A Yankee in a Country Kitchen!

Ok ladies and gentlemen. If you like beans, and you like cornbread, this is for you! Ok…. I love cornbread, but I do not like beans. It’s a texture thing with me. They feel gritty and I just can’t do it.

What is really funny though, is I get rave reviews on my beans and cornbread. From Southerners! The Community Center ladies even left me in charge of the kitchen to make all the beans and cornbread for a fundraiser we were having. I fed several hundred Southerners that long day in the kitchen. And everyone loved it! My husband still laughs about his Yankee wife taking over the Southern Kitchen…. successfully.

The recipes are my sweet Mama Mabel’s, handed down from her mother. Both are absolute winners!

For the beans: The night before, dump a 1 lb bag of brown beans into a large bowl. Add enough cold water to cover by a few inches. Leave them be.

In the morning, drain the beans and put in a large pot or better yet, Dutch oven. Cast iron is your friend here. Fill with cold water, several inches above the beans. Now, add 3T dried minced onion, 1t black pepper, and 1/2t cayenne pepper. Cut several thick slices from a block of salt pork, using about half. (Found in the meat dept with the ham and such) Stir all this up, cover, and bring to a hard boil over high heat. Allow to boil hard over med-hi for 30 minutes. Stir well, re-cover, and turn heat down to keep at a gentle boil.

You are going to want to stir frequently. This helps “develop the soup” as Mama says. The water level will drop, but the beans should always be covered, so add water as needed, making sure you bring it back to a boil. Keep this up 4 to 5 hours, til the beans are totally tender in a thick soup. Taste it. The salt pork should provide enough salt, but if not, add some. If it seems bland, add another 1/4t cayenne pepper. You can turn it off at this point, and just heat it up when you’re ready.

At 40 min before you eat, make some cornbread! Preheat oven to 425 F. Get out your cast iron skillet.

When the oven is heated, put 3T Crisco in the iron skillet and put it in the oven to melt and heat up.

In a large bowl, whisk 1C cornmeal, 1/2C flour, 2T sugar, 1T baking powder, and 1t salt. Make a well in the center. In another bowl whisk 1-1/2C buttermilk and 2 eggs. Pour the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture well and beat with a wooden spoon til just combined. Carefully take the hot skillet out of the oven and pour the batter in. Return to the oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes til browned and done. Let cool 10 minutes, cut in 8 wedges, and serve with hot “beans and soup.”

Some people crumble the cornbread in their bowl and ladle the beans over it. Some eat it buttered on the side. I just eat the bread.

Enjoy!

Love, Grammy

Best Strawberry Shortcake… Ever!

Hope everyone had a happy Easter! He Is Risen! Hallelujah! Happy Easter everyone!

So, the boys and the wives and the kids (or an assortment thereof) came for the day for an Easter Feast! Guess who is cooked? Yep. Me.

I don’t mind of course. I love cooking, especially for my family. Mama and I put together Easter baskets for the grandchildren, and filled plastic eggs for the Easter egg hunt. Then I started preparing the things I could the day ahead of the big meal.

My usual Easter dessert is a huge, luscious carrot cake, covered in thick cream cheese frosting. Everyone loves it. But I wanted to change it up this year, and I decided on Strawberry Shortcake.

This dessert is typically made with a biscuit type cake, which is fine, if you like that sort of thing. I don’t, and after talking to Mama and the hubby, they don’t either. Hmmm. Other recipes call for a flat sweet cake. That didn’t grab me either. Hmmmm again. How about a light, fluffy vanilla cake for your strawberries and whipped cream? Now I think I’m onto something!

There are a couple of steps you can’t skip when making all three parts of this dessert. The way I write my recipes, all steps are essential. No shortcuts in your shortcake, please!

Ok, here we go. The day before you need to prepare the 2 lbs of strawberries by washing them, cutting off the stem end, and quartering them. Put all the quartered strawberries in a large bowl and pour 1C sugar over them and mix well. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge.

Now, you can also make the cake the day before, as long as you wrap each layer separately and snugly in plastic wrap. That’s what I did.

