Get Ready for Chinese New Year!

Won't be too long before we need to be planning our Chinese New Year parties! We'll celebrate the Year of the Horse on January 31.  I was born during the Year of the Horse, so I'm hoping my kitchen remodel is all finished and everything is back in order so I can have a little gathering that night.  I'm waiting on the arrival of the countertops! 

I've posted one of my cooking columns from last year.  It originally appeared in the Murphysboro American Newspaper.  You might like the recipe for your next Asian themed dinner.  It's a crock pot meal ... so it will be an easy one!

Good Food: Local   
By:  Debbie Moore

Not every woman brags about her son-in-law, but I do!  I have a good one!  A couple years ago, he got up really early the day after Thanksgiving and went to one of those early bird shopping events and bought one of my Christmas presents.  I was stunned to learn that it had been his idea to give me a crock pot buffet server with three little pots in it, and he had to be an early shopper to get a red one!  We like to eat, and we like to entertain, and that gift has been used many times.

The history of the crock pot dates to 1971 when the Rival Company introduced the trademarked Crock-Pot name to home cooks.  As you know, the handy little countertop cookers come in a variety of brands, sizes and shapes and offer busy parents a perfect way of getting a meal on the table!  There are lots of other advantages of crock pot cooking, and probably the best example is the fact that slowly simmering a cheap cut of meat turns it into something wonderful.  However, the most significant disadvantage is that the same process can turn vegetables into morsels of mush that have few nutrients left in them.  But, they taste good, so we enjoy them anyway!

The history of crockery cooking dates to the earliest ancient days of food preparation and is still remains prevalent in virtually every culture.   The Chinese still cook in an unglazed clay pot that they first soak in water, so the steam escapes, enhancing the contents.   The German’s Römertopf, which actually means “Roman pot”, is another example of an unglazed clay roaster that you soak in water before roasting meats and vegetables.  One of my favorite methods of clay pot cooking, which is a column for another day, is using the Moroccan Tagine to turn simple chicken thighs into a delicious, melt in your mouth, Sunday dinner!

One of my favorite Southern Illinois grown vegetables to keep over the winter is butternut squash.    All you have to do is make sure you get squash that don’t have any blemishes, then keep them in a cool but dry place.  That doesn’t mean the refrigerator or crisper, but more like a closet shelf or a spot in your basement.  They will keep for about three months and sure do add great flavor to soups and vegetable medleys. 

However, if you’d like to freeze your butternut squash in the fall for wintertime use, there are a couple of easy ways to do that.  You can simply peel and remove the seeds and fibers from the squash.  Cut it into one-inch (or less) cubes and seal them in a plastic bag and freeze them.  That would be perfect to add to soups, risotto or simply roast.  Another easy way is to make puree and freeze it.  To do that, all you have to do is cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and fiber, and place it skin side up in a roasting pan with an inch of water in it.  Roast the squash at 375 degrees for 30 to 50 minutes, depending upon the size of the squash.   It is ready, when you can stick a fork through the skin.  Remove the squash from the water and let it cool.  You can scoop the squash from the peels, mash it a little and freeze it in a bag.  As always, when you use a bag as a freezer container, make sure you press all the excess air from the bag before you seal it.

Today, I’m sharing two recipes that have a splash of sunshine in them because I’ve used plenty of orange zest and orange juice;    Roasted Butternut Squash and Orange Ginger Beef.  In addition, I’ve included a simple salad dressing recipe that you’ll make with ingredients which are probably in your cupboard all the time.  Finally, I’ve included a recipe for banana bread turned cookie bar that is made even better with a browned butter frosting and a big drizzle of chocolate sauce at serving time!   Good cooks always remember that we eat with our eyes before we ever taste a thing, so that glistening sauce over the creamy buttery frosting looks delicious and makes your mouth water!

I hope you’ll try all these recipes, but especially the roasted squash.  It is so easy and is not only good, but local!


Orange Ginger Beef

1 pound of beef stew meat
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon minced ginger
Zest of 2 oranges
2 cups orange juice
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours until the meat is fork tender.  Serve over steamed white rice or your favorite noodles.

Roasted Butternut Squash

4 cups cubed raw butternut squash
2 Tablespoons orange infused canola oil
1 orange
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Place the squash on a heavy baking sheet.  Drizzle the oil over the squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice the orange and lay it over the squash.  Roast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the squash is tender and slightly brown on the edges.  Remove from the oven immediately and serve warm or at room temperature.   Olive oil may be used instead of canola oil and if you don’t have orange infused oil, squeeze the juice and sprinkle the zest of an orange over the squash before roasting.

