy.
Move it to a separate bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the cake next!
Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 12 by 16 inch jelly roll pan.  Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit exactly in the bottom of the pan.  Set aside.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside.
Beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract until foamy and light yellow.  Mix in oil.  Add the flour mixture a little at a time and mix just until it's completely combined.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly all the way to the edges of the pan and corners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 10-15 minutes.
Spread a large, thin, very clean dish towel (not terry cloth, regular cotton) on the clean table and sprinkle generously and evenly with powdered sugar.  Carefully flip the cake onto the cloth (it may help to have two people).  Remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper.  Sprinkle with more powdered sugar.  Use the towel to roll up the cake nice and tight, starting from one of the short ends- don't roll the towel into the cake, though!  When the cake is all rolled up, put it aside, seam side down, and still in the towel until completely cool.  Don't refrigerate it, room temperature is good.
When you're ready to fill the cake, make the filling.  First, whip the whipping cream until (shocking!) you have whipped cream.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar.  Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Gently unroll the cake and spread the strawberry filling evenly over the top, then spread on the creamy filling.  Gently roll it up again, place it seam side down on a platter, cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out, then refrigerate it for a few hours so it has time to firm up.
Cut into slices with a serrated knife and serve!
Yield: about 8 servings

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Lemon Sugar Cookies

I made these lemon sugar cookies a while back and everyone liked them.  They're just a classic sugar cookie with lemon flavor, so nothing super unusual, but very tasty and way more interesting than plain sugar cookies.  They have the perfect sugar cookie texture- soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside with nice contrast from the turbinado sugar sprinkled on top- and the 3 sources of lemon flavor (zest, juice, and extract) make them so bright and cheery!
The original recipe is from Taste of Home.  I added lemon extract and vanilla extract, made most of the cookies smaller, did NOT flatten them because some of the reviews said they were very thin (the thickness is completely normal if you don't flatten them), and sprinkled extra turbinado sugar on them when they came out of the oven.  
The original calls for you to make giant cookies.  I did make two great big ones with the last of the cookie dough.  They were very good!  Plenty of soft, chewy center and crunchy rim and there's something so appealing about an enormous cookie, even if you don't eat the entire thing in one go.  The smaller ones are more practical for sure since the jumbos are way more than one serving each, but if you want to make big ones, go for it!   Just make dough balls with 1/3 C dough, place them about 6 inches apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with turbinado sugar, bake until just barely turning golden (about 12 minutes for mine), then sprinkle with more turbinado sugar.
Lemon Sugar Cookies
1 C salted butter, softened
1 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
turbinado sugar (for topping)
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream together butter and sugar.  Mix in eggs, extract, zest, and lemon juice.  
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar.  Add to butter mixture and mix just until completely combined.  The dough will be rather soft.
Use a 1 1/2 Tbsp capacity cookie scoop (or roll the dough into 1 1/2 Tbsp balls) and place 3 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.  
Bake until ever so slightly beginning to turn golden, about 12 minutes.
When cookies are done baking, immediately sprinkle the tops with a little more turbinado sugar.
Cool on the cookie sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.  Store in an airtight container.
Yield:  about 40 normal sized cookies, maybe 10 or so if you make jumbos.

Friday, August 10, 2018


Colcannon has become one of our go-to meals.  It is Irish in origin and consists of mashed potatoes and either kale or cabbage.  I've made it both ways many times, but we prefer kale.  Colcannon is cheap, pretty healthy, easy to make, and very yummy!  I don't usually follow a recipe but have written down my process below.  My method is a little odd because you steam the kale in the pot that the potatoes are boiling in, but that's just to make the recipe as simple as possible.  In the past, I've sauteed the kale in a skillet with butter and minced garlic (feel free to make it that way if you feel so inclined!), but this method tastes just as good and uses less dishes.  My apologies to any Irish people who may be offended by my approach!
The potatoes don't need to be the most gigantic ones you've ever seen, but they shouldn't be small, either.  This recipe has a very high kale to potato ratio to start with, so keep that in mind when you're picking your potatoes!
Quick Note:  You can add sliced green onions at the end if you would like, and/or serve the individual bowls of colcannon topped with a little pat of butter.
5 medium-large russet potatoes
2 large bunches of kale
4 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Partly fill a large pot with water (make sure it's a big pot because you'll be cramming the kale in there later!) and salt the water.  Bring it to a boil on the stove.
While the water comes to a boil, wash and peel the potatoes, then cut into large chunks.  Place into pot, whether the water's boiling yet or not.  When it does reach a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high so it doesn't boil over.
While the potatoes boil, rinse the kale and tear the leafy parts from the stems.  Tear the leafy parts into half dollar sized pieces and discard the stems.
When the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but are not completely done yet, add the torn kale to the pot (pour out a little water if needed so you can fit it all in) and place the lid on the pot.  Steam the kale for 4 or 5 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and kale thoroughly.  Mash with a potato masher.  Add the butter, then mash in enough milk to get the texture you want.  Stir in the garlic powder, as well as salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately, but leftovers reheat well.
Yield: 6 main dish servings

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Banjo Picker Sandwich

This is a recipe I've made about once a year for the past 5 years, basically since it was originally published on Southern Plate.  It has become our traditional "dinner after visiting the fair" meal.  Fair food is so expensive, unhealthy, and I'm always worried about getting food poisoning, but it's also fun and tasty.  This is our answer!  We always get Dippin' Dots or a soft pretzel or something at the fair, but then come home and I make this for dinner.  It is also not exactly healthy what with the hot dogs and white bread, but undoubtedly a nutritional upgrade from fair food.  It's also very, very good!  The ingredient combination is a little odd, but a real winner.
As I mentioned, this recipe is originally from Southern Plate. I never would have thought of it on my own and am glad I came upon it years ago.  Of course, I changed it a bit.  Basically, I tweaked it (mostly the method rather than the ingredients) every year for a few years before settling on the perfect approach that's  minimally messy and involves the least number of hot dogs rolling off. 
For the bread, you need to choose carefully.  You want a nice, wide loaf that is not too tall (unless you can unhinge your jaw), and it's good if it's crusty rather than like white bread.  You also don't want ciabatta, though.  Just check out your options and pick whatever seems like it will work best, no big deal.
Banjo Picker Sandwich
1 loaf french or italian bread (not a baguette), cut in half horizontally
1 Tbsp butter
6 hot dogs of your choice, cut in half lengthwise (they are less roly poly this way)
mustard of your choice (I use spicy)
5 slices of your favorite cheese (I like sharp cheddar)
sauerkraut to taste, drained (put a pile on a couple layer of paper towels, wrap it up tight, and squeeze it dry over the sink)
sliced peperoncinis to taste
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and brown hot dogs.  
Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
Place the two halves of bread on the baking sheet.  Spread mustard over the bottom half and mayo over the top.  Arrange hot dogs on bottom half of bread so that they run perpendicular to the length of the bread.  Spread drained sauerkraut over the top half of bread and sprinkle with peperoncinis.  Lay 3 slices of cheese over the hot dogs and 2 over the peperoncinis.  
Bake the sandwich halves until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasty, about 15 minutes.  Flip the top half onto the bottom, let sit for a few minutes, then cut into serving pieces.
Yield: 4 large servings, or you can cut them smaller.  Leftovers reheat well wrapped in foil and baked until hot.