Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

A heartfelt Merry Christmas from our home to yours...

May the winds of love and joy 

visit your homes this Christmas 

and live with you and your family 

for today and forever.

Wishing you and your family a 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Million Dollar Pasta

Do you love lasagna but dread taking the time to fix it? Here is a really quick pasta dish that makes a pretty close substitute. I have seen a zillion repostings of "Million Dollar Spaghetti" the past week and decided to give this a try. Andy said he'd rather eat this instead of lasagna. The recipe online was lacking in measurements, so I have included what I used.

You know me, I'm going to use what is in my pantry first even if I have to tweak the recipe a little. I chose to use penne pasta instead of spaghetti. I'll use it again since it's easier to eat.

The only thing I'll do differently next time is remember to add the Italian spices to the cheese. I had a doctor's appointment earlier that day and she told me she'd like to see me lose five pounds a year for the next four years so by the time I turn 55, I'll have lost twenty pounds. I'd like to see that myself. We will have to wait and see. I guess I was relating that conversation to Andy when I was mixing the cheese and forgot the spice. Guess what? It still tasted really good!

1 lb. box penne pasta or spaghetti
1 lb. ground beef (or ground Italian sausage)
1 small onion, chopped 
1 jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. sour cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
Garlic salt and Italian spices to taste
2 cup bag shredded Mozzarella cheese
Shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  1. Cook pasta per directions on the box, drain and set to the side.
  2. Brown ground beef with chopped onion. Season with a little garlic salt. Drain grease and add jar of spaghetti sauce. Turn on low and let simmer.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese, sour cream and ricotta cheese together until smooth. Add some Italian spices to taste.
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.
Spread half the pasta and cover with the cheese and Italian seasoning mixture.

Top with remaining pasta and cover with the meat/sauce mix.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
Remove from oven. Top with Parmesan and shredded Mozzarella cheese.
 Bake uncovered until cheese is melted.
Serve with garlic bread and a salad.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What Are You Thankful For?

Can you believe it's already time to celebrate Thanksgiving again? Where has this year gone? As always, we stay busy, busy, busy. When I stop and give thanks for all the things I have been blessed with, I'm amazed at  how long the list is. It seems like everyone wants more and more when they're younger. As I've aged, I want to deal with less and less. Keep it simple and life is so much better!

I really look forward to spending time with the kids and grand kids on Thursday. With everyone going a million directions; it's rare for us to all find a time that works for everyone to gather. This year we have decided on a good ol' traditional menu...nothing fancy. Andy will be smoking a couple of turkey breasts this year. After the one we fixed at our Labor Day get together disappeared so quickly; we thought we'd veer a little from normal. I'm sure I'll throw in a few extra goodies, but here's the plan as of today.

Grisham Family 2014 Thanksgiving Menu
Smoked Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Carrots
Cranberry Sauce
Yeast Rolls

Happy Thanksgiving from our home to yours!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Andy's Homemade Breakfast Sausage

We are still in the testing phase of making our own homemade breakfast sausage. The taste has always been good, it's perfecting the texture and fat/meat ratio that we are still working on. Our first go-around, the grinding blade was too big and the meat was coarser and a little tough. We still have a little tweaking to go, but overall, we are pretty pleased with this batch. Our conclusion is we need to mix in a little more fat the next time. The sausage patties are so lean you almost have to add a little extra oil when cooking. We are using a Chard #12 500 watt Heavy Duty Meat Grinder and it does an excellent job.We tried our hand at stuffing Italian sausage links. I'm not ready to go into all of that as we did good; but have to experiment some more.
Andy deboned five Boston Butts.
He then cut the chunks of pork into smaller, chunks that would fit in the meat grinder chute easily.

Grind, grind, grind.
We ended up with a total of 52 lbs. of sausage. We mixed up 31 lbs. of Fiesta, 9 lbs. of Old Plantation and another 11 lbs. of Italian sausage (using The Spice House's Italian Sausage Seasoning). 
There are two sausage seasoning flavors we both like. The first being Fiesta's Extra Fancy Pan Sausage Seasoning.We mixed two tablespoons per pound of pork and it's perfect.
Legg's Old Plantation has a different flavor, but it's equally as good. A little of this goes a long way. All it takes is two teaspoons per pound.
In 1 lb. portions, add half the required seasonings and mix well.
Mix in the second half of the spices. Blend well.
For casseroles and meatballs, we weighed and formed 1 lb rolls and vacuumed sealed them. Andy also patted out hundreds of sausage patties. Line a freezer safe container with waxed paper, layer the patties and let freeze overnight. The next day they will be ready to vacuum seal.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fancy Pants Chicken