From the Cupboard Asian Dressing

½ cup rice wine or red wine vinegar
½ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar or equivalent sugar substitute

This recipe is simple enough!  Whisk all the ingredients together and serve with your favorite salad.  The salad I’ve chosen to accompany my Orange Ginger Beef is shredded salad greens topped with thinly sliced pears and finished with chopped scallions.  Easy and good!

Banana Bread Bars
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1 stick butter, softened
2 eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped walnuts

Brown Butter Frosting

1 stick butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
3-4 Tablespoons milk

Whip together the butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar, bananas and extract until smooth.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt and add it to the wet ingredients.  Continue to beat the ingredients until well blended.  Fold in the chopped walnuts.  Pour the batter into a 15x10 inch baking sheet, which has been buttered and floured.    Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes until the center springs back when you touch it.   Remove from the oven and let the bread bars begin to cool.   Prepare the frosting by melting the butter over medium heat.  Use a large heavy pan, so you can mix the icing right in the pan.  Constantly stir the butter as it heats to a boil and just as soon as it starts to brown, remove it from the heat and add the extract and powdered sugar.  Stir quickly and add the milk, a Tablespoon at a time until it reaches spreading consistency.  Frost the bread bars while they are still warm.  The frosting will be thick, so it helps to work with it while the sheet of bars is warm.     Top with another sprinkling of walnuts.   You can cut these into squares are rectangles, but I love to cut them with a big biscuit cutter and drizzle them with chocolate or caramel sauce.

Mini Chocolate Desserts for Christmas!

I've been so busy ... working ... and I'm smack dab in the middle of a kitchen remodel, which will be a post for another day.  Thought I should post something because so many folks visit my blog!  This is one of my cooking  columns, which was originally published in the Southern Illinoisan Newspaper ... from 2012 ... featuring mini desserts that will be perfect for holiday entertaining.  Enjoy!

Made at Home – February 1, 2012

My favorite hobby is tablescaping and in order to enjoy that, I also enjoy collecting unique dinnerware patterns!  My collecting started with a stack of pink Depression Glass dessert plates given to me as a wedding present by one of my aunts.  I didn’t really like them, but a couple years later I used them to set a pretty springtime luncheon table.  My friends complimented the table and I fell in love with colored glass.  My quest began!  I promised my husband that I’d never collect anything that I wouldn’t use to set a table.  A few years later he reminded me of that promise and told me that he knew I could set a different table every day for the rest of my life!  That probably wasn’t true then, but it certainly is now.

Recently, my daughter and I were shopping in the antique stores in Murphysboro.  You should probably know that I had just purchased two sets of china from George’s Resale, but on that day it was a stack of chocolate brown and white plates in Sis’s Collectibles that caught my eye.  Actually, it was more than a stack of plates; it was almost twelve place settings of beautiful Franciscan china in the Tonquin pattern.   The set was missing a few cups and saucers.  Until recently,  when I’d find something that I was interested in purchasing, I’d come home and check my reference books and get online to be sure I could purchase replacement pieces.   Now, I just stand in the shop and get out my very intelligent cell phone and get online to find all the information I need.   My favorite online replacement store had the cups and saucers, so I came home with a couple boxes of china!
My friends are always asking me to include ideas about creating tablescapes, menus and dinner party themes in my columns!  

Here’s how it works.  Tonquin is a pattern that was produced by many china manufacturers in a common process, which is the transfer of a copper engraving onto a piece of white stoneware.  The engraving is usually a picture of a special place and gifting a piece of this china was similar to sending a post card from a far-away place, that most people would never be able to visit.   The place in the Tonquin pattern is a beautiful Asian plantation house sitting on the bank of a river.  On the river is a pair of swans.  Swans speak romance to me because they mate for life.  Romance equals Valentine’s Day and because the china is chocolate brown, we’re having a chocolate valentine party and setting the table with my new, old china!   That’s how a tablescaper thinks!

