Posted in Christmas, Classic, Comfort Food, Cranberry, Dessert, Fall, Family Friendly, Family Recipe, Holiday, Make Ahead, Potluck, Thanksgiving, Vintage, Winter

Grandma’s Cranberry Salad

Thanksgiving?!  How did that get here so fast?!

I wouldn’t normally post another recipe this close to the last one but I wanted to make sure you all had it before Turkey Day!

I honestly didn’t think I was going to be able to write this post when I started.  As some of you know, we lost my Grandma back in August and it’s been an emotional road since then. This Thanksgiving seems especially hard because this time last year is when she got sick and she never bounced back.  It’s a really bittersweet week for me and I’m getting ready to celebrate my favorite holiday.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a time when I’ve been as nostalgic about recipes as I have been the last few months.  Everything seems to be reminding me of my Grandma this fall just like all the fresh veggies and gardens remind me of my Pappa in the summer.  A few weeks ago I found myself crying over melted marshmallows while I was making Rice Krispie treats.  My Grandma used to start making sheet pans of treats a month before Halloween and freeze them in preparation for trick-or-treaters.

1977410_10152548293192810_7476937317888130619_n

Today I started my prep for Thanksgiving dinner and I told myself I was going to be strong.  I got out my recipe card for Cranberry Salad that my Grandma had lovingly typed up for me soon after I got married (she typed everything!) and gathered all my things to start cooking.  Surely I’ll be able to get through one recipe without tears, right?!  Wrong.  As I started prepping the cranberries I had to fight back the water works.  Cranberries make me cry, okay?!

I did stop myself and think about the first time I remember making this with my Grandma though.  Now my Grandma wasn’t a huge fan of cranberries (I’ll save that story for later) but every Thanksgiving and Christmas this recipe made it to the table.  When I was little I remember her getting out the cast iron meat grinder to grind everything up and then she’d let me help put everything together.  One time, when I was really little, I remember asking her what cranberries tasted like.  I loved her cranberry salad but had never tried a cranberry on its own.  Wow was I in for a surprise!  I still remember her laughing at me as I puckered up and made a funny face!

15135729_10154197892382810_5680666094377640875_n

Grandma’s Cranberry Salad

2 boxes strawberry Jello
1 pound cranberries
1 orange, peeled and seeded
1 apple, cored, peeled and seeded
2-2 ½ cups sugar (I only do 2 because I like it more tart)
Nuts (optional, I usually leave them out but pecans or walnuts would be preferable here)
Cool Whip, for serving

Grind cranberries, orange, and apple in a food processor. Add sugar and let sit until juice starts to release from fruit. Drain the liquid into another bowl. Use the liquid as a part of the cold water when making the jello. Continue making jello according to package instructions. Add ground ingredients. Put mixture in a 9×13 pan. Top with nuts if using. Refrigerate until set. Serve topped with Cool Whip.

Source: My Grandma’s recipe book

15193700_10154197915712810_3429533966903124695_n

This Cranberry Salad is one of our family’s staples during the holidays and I didn’t think it would be right to leave it off the table this year.

14705753_10154111728377810_8513888675912158304_n
My mom recently gave me my Grandma’s recipe book which will forever be one of my most cherished treasures (and seeing her handwriting brings on the tears again!).  I can’t wait to share some of these family recipes!
13895219_10153888528822810_3681906045599387797_n
Me and my Grandma in the kitchen
1917442_196458227809_4179977_n
Thanksgiving feast with cranberry salad right in the middle!
4751_80005332809_7413291_n
My Grandma had a sassy side!
Posted in Autumn, Baked, Baking, Classic, Comfort Food, Dessert, Fall, Holiday, Nuts, Pie, Portable/Picnic, Thanksgiving, Vintage, Winter

Pie in the Sky

I grew up in a small town, Fletcher, Ohio. Well, it’s considered a village actually. Go ahead, look it up on a map. It’s there. Straight up I-75 between Dayton and Toledo. It’s one of those towns you’ll miss if you happen to blink. Unless of course you get stopped at one of the two traffic lights where you’ll enjoy a view of the post office and funeral home. If you take a left you’ll pass the Methodist Church on your way out to the grain elevator. Every time I have a chance to visit I know I’m home when I see that grain elevator.

I have many fond memories of growing up in this little piece of the Midwest. When I graduated from high school and moved to the big city for college I pretty much ran and never wanted to look back. The older I’ve gotten the more I realize how important that town and it’s people were to shaping me in to the woman I’ve become today.