For the cake: In a large bowl whisk 2-1/4C flour, 2-1/4t baking powder, and 3/4t salt. In bowl of a stand mixer, put 1 stick of softened butter and 3/4C sugar. Beat until light and fluffy. Add 3 room temp large eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in 1-1/2t vanilla. Now for the magic: Add flour mixture a scoop at a time, alternating with milk, beating well after each addition and scraping sides of bowl.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2- 8 or 9 inch cake pans well. Line bottoms with parchment paper and grease paper. Divide batter between 2 pans. Bake 20 to 25 min til done. Set pans on cooling rack 10 min then turn out cakes onto rack. Cool completely.

Now! When you are ready to serve it, put 1C heavy whipping cream, 2T sugar, and 1/2t vanilla in a stand mixer and whip it good! It will turn into whipped cream in just a few minutes. When thick and peaks form, and doubled in volume, it’s ready. Get out the bowl of strawberries. Spoon very generously on and around the layer. Cover thickly with whipped cream. Put the second layer on top. Cover with whipped cream and put several spoonfuls of strawberries in the center, allowing the juices to run down. Put one more dollop of whipped cream on top.

I do not have a picture of this beautiful creation because as I put on the last dollop of whipped cream my husband, children, and grandchildren descended like locusts and devoured the entire thing. I even had to make them another bowl of whipped cream!

Enjoy this special dessert!

Love, Grammy

Oven Fried Chicken…. All the Taste, a Fraction of the Mess!

Mmmmm….. fried chicken! Who doesn’t love the taste…. and hate the mess? I don’t mind deep frying things like doughnuts, mashed potato clouds, hush puppies…. but chicken and fish are messy, and you can’t reuse the oil. (Some would argue you can, but… come on!) I still do fry it sometimes, like if we are taking it cold the next day for a picnic, or because my sweet hubby requests it. I either use my small Fry Daddy if it’s just for us, or my ginormous cast iron frying pan for a crowd of people…. and chickens. But this oven recipe is so good, and so close to the real thing, you will make it a go-to recipe again and again.

Typically I use drumsticks and thighs, bone-in and skin on. This recipe will make 8 pieces but it is easy to adjust up or down, whatever you need.

A step I believe just cannot be skipped for any fried chicken (well you can but why would you??) is to put the pieces of chicken in a resealable zippy bag and pour in enough whole buttermilk to cover them. Seal the bag, give it a good shake and a couple of turns, and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour and no longer than 12 hours. This creates incredibly flavorful, moist meat.

When you’re ready, get 3 large shallow bowls out and line them up. In the first, put 1C all purpose flour, 1-1/2t black pepper, 1-1/2t Kosher salt, 1t paprika, 1/2t onion powder, 1/2t garlic powder, and 1/4t cayenne pepper. Mix well. In the second dish, crack 2 eggs and beat them with a fork. In the third dish, put 2C Panko breadcrumbs. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with heavy foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Preheat the oven to 375.

Take the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk one at a time, shaking off excess milk. Dredge the piece in the flour, coating well. Dip into the egg, allow excess to drip off. Then roll this very happy chicken piece in the Panko crumbs, pressing to adhere to all surfaces. Place skin side up on the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining soon to be very happy chicken pieces.

Now, melt one stick of butter. Put it in a small measuring cup with a spout and drizzle all over the chicken pieces. Don’t soak them, just drizzle them.

Put the pan in the oven and bake about 45 minutes, til they are done. They will be nice and crispy and the juices run clear when fully cooked. My family loves this with mashed potatoes and corn. Come to think of it, they love everything with mashed potatoes and corn! I love this fried chicken with green beans slow cooked all day with onion and sliced salt pork. Another fabulous recipe for another day! But really, it goes with everything! Ball up that foil and throw it away, because…. wait for it….. clean-up is a total breeze!

I hope you enjoy this recipe for fried chicken awesomeness! P.S. It is also darn delicious cold the next day. IF you have any left over!

Have a wonderful day!

Love, Grammy

Easy, Homemade Parmesan Cream Sauce!

Good morning! I know it’s early, but the age old question, what to have for dinner, is already looming. Most days, I don’t mind cooking a big meal. In fact, I love it. But some days we are either too tired, or just plain run out of time. That doesn’t mean you can’t have something homemade and delicious.

One thing I discovered for my pasta loving family is the fresh pasta in the refrigerator section at the grocery store. It is just so much better than dried pasta, and cooks in a flash.