The chocolate dessert recipes that I’m sharing with you today are intended to be made in very small portions.  They are rich in calories and love, and moderation is the key to healthy eating!  So, get out your tiny cordial glasses, custard cups and sauce bowls to set up your servings.   Each of these recipes includes a helpful shortcut!  Let your guests choose the number of tiny portions they want and they’ll love every bite, because these will have been made at home!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Pudding

2 cups of ready-made chocolate pudding
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons soft butter
2 Tablespoons milk
8 tiny bananas
Whipped cream
Crumbled cookies

Layer this dessert in 8 small glasses. Slice half a tiny banana in the bottom of each glass.  Divide the chocolate pudding between the glasses.  To make the next layer, whip the peanut butter, butter and milk and place a little on top of the pudding.  Slice each of the remaining bananas lengthwise, and stick two slices in each of the glasses.  Garnish with whipped cream and crumbled cookies.

Mini Tiramisu with Coffee Meringues

1 packaged pound cake
½ cup strong coffee
2 Tablespoons coffee liqueur
6 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 pint whipping cream
Chocolate syrup
Mini meringues, maraschino cherries, sliced almonds for garnish

To make the mini meringues, whip 2 egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Whip in ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.    Form 12 mini meringues on a silicone baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven off, but leave the meringues in the oven for another hour.

To prepare the dessert filling, whip the mascarpone cheese, confectioner’s sugar and almond extract until smooth.   Add the whipping cream and whip on high speed until the filling gets thick and fluffy.

To compose the desserts, put a teaspoonful of chocolate syrup in the bottom of each of 12 glasses.  Combine the coffee and liqueur and cut the pound cake into 1-inch cubes.  Dip each cube into the coffee mixture.  Place a few cubes in each glass.  Put some of the cheese filling over the pound cake and top with a meringue kiss, a cherry and a sprinkle of almonds.

Chocolate Brownie Bites with Lynn’s Orange Fluff

Prepare your favorite brownie box mix and cut the cooled brownies into small pieces.   Use a pastry bag to pipe fluffy orange icing on top of each brownie.  You can also use an ice cream scoop to place the icing on the brownie.  Lynn, my blogging friend from Philadelphia, recently shared this icing recipe.

Icing Ingredients:
1 3-ounce box of orange gelatin
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup boiling water

In a large mixing bowl, place the gelatin mix, sugar, egg white and vanilla.   Turn your mixer on high speed as you pour in the boiling water and continue beating until the icing forms stiff peaks.  This will take a few minutes.  This icing is similar to the old-fashioned 7-minute frosting, but much easier.  Any flavor of gelatin works, but it cannot be the sugar-free variety.    

Thunderstorms and Tornadoes on Halloween!

The stormy weather changed trick-or-treating to November 1st, but we had our annual chili supper on the real Halloween!   Hoot owls came to roost!

MeMutt isn't sure he wants a hug from Miss Phoebe!   He gave her a card, so she gave him a big hug!  Look at his eyes!

Beets Jelly & Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar Cookies!

I'm going to post the jelly recipe that I made using juice from beets.  I cooked and froze beets earlier in the summer and I had seen several recipes for using the juice to make jelly.  I never like wasting that beautiful purple juice!  Many of our growers will have another round of beets this fall, so you still have time to make this!  Yes, I freeze my beets ... then thaw and roast them in the oven with herb flavored oils and balsamic vinegar.   You'll think this jelly recipe is unusual ... but it is really good.   What comes after the jelly?  Fantastic Peanut Butter and Jelly Bar Cookies!

Beet Juice Jelly

4 cups of beet juice
1 package of dry fruit pectin
1 small box of raspberry or grape gelatin
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
6 cups sugar

In a large pot, bring the beet juice to a boil. Add the pectin, gelatin and lemon juice.  Slowly pour in the sugar … stirring … and bring it back to a rolling boil, which cannot be stirred down.  Let it boil for 2 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Skim off the foam and pour the jelly into sterilized jars.  Add the lids and process in a boiling water bath  for 10 minutes.  Remove and let the jars of jelly cool down.  Each lid should “pop” as it seals.  Tighten the rims before staring the jelly.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookie Bars

1 stick butter at room temperature
¾ cup white sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup creamy peanut butter 
1 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
1 ½  cups strawberry preserves

I hope you made some strawberry preserves, blueberry jam grape jelly this year, because now is the time to use some!  Remind your little helpers in the kitchen about how much fun it was to pick the strawberries or blueberries!