Many of my fondest memories revolve around church and community gatherings.  I would always look forward to serving Thanksgiving dinner with the youth group at church or gathering with the neighbors at the firehouse for the monthly fish fry.  I miss those small town traditions.

One of my most favorite parts of those gatherings were the pies that all the town ladies would make. Sugar cream, Dutch apple, peach, lemon meringue, pecan. Nothing says comfort and tradition to me like a big slice of pie!

As we near the holidays I’ve found myself getting really nostalgic.  In light of all the scary things happening in the world all I want to do is cling tight to tradition. Let’s not forget all the things we are thankful for this season.

Today I am most thankful for my supportive husband. AND it happens to be his birthday so I made his favorite pie!

image

Mom’s Pecan Pie
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 frozen or refrigerated pie crust (or homemade if you have time)

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk all ingredients but pecans together. Stir in pecans. Fill prepared pie crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes until center is almost set (cover with aluminum foil if crust and pecans start to get too dark). Remove from oven and cool completely, 2-4 hours, before serving.

Source: Mom’s recipe book (I think she got it from a Betty Crocker cookbook she’s had for as long as I can remember)

Posted in Baking, Cheesecake, Childhood treats, Date Night, Dessert, Goat Cheese, Portable/Picnic, Summer

Berry Pickin’

Tomorrow is October 1st.  Today’s high in Nashville is 68° and there is a chance of frost this weekend.  You would think I’d be breaking out the butternut squash and making a big pot of soup but no, today I’m reminiscing about summer.  Go figure.

For those who know me you will know that I really hate summer.  There isn’t much about it that’s appealing to me.  I’m not really a beach person.  I’m not in school anymore so summer doesn’t mean vacation and being lazy (in fact it gets much busier in my world!).  The word “sweat” is not in my vocabulary unless it’s in reference to a killer workout.  And don’t even get me started on the humidity in the South!

Give me mountains, football, sweaters, pumpkin pie, and and bonfires and I’m a happy girl!

As much as I loathe summer there are a few things that redeem it.  I do enjoy tall glasses of iced tea (unsweet please!), baseball and all the fresh veggies I can handle at the Farmer’s Market.  Who can resist the sizzle of burgers on the grill and corn on the cob slathered with butter?!  Patriotic holidays and picnics are filled with family and friends and great nostalgic culinary creations.  So I guess it isn’t all bad…

My favorite thing about summer is berry picking.  Just thinking about it makes me feel like a giddy kid again (picture bouncing up and down, clapping hands and a permanent Kool-Aid mustache).  In the summertime every car we owned had a stash of butter tubs, empty plastic pint containers and anything else we could use for collecting big, juicy berries.  It was a daily practice to drive around the country picking wild blackberries and raspberries from fence rows.  You had to keep your wits about you in the backseat (it wasn’t law for carseats and seat belts back then) or you’d end up on the floorboard when my Pappa would slam on the brakes and pull over (hmm, he did this in the Spring when he’d spot asparagus too)!  It brings back fond memories of thorns in my fingers and burrs all over my clothes.  🙂

It was a happy day when we collected enough berries for my Grandma to make jelly.  That was always quite the accomplishment since I would eat half of what I picked!  Nothing is more satisfying than breaking out a jar of homemade jelly in the dead of winter when the snow is piled high and catching a whiff of lazy, summer days gone by…

This recipe combines two of the things I adore: blackberries and cheescake.  ♥  It isn’t blackberry jelly but it screams SUMMER!  Enjoy!

Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Blackberry Curd

(in a jar)

Blackberry curd:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Zest of 1 lemon (juice is used for cheesecake)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or more depending on the sweetness of the berries)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons cold water

In a saucepan, combine blackberries, water and lemon zest and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes until berries start to break down (frozen berries will break down quicker).  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Process the berries in a food processor and strain through a fine sieve to remove seeds.  Put back in the saucepan over medium heat and add sugar and butter.  Mix the cornstarch and water together and add to the berry sauce.  Stir until thick and bubbly, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Cheesecake:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • 16 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and butter in a bowl and toss with a fork until crumbs coated.  Press a heaping tablespoon full of crumbs into each of 12 jelly jars coated with cooking spray.  Set aside.

With a hand mixer, cream together goat cheese, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating until just incorporated.  Beat in lemon juice and zest.  Pour into jelly jars to about 3/4 full.

Place jars in a roasting pan with deep sides.  Place on the middle rack of the oven and fill the pan with hot water about half way up the jars.  Bake for 15-16 minutes or until cheesecakes are slightly jiggly.  Remove from water bath and let cool completely.

