Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gratuitous Toffee Photo

My grandmother's toffee recipe here.

Rather than chopped nuts, I melted candy melts in a ziploc bag, snipped the corner, and drizzled it across chocolate-topped toffee.

Garlic Cheese Grits

We're celebrating Christmas with my parents, brother, sister in law, and niece the evening after Christmas. My mother is roasting a pork tenderloin, baking a sweet potato casserole, and cooking green beans. Our contribution is garlic cheese grits casserole and peanut butter fudge.

This is a good breakfast/brunch dish, too. It can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated.

Garlic Cheese Grits

1 cup grits, uncooked
4 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 stick butter
6 ounces Velveeta, cubed
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
(OR substitute 1 roll of Kraft garlic cheese, cut in small pieces,for the Velveeta and garlic)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
good dash of cayenne pepper
paprika for top of grits

If making to eat now, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add grits to boiling, salted water. Cook 5 to 7 minutes until thickened. When cooked, add butter, Velveeta cheese, garlic, cheddar cheese, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce. Put in greased casserole and sprinkle with paprika.

At this point, casserole can be refrigerated for 2 or 3 days. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serves 8 to 10 persons.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Peanut Butter Fudge, aka, The Best Easiest Thing to Make for Christmas or Any Other Day

Every family has recipes that show up each year at Christmas. Traditions. Peanut Butter Fudge is one of my family's. For as long as I can remember, there has been Peanut Butter Fudge around at Christmas.

Mom makes it and keeps it in a tin to snack on, takes it to friends, takes it to work. It's always a hit.

Besides the fact that the fudge is creamy and tasty, it is really, truly easy to make. The recipe has never failed me.*

Peanut Butter Fudge
3 cups sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (1/2 of a stick) of butter (do not substitute)
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1 teaspoon vanilla
chopped peanuts (optional)

Lightly butter a 10 to 12” round dish and set aside.

Using a candy thermometer, cook sugar, buttermilk, and butter over medium heat until mixture reaches soft boil stage. Remove from heat and add the peanut butter and vanilla. Beat until the peanut butter is dissolved and mixture is slightly thick.

Pour into prepared dish. If you like you can sprinkle chopped peanuts and lightly press them down. Let set up and cut into squares.

*This weekend I had a kitchen disaster, wherein I dumped a cup of brown sugar, meant for the mixing bowl that had butter and sugar in it for the pound cake, in the pan on the stove that had the butter, sugar, and buttermilk for the fudge. We had to throw it out and start over. By "we" I mean The Fiance, who took over the peanut butter fudge making job and mastered it in one try.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
4 cups sifted flour
1 tablespoon vanilla
4 scant cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
dash salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until fluffy.

Add vanilla, sifted flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well.

Cover and refrigerate. (Dough can be refrigerated for several days.)

When ready to bake cookies, preheat oven to 350°.

Working with small portion of dough at a time, roll out on floured board until about 1/4-inch thick.

Dip cutter in flour and cut out shapes.

Place on ungreased baking sheets

and refrigerate while working on the next batch; this will keep cookies from spreading, making their shapes more defined. (For best results, put cookies of the same size on each sheet.)

Bake cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, or until cookies are just beginning to brown on the edges.

Cool on pan for a minute or two, then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

We decorated these cookies one night last week. We were aiming for fun and for tasty cookies, so how they looked wasn't so much important.

That's why we used a simple buttercream rather than royal icing, which turns out gorgeous cookies but doesn't taste as good as buttercream and wouldn't have been nearly as much for a seven year old.

I creamed a stick of softened butter and added a few cups - about one box - of confectioner's sugar, then a teaspoon or two of vanilla. I love vanilla so you may not need that much. Then add water or milk (I used water because the faucet was closer than the fridge), a tablespoon at a time until it's the consistency you'd want on your sugar cookies.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I first heard of this cake from Ezra Poundcake.

Only after I'd double-wrapped the cake, a gift for The Child's sitter, did it occur to me to take a photo.

Brown Sugar Pound Cake

Adapted from Paula Deen’s “The Lady & Sons Just Desserts”

· 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
· 1/2 cup shortening
· 1 16-ounce box dark brown sugar
· 1 cup granulated sugar
· 5 eggs
· 3 1/2 cups cake flour
· 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 cup milk
· 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
· 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and shortening, and add the sugars, 1 cup at a time, continuing to beat. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sift flour and baking powder together in another bowl, and add alternately with milk to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add vanilla and mix well. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 2 hours.

I had a kitchen disaster at this point and when the cake came out of the oven, I read over the frosting recipe and said, "Forget this." Only maybe in not quite those words.

After the cake cooled, I dusted it with powdered sugar.

· 1 egg, beaten
· 1 cup milk
· 3 cups granulated sugar
· 1/2 cup water, room temperature
· 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
· 1 teaspoon white vinegar
· 1/8 teaspoon salt

To prepare frosting, mix together egg and milk and set aside. Place 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in a large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until melted and brown. Slowly and carefully, add lukewarm water, and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Add remaining 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Mix egg with milk, and stir into sugar mixture.

Add butter, vinegar, and salt. Cook to soft-ball stage (236 degrees F on a candy thermometer), stirring constantly. (A small amount dropped in a glass of water will form a soft ball. If you remove it from the water, it will flatten out.) Cool to lukewarm. Beat until creamy and spread on cake.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Date Nut Spread

This recipe is so simple and yummy. If you need something to bring to an office party or neighborhood open house, this is an easy one that folks will love.

A version of a spread in the famed Come on In! cookbook by the Junior League of Jackson, Miss., this is one of my all time favorite recipes. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love it.

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
3/4 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)

If desired, toast pecans. While not strictly necessary, it really brings out the buttery flavor of the pecans and isn’t much trouble. Just preheat your oven to about 350°, pour pecan pieces on a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes and let completely cool before chopping.

Allow cream cheese to come to room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. That is it.

Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. The spread keeps well overnight and is better a day or two after it’s made.

Serve with apple slices, wheat thins, or your favorite cracker.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Winter Soup

The original recipe is called Red Wine Vegetable Soup, although the first ingredient listed is ground beef. There is red wine but not so much that you can’t call it something else.

The recipe comes from a cookbook called The Sharecropper cookbook. It’s full of easy, tried and true recipes. The illustrations come from stitchery pictures embroidered by the late artist, Ethel Wright Mohamed. One of her original works hangs in the Smithsonian. She hails from my hometown of Belzoni, Mississippi.

This soup is a good one to put on the stove and walk away. Those are my favorites.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped (I put the whole bell pepper. Otherwise, the half would have lounged in the refrigerator until it rotted.)
3 ribs celery, chopped
28 ounce can tomatoes
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce
1 large potato chopped in small dice (The original recipe called for 2 potatoes. Next time I may try a sweet potato instead. Living on the edge, that’s me.)
2 16-oz packages frozen mixed vegetables
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 tablespoon salt (That seems like a lot of salt but it seems to need it. You can cut back on the amount, of course, and add other seasonings.)
1/2 cup red wine
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or water)

Brown meat in large pot. Add onion, bell pepper and celery – cook until soft. Add other ingredients and simmer 3 or 4 hours. Freezes well.

Makes a ton o’ soup. You could easily halve the recipe.