You can streamline this recipe by putting all the ingredients, except for the preserves, in a food processor at the same time and pulsing it until it is well blended and the content is crumbly.  Reserve ½ cup of this crumbly dough and press the rest of it into a prepared 9 x 13 inch pan.   Spread the preserves over the top of that and sprinkle the reserved crumbly dough over the top.  You can also add a handful of chopped peanuts or peanut chips over the top of this cookie bar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven to cool completely before cutting.  Another bar cookie tip is to line your baking pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, leaving extra length on two sides, so you can lift them whole pan of cookies out of the pan and set it on a cutting board.  It is always easier to cut them, when they are sitting out of the pan.

Ladybug Tea Party!

I'd do just about anything for this granddaughter of mine!  Miss Phoebe started first grade this week and she is in the Ladybug Class ... so, today, we had a Ladybug Tea Party!

The star attraction for Phoebe ... Ladybug cupcakes!  Wilton makes a cute kit ... and I couldn't resist!

Phoebe has loved hot tea since she was old enough to understand the tea party episode of Backyardigans!  We made her a fancy pot of hot tea while she watched it ... and Joe and I played tea party with her!  She used a china cup, even though she was hardly old enough to hold it!   I figured that if she broke it, I had about 400 more to choose from!

The fancy part of this tea party is my cooking column for this week, so I'll wait to share recipes after it runs!   Check back next week for an update with recipes!   I'll tell you now, though, that the little cheesecakes have yellow summer squash in them!

 My plate looked pretty good!  Yummy!

I chose my Blue Willow china because it was handy and I love the old pattern.  I like to tell Phoebe the story depicted in this pattern, although today we didn't have time for that.  We had lots of school talk going on!

And one last picture ... of a very tired waiter who is parked on his rug with his favorite magazines!

I'll be sharing this with a few blog parties this week, so make sure you click through to visit some of the other posts!  Go to my home page, first though ... I have some other new posts that you'll love.  I've baked bread using Apple Ale instead of plain old beer ....... and I've posted the 3rd in my series of "12 Days of Leftover Turkey"!!

Quick Bread Made with Apple Ale

Apple Ale Bread

When my daughter announced that she was making beer bread today because she had too much beer in the house, I decided I should try a loaf with the Apple Ale I recently bought and will never drink!  I like it, but I'd much rather have a glass of good wine ... apple wine! 

It smelled so good while it was baking ... and it tastes just as good!  I put dried Southern Illinois blueberries in it and dried watermelon seeds, instead of nuts. Scrumptious.

Here's the recipe.  I'm sharing this post with some blog parties, so make sure you click through to see the other posts ... but first, check out my home page.  I'm posting some Ladybug Tea Party pictures and the 3rd in my series of Twelve Days of Leftover Turkey!

3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
3 teaspoons of baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons canola oil
1 bottle (12 ounces) of Apple Ale at room temperature
¼ cup dried watermelon seeds
¼ cup dried blueberries

Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl.  Oh, that is easy!  Bake in a greased and floured bread pan at 375 degrees for 35 - 40 minutes.  The bread should be brown on top and a pick should come out clean when you insert it in the middle of the loaf.  While the bread is still hot, brush melted butter over the top of it.   Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting it.  It is really good served warm with soft butter and honey!

Turkey Pot Pie with Angel Biscuits on Top

Turkey Pot Pie with Angel Biscuits!

The 3rd in a Series of 12 Days of Leftover Turkey!

I cannot begin to tell you how many batches of Angel Biscuit dough I make in the course of a year!  It is my "go to" for many things.  You probably already know that in addition to making the best biscuits ever, the dough makes incredible fried doughnuts and sweet rolls.  You can roll it thin and use it as the topping for casseroles and you can pinch it off in little balls and make delicious savory or sweet monkey bread!  I'll share the recipe for the biscuits, but I also want to share the recipe for this delicious pot pie made with left over turkey!   I never get tired of having bags of turkey in the freezer.  It comes in handy for so much!

Turkey Pot Pie

2 cups of bits of cooked turkey meat
1 rib of celery, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 cup of corn kernels
1 cup green peas
1 cup of sliced or cubed carrots
2 cups potato chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage
4 cups chicken stock
2 Tablespoons corn starch in 4 Tablespoons cold water

In a big pot of water, boil the vegetables until they are tender.  The celery and carrots will take a little longer, so you can start them first and add the remaining vegetables later.   Drain the water from the vegetables and add the chicken stock, all the seasoning and the turkey meat.  Bring this to a simmer and add the corn starch slurry to thicken it.   When it is thick pour it into a 3 quart casserole dish (a 9x13 inch works well) and top it with several angel biscuits.  Bake it in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.  The biscuits should be nice and brown and they will have absorbed some of the broth.  Let the casserole cool about 10 minutes before serving it.  **You can top it with pre-packaged refrigerated biscuits.