I have scoured my "Foods I've Got To Cook" Pinterest board and my MTSIF Facebook page to find the original link to the Fancy Pants Chicken recipe I fixed recently. It is no where to be found and I would love to give credit where it's due. Andy and I really liked this. None of our local stores carried the recommended Lipton Recipe Secrets Savory Herb and Garlic soup, so I had to substitute with one of the Onion varieties. This was served up with some rice as a side dish. My recommendation is if you want more broth to go along with your rice (and I usually do), add a little extra chicken broth. Here is my version of Fancy Pants Chicken.
  • Two packages of chicken tenders
  • Pack of Prosciutto (I found a deli pack with the perfect amount to cover the chicken)
  • Small bag of fresh spinach
  • One package of fresh sliced mushrooms (Can't have too many!)
  • 1 envelope Lipton Recipe Secret’s Savory Herb and Garlic
  • 1/2 cup White Wine (I used my brother-in-law's homemade Pineapple Orange)
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 8oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray
 Cover bottom of casserole dish with chicken tenders. Salt and pepper the chicken.
 Layer with Proscuitto.
 Add layer of spinach.
 Layer mushrooms and lightly salt and pepper.
Combine olive oil, wine and soup envelope. Whisk well and pour over mushrooms. (Add a little extra chicken broth here if you want a little more liquid)
 Cover with aluminum foil lightly and bake for 35 minutes.
Top with Mozzarella cheese and bake until cheese is bubbly.

Pinto Bean Casserole

This is a perfect after-work on a cold night dish. Now that we've had a few cold snaps, I'm looking forward to breaking out some casserole recipes. Thanks to my co-worker Tammie Clark for sharing this easy and delicious Pinto Bean Casserole. You know how some things taste even better the next day? Well, this one falls into that category. Andy told me he ranked this one in his top ten of favorites. The original recipe called for double what I fixed. That would be fine if you are feeding a big family or an army. What I'm sharing will feed two people with huge appetites for two days and then some. I had to guess at the corn bread topping. Despite a few cracks, it tasted fine. I will try two eggs the next time. The mixture of the cheese and topping almost reminded me of eating Mexican corn bread, taste-wise.

1 lb. sausage (spicier the better) or 1 lb. hamburger meat
1 chopped medium onion
2 cans of Luck's pinto beans
1 can of Rotel tomatoes
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Corn bread topping
2 cups corn meal
1-2 eggs
1 cup of milk (or more)--Add enough to so the batter is thin enough to spread but not watery.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown together sausage and onion until cooked through. Drain any grease off. In a 9x13 casserole dish, mix the meat and onion mixture with the beans and tomatoes.
 Layer the shredded cheese on top.
Carefully spread out the corn bread topping mixture.
Bake for about 35 minutes or until the corn bread is firmly baked. With the juices in the casserole and the cheese, you don't want doughy corn bread. This turned out great.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fried SPAM Sandwiches

Hands up if you have ever enjoyed a fried SPAM sandwich! Now, don't be thinking this is a 100% Southern delicacy. As child growing up in the 70s in Connecticut, I clearly remember my Mother frying up SPAM and making sandwiches for Saturday lunch.SPAM was introduced in 1937, so somebody is still eating this stuff if it has accrued an over 75-year history. Since I do have a "Redneck Food 'n Fun" link on this blog, I feel obligated to throw out a little something on the Redneck side from time to time. Please be sure to notice the upgrade to toasted wheat bread and the fancy pickle stackers...the sandwiches from my youth were strictly white bread and the little round dill chips. And to think 51 years later I survived and can tell you about it.

One night Andy and I were talking about fried SPAM and shared our memories of eating it as kids. We wondered if you could even buy it anymore. We discussed the little key that you used to roll the metal top away to reveal that not quite ham looking blob of meat. Now, if I get to thinking really, really hard about what something is made of, I just can't get over it and eat it again. So, we tried to dodge that conversation. As naturally curious as I am, I even made myself not look at the ingredients. There are some things that should be left a secret.

A week later I was shopping and saw the familiar blue can with the bright yellow letters (and a safety pull tab lid because people just have no sense anymore). Lo and behold, there were so many varieties I was blown away. I snatched two cans off the shelf and put them away in the pantry for future use. Well, that day arrived and here you go. My opinion...a little too salty but a serious blast from the past!

 Half the fun is getting the can opened and figuring out how to remove the SPAM.
If they feature this on "How It's Made," I believe I'll have to pass.
 Like any canned "ham" product, it's coated with a gelatinous substance, so be sure to rinse that off.
Slice into 1/4" - 3/8" slices.
 Cover the bottom of a skillet with a small amount of oil and carefully fry both sides until the
SPAM has a nicely browned color.
Drain the fried SPAM on a paper towel lined plate.

