Monday, December 12, 2011

Making Brown Sugar

Did you know you can make your own brown sugar?  It's not necessarily cheaper, but when you need it and can't get to the store, it's handy to know this little trick.  We used to do this all the time when I was growing up as we lived in the country and a grocery store was a 20 min. or more trip into town.  I haven't made brown sugar in years, but the other day I was in the midst of making cookies and really didn't have the time to run to the store.  So, here's what I did - I don't have exact measurements, but you can eyeball it.

First get a good pile of sugar in a large bowl.

Then pour a small amount of molasses into it.  I tend to use less rather than more because if you get too much molasses, you end up having to keep adding sugar to get the right consistency and sometimes it can go on forever!

Toward the end you may still have little balls of molasses.  Keep mashing it (I used the back of spoon) until it is completely worked into the sugar.  It takes some patience, but keep working at it.
I imagine you can also do this in the food processor, but I'm not sure if it would eliminate the small balls of molasses.  You may still need to do some mashing by hand.

Voila!  Beautiful, golden, brown sugar.

Another trick I learned, from my Uncle's sweet, southern mother, for any brown sugar is to place a piece of  bread on top of the sugar in the canister you're storing it in.  The bread absorbs the moisture and turns hard instead of your sugar.  Therefore, leaving you with fluffy brown sugar every time!

Boeuf Bourguignon becomes Venaison Bourguignon

We were given a deer this year. After Dad and Jeremy prepared it I decided to try my hand at making Julia Child's famous Boeuf Bourguignon with it.  Therefore, the name becomes Venaison Bourguignon.  I followed all the same steps only making it with venison rather than beef.

I grew up on venison, but sadly over the last decade I lost my taste for it.  I think because I had it from people who prepared it wrong.  It MUST be cooked for a good, long time to lose the wild game taste to it.  Because this recipe is so rich and has so many flavors packed into it, I knew it would be good.  It doesn't taste exactly the same, but it got me eating venison again, so I would consider it a success!

I used the recipe here from and made egg noodles to pour the stew over.  Here are some pics of the process!

The Butchers

Browning the venison in my awesome cast iron dutch oven.

Ready to go in the pot and in the oven!

Several hours later...

Browning the onions and mushrooms

Egg Noodles

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ice Cube Tutorial by Angelina

I just ran across this video I took Sept. 2010 of Angelina telling us how to make ice cubes.  It's so cute!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Feast

This year's meal was a success.  Although we knew it would be because we used our tried and true, favorite recipes. 

First, our appetizer was a delicious recipe from Pampered Chef that we adopted several years ago. 

Then came our delicious turkey.  We always use a cooking bag - no matter what the recipe says.  It always comes out so juicy and tender.  Usually we use this amazing recipe that came out of my November issue of Bon Appetit magazine in 1994, Apricot Glazed Turkey with Roasted Onion and Shallot Gravy.

However, this year we used another recipe from that same magazine.  It, too, was absolutely amazing and the gravy was phenomenal with sherry in it!  Roast Turkey with Herb Rub and Shiitake Mushroom Gravy.

My husband does a great job carving the turkey every year! Here is the tutorial he uses: How to Carve a Turkey Like a Man

Then, of course, you can't forget the most amazing sides:
 Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

We saw these cute "acorn" snacks to make and the peanut butter cups were supposed to be pilgrim hats, but I got the wrong size cookies.  So, Aubrey came up with this "wonderful idea" of how to make them special. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Pilgrim!

Lucy weighed the same as our turkey - 18 pounds!!!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Food for Thought...

As all of my blog followers know, I don't update this blog on a consistent, regular basis.  It's more like this:  I add a bunch of posts and then you don't hear from me for a while. Then in a couple of months I add some more posts and then I go silent.  I'm sure most of you have figured out it's not because I've stopped cooking, but because when I finally have a minute to sit down and post, I get as many in as possible to leave you with as much "food for thought" as I can.  So, hang in there with me.  Someday I hope to get more consistent again!  Enjoy for now - see you in a while!  :)

Mac-n-Cheese for Family Movie Night

We have started a new little tradition of Family Movie Night with the girls and they absolutely love it.  We find a family movie and eat dinner and other fun snacks while watching it.  The girls live for this day once per week.  This particular night I made mac-n-cheese with peas and ham.

This recipe originated with my Aunt Laura when my sister and I were kids.  It's a hit every time! 

Aunt Laura's Mac-n-Cheese with Peas & Ham:
(My stove top version)

White Sauce - 
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Melt the butter and stir in the flour until smooth and bubbly.  Then add the milk, constantly stirring until thickened.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

8 oz. macaroni
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 small ham steak, cubed
1 cup frozen peas
Toasted breadcrumbs (see instructions below)

Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.  In a large skillet or pan, combine cooked macaroni, white sauce, cheese, ham, and peas.  Mix together over medium heat until cheese is melted. 
For the toasted breadcrumbs, pour 1/2 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs into a small saute pan and swirl the pan over high heat until they start to brown.  Sprinkle over each serving or over entire casserole as the topping.  Voila!  It tastes almost as good as putting it in the oven!

I have these adorable enamel crocks that made for a more contained, personal meal and added little more fun. 

Sunday Dinner

Several weeks ago my parents came over for Sunday dinner and I just wanted to have a nice meal since I had to stay home from church with all of my sick kiddos.  Well, this menu surely didn't disappoint!  We had stuffed mini sweet peppers for appetizers.

Then we had steak with blue cheese sauce, mashed potatoes, and green beans.  It was a simple, hearty meal and oh, so good!

I found my recipe for the steak on Pioneer Woman's blog and the stuffed Pero sweet peppers on the back of the bag.  Angelina helped me by holding the peppers upright while I piped the stuffing into them. 

I also used a london broil (my personal favorite cut) because it was 3 times less expensive than the ribeye that the original recipe called for.

The Best Pecan Pie

I have a very deep respect for the elderly and the things they can teach us.  I also usually assume they are good cooks because they've been at it so long.  So, when I was told that my pecan pie might even be better than my uncle's southern mother's pecan pie, I felt very honored because she was an incredible cook.  However, all I can say is that I just followed the recipe from Betty Crocker's cookbook.  It's a no fail recipe and it's just in time for Thanksgiving!

P.S.  Always make your own crust.  Store bought is just plain old nasty!

Kale Chips

I've heard of kale chips, but I've never actually had them.  So, when our good friends gave me their food dehydrator due to moving, I thought I'd try them out.  I coated the chopped kale with olive oil and sprinkled kosher salt on them.

Then I cut pieces of parchment paper to fit the trays in the dehydrator and let them dry for several hours while rotating the trays from bottom to top.

The end result was really good and actually kind of addicting!  The only thing I learned is that you can't keep them in an airtight container because in a couple of days they become rancid.  I think it is due to the oil I coated them with. 

Recipes from Martha

Martha Stewart's Living magazine had a baked sweet potato topped with sauteed brussel sprouts, blue cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries.  It looked amazing and it really was!  It was really filling too. 

Then sometimes I like to have cooked chicken on hand for sandwiches, salad or chicken salad. I always use Martha's poached chicken recipe and then I use the liquid it's cooked in as chicken broth.  It works great every time.  Store the chicken in an airtight container for the next couple of days for instant meals!