Angel Biscuits

Mix these three ingredients together and let it stand for 5 minutes, until the yeast bubbles:

2 packages dry yeast
½ cup warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar

Blend the oil and buttermilk together:

½ cup canola oil
2 cups buttermilk

Blend all the dry ingredients together:

5 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar

Now, mix all the ingredients together until you have a nice dough.  It might be a little bit  sticky, but that is fine.  Put it in a large covered plastic container and refrigerate it over night.  Pinch off the amount you want to bake;  roll or pant and cut your biscuits;  place on a greased heavy pan;  bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.

This dough will keep in the refrigerator for about 10 days.  You can also freeze it, but let it thaw in the fridge the night before you want to use it.   Plan for the dough to expand while refrigerated, so put it in a container with lots of extra space.

I'll be sharing this with a few blog parties, so make sure you click through to see all the other posts!

Turkey Cacciatore over Rice or Pasta

Left-over Turkey in Cacciatore!

2nd of a Series of 12 Days of Left-over Turkey!

This is a great recipe to use to stretch a bag of left-over turkey meat into 6 good portions of sauce for pasta or rice.   If you've frozen your turkey, you could be eating this a couple months after Thanksgiving, but if you are using it up quickly ... there is no better way to get over all that "turkey and dressing" theme than to serve Italian!   Of course, I cook turkeys all year long and enjoy having bags of the meat in the freezer ... but I'm never amazed to learn that some families just have turkey a couple times a year.  I always think they are really missing out!

Left-over Turkey Cacciatore

3 – 4 cups of left-over turkey chunks or several slices
1 small onion, sliced
1 16-ounce can of tomato sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 green pepper, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup white or red wine
4 Tablespoons olive oil

Place the olive oil in the bottom of the crock pot and turn it on high.  Wait about 30 minutes, then add the vegetables and spices and stir them around in the olive oil.   Lay the turkey pieces over the vegetables and pour the tomato sauce over it.  Put the lid on the pot and let it cook for 2 hours.  In this short amount of time, the vegetables should be done and the flavors will have combined for a delightful sauce to serve over pasta or rice.

I'm sharing this post with a  couple parties this week, so make sure you click through to visit the other folks.  But first, visit my home page or my "Turkey Left-overs" page ... so you can see the other recipes.  I'm posting a series of 12 recipes to use turkey in ... and you'll want to visit often so you'll be ready when the big day arrives ... the day AFTER Thanksgiving!

I've Got the Blues!

Oh, my!  I have been so busy this summer ... that I haven't done anything in my house.  In fact, if the vacuum cleaner didn't almost run itself, that wouldn't have gotten done either!  My little team of teachers and I have taught over 1,000 people how to cook ... in 5 counties ... day and night classes.  We've published a couple special newspapers filled with recipes ... a little cookbook with favorite recipes in it ... and created a set of 1800 recipe cards for the students.  Oh, wow!

So, when I saw these cute cobalt blue canisters in one of our local stores a week ago, I just knew I needed them to kind of launch what needs to be a month of deep cleaning and getting ready for fall.   That sounds good, but I really only have a week to get all that done ... because I start another big consulting project on August 27th.   So, for now ... enjoy this splash of cobalt blue.  Eventually, my sunroom will be filled with more of this pretty stuff ... and I'll post more pictures!

I'm sharing with a few parties, so make sure you click through to visit the other sites!

Next Day Turkey a la King!

Morning After Thanksgiving!

1st of a Series of 
12 Days of Left-over Turkey!

It has always been a tradition at 
my house ... to have brunch on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day.  For almost 40 years, the menu has been the same:  Turkey a la King!   
My husband and I were married the week before Thanksgiving, and I distinctly remember that first big meal I fixed for the family.  The next day, as I looked at all the left-overs, I opened up my blue and white Good Housekeeping cookbook and found a picture of Chicken a la King ... and that started the tradition.   