Top cheesecakes with blackberry curd, screw on the lid and chill for 2 hours.  Before serving, top with whipped cream, fresh blackberries and a sprig of mint.

Because these are baked up in a jar they are really great for picnics!  Just screw on the lid, pop them in the cooler and you’ve got a fancy, gourmet treat to impress your friends!

*This summer some of my Facebook friends had a little friendly cheesecake bake-off photo contest.  We concocted lucious cheesecakes, took our best photos and had a blind judging.  I didn’t win with this entry but it was fun to participate!  I wish we all lived closer so we could have tasted them all!!!  

This group comes from far and wide to share all things FOOD!  Check out the cookbook that was created featuring some awesome chefs to honor one of our own.  Yours truly had the pleasure of being included!

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2193766

Get a copy today and support an amazing chef, father and friend!

Posted in Baking, Cookies, Dessert, Portable/Picnic, Tea time

Tea Time

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.  ~Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Nothing is quite as relaxing as a cup of tea and a good book.  It is one of my absolute favorite past times, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  I love getting lost in the pages of a book, immersing myself in a story.  For me this is pure bliss.  History or biography, fiction or non-fiction, sci-fi or romance, classic or contemporary – it doesn’t really matter, I’ll read them all.  Call me crazy but I love a long British novel and a cup of tea (tea, Earl Grey, hot, if you’re a sci-fi geek like me you’ll get that reference) on a rainy day.  Add a few cookies or some homemade shortbread and let it rain, let it rain.

Orange-Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Grated zest of one orange
  • 1 teaspoon Earl Grey tea (approx. one tea bag)
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 325° F. Combine the butter, sugar, and salt in a mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Blend in the orange zest, tea, and flour until smooth. Press into an 8-inch square baking pan, prick with a fork. Bake 30 minutes or just until the shortbread begins to turn golden.  Cut into 9 squares, then cut each square into 2 triangles. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the shortbread cookies from the pan.

(I use a shortbread pan because I have one and I like the pretty pattern it makes)

Some of the most dear and most influential people in my life have been there because of literature.  For that I will be eternally grateful.  Excuse me for a moment while I thank them.

My Mom, who read me bedtime stories starting at a very early age and who took me to the library for arm loads of books.  Thank you for introducing me to Beatrix Potter, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, the list could go on and on.  Thank you for continuing to indulge me and challenge me in my literary journey.

My Dad, who drove me all around Richmond, Virginia showing me sites and buildings that Patricia Cornwell wrote about in her Scarpetta series.  Thank you for helping me appreciate the scientific process.  Since I’m an “artsy fartsy” person I’m sure that was quite a challenge!  Love you and miss you Dad, Happy Father’s Day.

Mr. Brown, my 8th grade English teacher who introduced me to a world of poetry.  Without you I wouldn’t have Whitman, Emerson and my favorite, Poe.  It was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea…

Mr. Gumerlock, my freshman English teacher who brought an entire class together with the world of John Steinbeck yet wasn’t afraid to challenge us with Julius Caesar.  We shared a love of classic movies.  You are missed sir.  Love, your Mooresy Bug

Next to my Mom, my 11th and 12th grade English teacher, Mrs. Summers, had the most influence on my literary path.  She opened up the world of Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens and the whole British library.  I will never be the same…

And lastly, but certainly not least, Dr. Murray my fellow Janeite.  No one else I know gets as giddy about Jane Austen.  If I had taken his novel class earlier in my college career I probably would have changed paths.  I’ve still got that research paper in my back pocket, maybe one day you’ll read it as my thesis!  Thank you for listening to my unconventional view of Mr. Darcy.

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.  ~C.S. Lewis

So true Mr. Lewis, so true…

Posted in Candy, Childhood treats, Chocolate, Comfort Food, Dessert, Nuts, Pancetta

You Have Been Chopped!

Hello.  My name is Amanda and I’m addicted to the Food Network.

When there is nothing else on TV my thumb automatically punches in the numbers.  It’s a reflex.  When my husband hands over the remote he leaves it on the Food Network because he knows it will end up there anyway.  I can watch the same episode of the same show multiple times and not get bored.  I am inspired by different things every time.  It just depends on my mood!

My most recent obession is Chopped.  I wait in anticipation for the secret ingredients to be revealed…and then I yell at the chefs because they don’t make what I think they should make.

Come on!  Really?!  That’s all you could come up with?  And you call yourself a chef.  Geez, I could do so much better.