My mother-in-law, the sweet Miss Mabel, loves pasta. It is her favorite meal. Unfortunately, as much as she loves my tomato meat sauce, anything with tomatoes bothers her stomach now. So I needed something different. I had a package of fresh 4 cheese ravioli, and here is what I made:

Melt 2T butter over medium heat. While it melts, combine 2T Wondra flour (or all-purpose, but Wondra is better for sauces and gravies) 1/2t salt, and 1t black pepper. When the butter is foaming, sprinkle the flour mixture over the butter and whisk well. Continue to whisk and cook for a minute or two. Don’t let it brown or burn. Slowly pour in 2C milk, whisking constantly. Cook and stir until it thickens and just barely starts to boil. Turn heat to low and cook and stir for a few more minutes. Whisk in 3/4C grated Parmesan cheese, whisking until fully incorporated and melted. When the ravioli is done, drain very well, and put back in pot. Pour cheese sauce over ravioli and toss to combine. Put in serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley to taste. Serve hot with rolls or garlic bread, and more cheese. If you feel ambitious, make a small salad.

Quick, easy, and delicious. The fresh pasta really makes this a wonderful meal that tastes like you slaved all day over it. Only we have to know you didn’t!

Hope you enjoy it!

Love, Grammy

Oops! What a Delicious Mistake!

We have all made mistakes in the kitchen. Burning or under cooking seem to be the most common, but there are all kinds of calamities that can happen, even to experienced cooks. I drop things a lot. My most famous mistake was while making sausage gravy for the Community Center Breakfast in the mountains where we used to live. It was almost ready, a huge skillet full of perfect gravy. I needed to just season it, and I always use that little bit of cayenne for flavoring. Well, the Costco sized container had never been opened, and I stood over the pan of gravy trying to pull the seal off. When it finally gave, I dumped a large amount of the cayenne… right into the gravy! I scooped out as much as I could with a spoon, but everyone was surprised by the spicy gravy!

Today I wanted to make a simple dessert of chocolate pudding. At the end, the pan is removed from the heat and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract are added. I reached up into the cabinet, opened the bottle and poured… Orange extract! I didn’t realize it until I caught a whiff of it as I whisked it in. Note to self: Always read your labels!

At any rate, I wanted to try and save it so I added vanilla anyway. I still thought it would probably be nasty. After scraping it into a bowl, I licked the spatula very tentatively…. and it was delicious! I mean really delicious! I put it in the fridge to chill and tasted it again. Beyond dreamy! Now, I happen to like orange chocolates, so I thought it was just me. But my hubby and Mama loved it too! So now I come to today’s recipe, Orange Chocolate Cream Pudding!

I use a basic chocolate pudding recipe, and the magic happens at the end!

Whisk 2 egg yolks for a couple of minutes, then whisk in 2T cornstarch and 1/4C whole milk. Set aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2C sugar, 1/4C unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1-1/2C whole milk. Heat over med-hi heat until steaming and bubbles form around edges. Don’t boil!

Now very slowly drizzle hot chocolate into egg mixture, whisking constantly. Do it too fast and you’ll have scrambled eggs. When all combined, return to pot over the heat and bring to a rolling boil, whisking constantly. Turn heat down to a simmer, and whisk until thickened. Remove from heat. Now…. the mistake that invented an orange chocolate cream dream: whisk in 1t orange extract and 1t vanilla extract. Pour into a bowl, and press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface of the pudding so a skin won’t form. Chill at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream if you like, but this Orange Chocolate Cream Pudding is just amazing all on it’s own!

So: two lessons learned from Grammy today. First, always read your labels. Second, just because you think you made a mistake, don’t throw it away without trying it. You just may have invented something spectacular. If it is bad, start over. Don’t give up, and keep trying to be the very best cook you can be! Have Fun!

Love, Grammy

Kitchen Gadgetry!

I love kitchen gadgets. From the smallest of things to small and large appliances, I am the Queen of Kitchen Gadgetry!

My hubby laughs when I start looking at some new item because he says he can’t imagine any gadget I don’t already have. That’s partially correct, because I have cabinets, drawers, and utensil crocks filled to the max. But then I see something…. or hear about something…. and I just have to try it.