Now, I wasn't new to the dish.  When I was in high school, my mom would keep Banquet brand boiling bag portions of Chicken a la King in the freezer.  I walked home for lunch ... had plenty of time to fix one of those ... and still get back to school in time for afternoon classes.  I loved the stuff!

Good news for me.  My husband loved it too, but his first taste came on our little kitchen table during the first week of marriage!  I'm not sure what he loved the most ... the Thanksgiving Day turkey ... or brunch the day after!

Next Day Turkey a la King

1 stick butter
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
4 Tablespoons flour
2 cups chopped turkey
1 cup chicken stock
2 cups milk
1 cup peas
¼ cup sliced green pimento stuffed olives

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and sauté the mushrooms, onions and celery until the vegetables are soft.  Blend in the flour and add the chicken stock.  Continue to stir and add the turkey, peas and milk.  The sauce should begin to thicken.  As a last step, add the olives and a little olive juice for flavor.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve this over toast, biscuits, toasted corn bread or puff pastry.

Now remember … the purpose of this recipe is to use up left-over turkey and fixin’s.  If you have left-over peas and mushrooms from Thanksgiving dinner … use them instead of fresh mushrooms and a new batch of peas.  If there are pearl onions in your left-over peas … even if they are in cream sauce … add all of it and skip the onions in the recipe!  If you have a few olives left in the jar … use them.  They only make this recipe better.  I’ve even been known to ‘un-stuff’ celery and eat the stuffing on a cracker, so I could use the celery in my a la King!   I doubt that I have ever actually made this recipe with chicken or turkey stock because I always use left-over giblet gravy!

The other thing to keep in mind is that although this recipe easily makes 6 – 8 portions, if you have a crowd to feed, you can add more milk and gravy/stock … without adding more turkey.  The cream sauce … enhanced with the salty flavors of the olives … is really good with or without turkey, so you can stretch the recipe by increasing the amount of sauce!

This is just one way to use turkey that is left from your big dinner.  Save the big chunks for something else, because the bits that you pick off the carcass are perfect for this recipe.

I'm going to share this with a few parties, so make sure you click through to visit!

Thanksgiving in August?

Why do I cook a 
Thanksgiving dinner in August? 

Just because I want to ... and I don't do the whole thing, but by August, I'm ready for a turkey.  Sometimes I fry the turkey ... sometimes I put it on the spit on the bbq grill ...  but today I roasted it in the oven.  The temperatures stayed in the 70s today, which is pretty unusual for August in Southern Illinois ... so it didn't bother me to heat up the kitchen!

I did make an interesting twist on my traditional dressing.  I wanted to make sure it screamed Southern Illinois, so I filled it full of the fruity flavors of dried blueberries and a peach ... both from just down the road in our orchard county.  I used part of a loaf of Anadama bread I made a few weeks ago and froze.  Anadama bread has corn meal in it and sorghum molasses, so adding the fruit seemed like the perfect thing to do.  I also put a little bit of honey in it and I used local honey to baste the turkey, too.

I fixed a 22 pound turkey, so I had plenty to freeze.  There's a method to my summertime madness!   I'm going to document all the things I do with the left-overs and use it in one of my cooking columns right before Thanksgiving 2013!  My readers and cooking class students frequently ask me what to do with left-over turkey.  Now, I'll have pictures and recipes that will begin with brunch tomorrow ... one of my favorite things ... Turkey a la King!    Then, I'm fixing turkey pot pie with homemade biscuits on top ... for my daughter and family. They are returning from vacation and they'll be starved, but too pooped to cook!  So, I promised I'd deliver dinner.

As I prepare all these left-over delights, I'll be posting on this blog and will be adding the posts to a special page entitled "Turkey Forever"!   So, you'll want to return from time to time and check out the additions.

I'm sharing with a few parties this week, so make sure you check out all the posts at ...

Tomatoes & Pineapple!

 I have had too many tomatoes!  Can you possibly have too many tomatoes?  No!

I enjoy tomato jam ... It is good on toast with eggs and bacon ... It is good poured over a round of melting brie cheese ... It is good over a block of cream cheese.  It is just good.  What I enjoy even more is tomato jam that has been enhanced with the flavors of other things.  I have a really healthy pineapple sage plant this year and I've enjoyed snipping it and using it in many things, so I decided it could only make my tomato jam better ... and adding a can of crushed pineapple to the batch made it even better.

Let me tell you how this creation started!  I had 3 cups of tomato juice left from canning tomatoes.  I hot pack my tomatoes, so having a little juice left isn't unusual, but this time I had enough to make a batch of jam.  Here's the recipe.