Well, that’s what I think anyway.  I would probably buckle under the pressure.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t be inspired!

I watched an episode a couple weeks ago that inspired a crazy sounding recipe that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.  The stars of the show: puffed rice cereal, cognac, butterscotch candies and pancetta.

So on this cold, dreary weekend I’ve decided to take on the challenge.  I even decided I would post my experience no matter the outcome.  I decided to change up a couple of the ingredients because they are a little more convenient for me but I think they still work.  It may not be your cup of tea but hopefully it will inspire you to break out of the box and do something daring.

Without further ado, my Chopped inspired creation:  Pancetta Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats with Whiskey Chocolate and Ancho Cinnamon Almond Brittle.

Pancetta Browned Butter Rice Krispie Treats with Whiskey Chocolate and Ancho Cinnamon Almond Brittle

For the brittle:

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Vegetable oil, for coating saucepan

For the Rice Krispie Treats:

  • 4 oz. crispy pancetta and rendered pancetta fat
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • soft caramel candies
  • 10 oz package large marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies

For the Whiskey Chocolate:

  • 3 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey

Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray or butter.  Hint: line the pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper first, letting it hang over the edge.  This will give you handles for easy removal to cut them later.

In a small bowl combine almonds, ancho chile and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Brush the inside of a medium saucepan with vegetable oil.  Add the sugar and water and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it comes to a boil.  Cover and cook for 3 minutes.  Uncover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the sugar becomes golden, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the nut mixture.  You have to work quickly at this point.  Pour the mixture on a sheet pan covered with a silicone cooking mat or greased parchment.  Cool completely, then break into small pieces.

Cook pancetta in a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes to render the fat.  Remove pan from heat and remove pancetta with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Set rendered fat aside.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat.  The butter should melt, then foam, then start turning golden and smell nutty.  Stir frequently and don’t walk away!  As soon as the butter turns a light brown color remove it from the heat and stir in caramels, marshmallows and reserved pancetta fat.  Stir until caramels and marshmallows melt.  You may need to put the pot back on low heat to accomplish this.  Stir in pancetta and Rice Krispies.  Press the gooey mess into the prepared pan with a greased spatula or use the butter wrapper.  Let cool.

While treats are cooling, put chocolate morsels in a heat-proof glass bowl.  Heat cream in a medium sauscepan over medium-low heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges.  Pour cream over chocolate in bowl.  Let stand for a minute and then whisk until smooth.  Stir in whiskey.  Let cool slightly until it starts to thicken.  Pour over rice krispies and smooth out.

Sprinkle brittle over chocolate before it sets.  Let the chocolate cool completely and then cut the treats in to bars.

Whoa.  These ROCK!  There is no way these can be good for you but they turned out pretty great for my first attempt.  Sometimes I impress myself.

Tomorrow is Monday.  You need a treat.  Indulge a little or a lot.  ENJOY!

Posted in Baking, Beer, Bread, Casserole, Chocolate, Comfort Food, Dessert, Irish, Potatoes, St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I think St. Patrick’s Day is the perfect comfort food holiday.  Spring is almost here but there are still those chilly, rainy days that remind you that Old Man Winter isn’t quite ready to be finished.  The random changes in weather wreak havoc on my sinuses and cause awful headaches.  My allergies start flaring up.  Spring is the busiest,  most stressful time for me at work.  All these things combined call for Shepherd’s Pie, bread pudding and a tall cold pint of Guinness!

Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients
For the potatoes:

  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 egg yolk

For the meat filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Directions

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the milk and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the cheese and egg yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the olive oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the beef, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, beef broth, Worcestershire, oregano, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the peas to the beef mixture and spread evenly into an 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Source: adapted from Alton Brown http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2/index.html

 

No St. Patty’s day meal would be complete without dessert and beer!  I’m killing two birds with one stone on this one!!!

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with Guinness Syrup

Ingredients:

For the bread pudding

  • 4 cups French baguette or Italian bread, cubed
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

For syrup

  • 1 bottle Guinness
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º.

In a large mixing bowl, combine bread chocolate chips and walnuts.  In another mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Pour over bread and let soak for 30 minutes.

While bread is soaking, bring Guinness and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 45 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Mixture will become more syrupy as it cools.

Put bread mixture in a greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until top is brown and custard is set.

Let cool for 10 minutes and then serve with syrup.

Source: Ruth’s Table

 

May the Irish hills caress you.
May her lakes and rivers bless you.
May the luck of the Irish enfold you.
May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.
~Irish Blessing