I had owned a Kitchen Aid stand mixer for years. I loved it! I used it all the time. One year, as I was starting my Christmas cookie Bake-A-Thon, I was beating a large amount of butter and sugar. I think the mixer decided it just couldn’t take another Christmas and it committed suicide by jumping off my counter. I was crushed. So was my Kitchen Aid. My hand mixer just made the work so hard when I was used to my beloved Kitchen Aid. For my next birthday my kids got together and bought me a new, bigger Kitchen Aid. They do love my baking! I thoroughly read the booklet that came with it, and to my surprise I could mix meatball and meatloaf ingredients in there, and I really learned about using the dough hook. I was, and am, in Heaven! I keep it in the very corner of the counter so it can’t jump!

I have other wonderful things by Kitchen Aid. My blender, food processor, and mini chopper are also wonderful, durable, and put up with all of my use and abuse. I love them! My most recent purchase was the coffee bean grinder. It also does an amazing job. I’ve never had one that worked so well.

Now, hand tools. Those are a mixed bag of things, many without a brand. Of course I have a lot of Rubbermaid, a very durable, dependable brand. Unless you stick your Rubbermaid spatula too far into your Kitchen Aid blender while it’s running…. but I digress.

A garlic press is a great tool. So is a hand lemon juicer, and zester. I have a plastic avocado tool that cuts it, removes the pit, scoops it out, and slices it. I have a tool for cutting and lifting watermelon slices. I recently got a tool to peel, core, and slice pineapple.

I cannot leave out Pampered Chef. They have an apple peeler, corer, slicer with a hand crank that I can’t live without, especially at the holidays. I have several of their utensils and baking dishes that are pretty, durable, and do a great job.

I buy my knives and vegetable peelers at the local Amish Store, a wonderful place full of delicious food and amazingly sharp, functional knives.

So, anyone who loves to cook, needs great gadgets and a lot of them! This is just a quick look into my kitchen and it’s gadgets. Tell me about what you have, and why you love it… or don’t. Always good to share your thoughts!

Have a very Happy Day!

Love, Grammy

Tips, Tricks, and Vegetables!

With three sons and three stepsons, I know all too well the struggles of trying to get a kid… and then a teen…. then grown men who should know better…. to Eat. Their. Vegetables.

Here, rather than give you specific recipes, I am just going to lay out for you the tips and tricks I have used to accomplish this monumental task.

I started with simple things. Carrots and parsnips are two of my favorites that I have used in my house. My degree of success with just these two is actually pretty high. Both can be washed, peeled, trimmed, and grated on a box grater. Spread the grated veggies on some paper towels and blot them as dry as you can. Add 1/2C and up to 1C to your favorite meatloaf or meatballs recipe. You may need to add a little extra breadcrumbs to get the right consistency, especially with the meatballs as you want them to hold together. This actually helps you get a nice moist result, the meat is flavorful and more nutritious, and they won’t even know they’ve been had!

I have also added these same grated veggies to chili and taco meat, my spaghetti sauce, and even my beef and barley stew! I make a kind of chunky sweet and sour sauce for chicken, and the grated carrots especially go well in that.

Carrots are a great vegetable! My kids will eat chunks of carrot cooked all day in my pot roast, and sliced carrots and parsnips in my flavorful chicken noodle soup. I’ve tried the cauliflower mashed with potatoes and no one really liked that, but parsnips? Way to go, Mama!

The best tool I’ve found for my mashed potatoes and parsnips is a ricer. If you have never used one, it is a hand tool similar to a giant garlic press. You push the cooked potatoes and parsnips through it and the result resembles rice. You then add your butter, cream, salt and pepper, and use a large rubber spatula to toss and mix it gently. The result is an amazingly fluffy, textured mash that tastes wonderful.

Another thing everyone likes is a baked cauliflower head. Wash it thoroughly, trim the stem, and pat it dry. Brush with a beaten egg and pat buttered seasoned breadcrumbs all over it and bake in the oven.

Wash, peel, and bias cut 10 to 12 carrots. Even mix in a few parsnips! Put in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Drain, and put back on the stove with a stick of butter, 1/4C packed brown sugar, salt & pepper. Mix well, and let bubble and thicken several minutes. My kids call these dessert carrots and they love them.

As they have gotten older, they like creamed peas with pearl onions, pasta in an alfredo sauce with spinach and other finely chopped vegetables. Broccoli with a cheddar cheese sauce also goes well.

Some kids like vegetables, and that’s great! For those who don’t, try some of Grammy’s tricks and tips. Tell me about yours!

Good luck!

Love, Grammy