Tomato Pineapple - Pineapple Sage Jam

Simmer 3 cups of tomato juice, 1 can of crushed pineapple with its juice, 3 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes (with their peels), 4 Tablespoons chopped pineapple sage leaves and 7 cups of sugar.  There is a little natural pectin in these fruits, but it is essentially the sugar syrup that actually thickens.  Simmer the ingredients for 10 minutes, then drop in 2 pouches of liquid pectin.  Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil and let it boil for 2 minutes.   Turn off the heat;  skim any foam from the top of the jam;  pour in sterilized jars and cover with sterilized lids;  process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Before you move on, visit my home page and check out some of my other posts! I'm going to share my post with a few parties this week, so make sure you skip on over and check out the other party posts!

Summer Salads from Good Food: Local!

 I write a weekly cooking column for my hometown newspaper, the Murphysboro (Illinois) American.   I'll give you the link to the newspaper at the end of this post ... but since July has hit, I think I'll just share the whole column and recipes with you.
You can always follow the link and "search" on the newspaper's site for "Good Food:Local".  That will give you a series of columns that you can read when you have time!  When the heat of Southern Illinois summer finally reaches my house, entree salads end up on the supper time menu ... and this column is all about some of those delicious salads!  Enjoy!
Get ready!  Those hot summer days are just ahead of us!  I enjoy keeping my crisper filled with fresh salad making vegetables, so I don’t have to cook when it gets too hot!  

My readers know what a food history nut I am, and now my cooking class students know that about me, too.  We enjoy discussing the origins of recipes and foodways and today’s column features some of those stories.  My new students are delighted when I tell them about themed dinner parties I’ve hosted over the years that focus on the history of foods and recipes.

Today’s column begins with one of those stories!  Several years ago, I hosted a girlfriends’ luncheon for a dozen women, and I wanted a theme that allowed them to get all dressed up with a little glitz and glamour.  My theme evolved from my love of old Hollywood and black and white movies, so I chose a luncheon menu of delicious Cobb Salad.  The Cobb Salad originated in Hollywood at the Brown Derby Restaurant, so I created invitations showing an old picture of the original restaurant.  My table was set with brown dinnerware and my centerpiece was composed of old black and white movie photos that I printed in brown and 3 cute derby hats.  Only one of my hats, which I bought at local thrift stores, was actually brown, so I embellished the other two with brown satin bands and a few bronze sequins!   Yes, that’s the way I entertain!

None of my guests knew the story of the Cobb Salad.  It was created quite by accident, when the owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant, Robert Howard Cobb, went into the kitchen and gathered up a bunch of left overs to make a salad.  He had the cook fry some bacon to throw in with all the other good things and it was so good, he put on the menu!  That story dates to 1937 and the recipe for Cobb Salad has never changed. 

The Italian Panzanella salad is another of my favorites because it uses stale bread.  I first had this salad in 1981 in San Francisco, and I still make it with sourdough bread, the same way that Alioto’s Restaurant made it. Alioto’s was founded in 1925 and was originally a food stall that sold wholesome Sicilian food to the laborers that worked on Fisherman’s Wharf.  After the Golden Gate and Bay bridges opened in the 1930s, the family opened a restaurant, but still made wholesome food using family recipes that had been passed down for generations.   Panzanella in its original form was praised by a 16th century artist and poet who sang praises of onions and oil and vinegar served with toast.  In another stanza, he added praise for lettuce and cucumbers.  That was the popular recipe for Panzanella and in the 20th century, we began adding lots of other ingredients including tomatoes, basil and cheese.  The purpose of the bread is to soak up the tasty dressing.

My most favorite summer salad is the 1970s Seven Layer Salad that many believe originated in the Deep South!  I’ve never known exactly where the Deep South is, so I’m just claiming it as a Deep Southern Illinois family reunion and church supper invention, although I doubt that is true!   I associate this salad with Watergate, because I remember seeing it in a women’s magazine featured alongside the popular Watergate Cake and Watergate Salad, both of which were made with instant pistachio pudding.  That’s a story for another day’s column!  

Normally the layered salad is made in a big clear glass bowl, so you can see the layers, but I’ve made mine in canning jars.  The canning jar salad craze is upon us and smart brown bag lunch takers have learned that they can make 5 salads on Sunday afternoon for each day of the upcoming week.  There’s just something about the jar and the tight sealing lid that makes the salads stay perfectly fresh for a week.   Any salad works, but I’ve made my favorite, which has more than seven layers!