Toast two slices of bread
Squirt yellow mustard on both sides
Layer a few dill pickles (lay on paper towel to absorb extra pickle juice)
Top with two slices of SPAM

Cheesy Sloppy Joe Bread Bowls

Did you think I was gone forever? I looked back and was mildly surprised to see it had been August since I last posted anything. After sitting behind a computer all day long at work, when it's pretty out, I find it hard to get behind one when I don't have to. As usual, Andy and I have been busy, busy, busy. We've spent a lot of time taking in the sights and sounds of the river and just enjoying a break from the hectic pace of life. We had a big cookout Labor Day Weekend that could have been a washout thanks to a downpour of 5" of rain in a short period of time. Thankfully the soaking suffered the night before was made worth it as the day of the event turned out to be very pleasant. If you could have seen us trying to fit in a catfish/frog-leg fry with our kids and getting the barbecue pit fired up to smoke a bunch of meat the night before; you would have been crying from laughing so hard. Andy and I donned blue ponchos and our adult "kids" were calling us Smurfs as we slogged through the huge pools of water to get to the pit.

I'm still fixing new dishes and have a bunch filed away for future use on my "Food I've Got to Make" Pinterest board. There are several that won't make a second round in our house, but Cheesy Sloppy Joes will. Is this something we fix frequently to begin with? No. But, there are some nights both of us want to fix something quick and easy and this is on the table in no time flat. If you buy frozen fries, even quicker. We think oven baked fries are worth the extra time.

1 lb. ground beef
1 can Sloppy Joe sauce
Round, hard roll of your choice (I chose Kaiser rolls)
Cheese slices
 Brown beef and drain; stir in Sloppy Joe mix.
Slice top of the roll and scoop out bread to create a bowl.
 Top with a slice of cheese and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until cheese melts.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Tomatoes and Okra or What you can Make with Bruised Tomatoes

As I sit here wrapped up in a blanket at the first of August....Well, it's not THAT cold, but I do have a chill. I think about the crazy weather we've experienced this summer. There were floods one week, no rain for weeks, tornadoes, sweltering heat and almost record-breaking cold around the 4th of July. The only thing missing was snow and I'm convinced if we got some of that, I wouldn't have been surprised. We would have made a bread and milk run and waited a few hours for it to disappear.

We live just outside of the city limits and the deer have moved in the back yard and helped themselves to the feast my husband has prepared for them. They really loved the asparagus, carrots and lettuce. The blue birds and finches are really enjoying the sunflowers and the marigolds I planted in between the cabbage are incredible! The ones on my patio are dried up and hopeless. This only proves who has the green thumb in the family and it's not me. In spite of all the ups and downs, our garden performed quite decently.After all the mud following the rains, the weeds got a little crazy, but it didn't stop anything from growing.

I've spent many a night and weekend putting up green beans and especially tomatoes. Some years are great and some not so. When I do have a lot of tomatoes, I work really hard to put up all I can because I never know what the next year will hold. When the cold for us weather gets here, I look forward to all the soups, stews and pots of chili these will be a part of.

Yesterday, I was picking through the tomatoes to can and I had a bunch that just weren't going to make the cut. They had a bruise or some other flaw. Andy had also cut some okra. I can't stand to throw away food so he and I started talking about what I could do with them. I looked back over the 400+ recipes on this blog and realized I had never posted my recipe for tomatoes and okra This is so easy but it requires some patience. Why? Peeling tomatoes requires that and a super sharp knife. Other than that, it's a piece of cake. I'm not going to give exact measurements on this one because it's a throw what you have a in a pot recipe. TASTE THE BROTH! That will determine if you need to add additional seasoning to satisfy your taste buds.
 Blanch some chopped okra in a medium saucepan.
 Cook until the color just starts to change. It will finish cooking in a big pot later.
 Pour the okra and the "slime" in to a strainer and rinse several times. Set the strainer on top of your pan and set to the side. Another inch of slime drained off by the time I was ready to use it.
 Drop a half stick of butter in the bottom of a large soup pot. Cover with chopped or sliced onions. These were some of the small onions from this year's garden so I left them in rings. Set to the side.
 I went through probably 30 tomatoes; peeling, trimming out the bad spots and cutting into large chunks. Season with some salt and set to the side.
 Season with salt and pepper and saute until just tender.
 Drop in the tomatoes. Season some more and add Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. Stir well and cover.
 Turn heat to medium low and cook for about 20 minutes or so. The tomatoes will be tender. Taste the broth. Add additional seasonings if needed.
 Drop in the okra and cook uncovered.
 Cook until the okra is tender. Serve as a soup. 
If you have squash or zucchini, they make a wonderful addition!
With the little bit of Creole Seasoning. I had an urge to turn this dish into something with a little more flair. 
I decided to cook some rice for a base to top with tomatoes and okra; added in some boiled shrimp and Andy grilled some garlic bread.