The Good Food: Local cooking classes are going beautifully.  My team members love working with the children who seem to be soaking up their lessons about nutrition.  Our adult students are having a good time, too.  We’ve made all kinds of unique recipes including Cream of Radish Soup and Cabbage Fritters.  I’ll share those recipes later in a book we plan to compile that will feature our most popular classroom recipes.

Hope you’ll try at least one of these summertime salad favorites.  With exception of the eggs, meat and avocado in this variety of salad recipes, all the ingredients came from the Farmers’ Market.  Everything is local and good!

Here are the Recipes!

Cobb Salad

You can use any salad greens you’d like, but a combination of iceberg lettuce and Romaine lettuce offers perfect crunch.  Top a layer of greens with chopped tomatoes, crumbled fried bacon, chunks of boiled chicken breast, a hard-boiled egg, slices of avocado, mild onions, green pepper chunks and Roquefort or Bleu cheese chunks.   I’ve substituted deli style roast turkey breast in my salad.    The original salad had a big sprinkling of chives, but my recipe puts the chives in the homemade dressing.   The proper way to assemble the salad is to put the greens on a shallow bowl or platter and arrange rows of the ingredients, covering all the lettuce.  Toss the salad with the dressing when you are ready to serve it.

Top your salad with a good drizzle of Red Wine Vinaigrette.   Make the dressing by whisking together ¼ cup red wine vinegar, 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 3 Tablespoons honey, 2 Tablespoons chopped chives, several grinds of black pepper and ½ cup of olive oil. 

Panzanella, Debbie’s Style  

4 cups quartered red tomatoes
2 cups cucumber chunks
2 cups thin slices of a sweet onion
1 cup sweet bell pepper chunks
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 heaping Tablespoon capers
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
4 cups of big chunks of sourdough bread

The trick to making this salad really good is to use old bread, and if you bread isn’t at least 3 days old, it will turn to mush!  You can dry it out in the oven by baking it at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or you can grill your chunks of bread after you drizzle it with oil.

Make the salad dressing by combining 1 teaspoon minced garlic with ½ cup Kalamata olive oil with 2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar.   Add salt and pepper to taste, but you can add as much as a teaspoon of artisan’s salt and several grinds of black pepper.   Pour the dressing on the salad and let all of it sit out and come to room temperature. 

Some recipes suggest soaking the bread in water, then squeezing it out before you add it to the salad.   I skip that step, but I drizzle my bread crumbs with additional olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.  Sometimes I drizzle it with the oil from sundried tomatoes or from roasted red peppers.  I also like to grill my bread chunks and add them just before serving the salad.   Letting the salad sit to come to room temperature will also allow the vegetables to generate juices that will mix beautifully with the salad dressing.  The purpose of the bread is to soak up all that savory liquid.

Seven Layer Salad Plus

Yes, there are more than seven layers in this salad!  In order to make certain that the onion and bacon flavors flow through the whole salad, layer your ingredients from the bottom in this order:

Chopped iceberg lettuce
Thinly sliced radishes
Chopped green pepper
Chopped cauliflower
Chopped red tomatoes
Frozen green peas
Thinly sliced peeled cucumber
Sliced hard boiled eggs
Chopped green onions
Crumbled fried bacon
Mayonnaise topping
Shredded cheddar cheese

Before using, thaw the peas by rinsing them under cold water.  When you fry the bacon, save the bacon grease to make the mayonnaise topping.    Make the mayonnaise topping by combining 2 cups of mayonnaise, ½ cup of sugar and the drippings from frying 6 to 8 strips of bacon.   Layer the salad following this list; spread the topping all over it; and top it all with cheddar cheese.  Cover the salad and refrigerate overnight for the best flavors.  The mayonnaise will drip down into the first few layers of salad and makes a flavorful combination of summertime vegetables.

See a series of my cooking columns at The Murphysboro American.

I'll be sharing this post with a few parties this week.  Make sure you click through and join in the fun!

February's Family Sunday Dinner

Christmas 2020

Mary Queen of Scots Dinner Menu Booklet

Grandma Debbie's Christmas 2018

Grandma's Blue & Green Pupkins!

Autumn at Grandma Debbie's