Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mama's Cucumber Salad



Growing up, I remember my mother and grandmother making this a lot.  It is a very simple dish that is very quick and easy to assemble.

To make this dish you will need two cucumbers, half of an onion, salt, pepper, white vinegar and water. Grape tomatoes are optional. I had some, but they were gobbled up before I could make the salad!


Layer the onions and cucumbers in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper every couple of layers.


Cover with a mixture of water and vinegar. How much you dilute the vinegar depends on your preference. I did almost half water, half vinegar, having a little more vinegar than water.

I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Dressing



Dear Lord, please, bless my Mama! I cannot imagine any Thanksgiving without her dressing! I love it when we are blessed enough to have it at Christmas, but at Thanksgiving, it is an absolute MUST! Thankfully, she has taught at least two of us girls to make it. I know one of my sisters can make it just like Mama's. Mama has actually told and shown me many times, but I have never tried to tackle it on my own, I don't think, until this year. Even then, I still had to call and make sure I remembered correctly! Boy did it bring back memories of me never being in the kitchen without my phone so that I could call my sister in a hurry! lol! I still have to call her occasionally. Just ask her! She'll laugh and tell you it's true.

In my previous posts, I have guided you in making the cranberry sauce, turkey brine, turkey, and turkey gravy, so today it's time to get to dressing! Well, you can stay in your pj's if you like as long as you keep reading! :)

This is another recipe that sounds way more complicated than it actually is. It is so quick and easy to put together!

One of the key factors in a good dressing is for your bread to not be fresh. Make your cornbread and biscuits at least a day before you need to make your dressing. You will need an equal amount of cornbread and biscuits. No, don't weigh them to be exact, just eyeball it. :)

I made my cornbread in a 10 inch cast iron skillet. I used enough buttermilk
biscuits to equal that amount.

Okay! So let's get started!


Dressing

1 pone of cornbread, crumbled
equal amount of buttermilk biscuits, crumbled
1 small onion, chopped
3 eggs, slightly beaten if you wish, but not necessary 
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 quart of chicken broth
1 pint of home-canned or store-bought canned chicken, optional
1 or two pinches ground sage, optional
2-3 pinches of salt and pepper or to taste

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine cornbread and biscuits. Add eggs, chopped onion, chopped celery, chicken (There is no need to drain the broth from the can or jar.), salt, pepper, and sage. Stir the mixture, preferably by hand, as you begin to moisten it with the quart of broth. Continue to pour and mix until you reach the consistency of cornbread. See pictures below. Add more liquid for a moist dressing or less for a drier dressing. I lean more toward a moist dressing. Spray a 9 X 13 casserole dish. Pour dressing into the casserole dish and bake until the top is golden. I would apologize for the lack of exact time, but I can't. That is the nature of this dish. The amount of liquid determines how long it cooks. Allow at least thirty minutes. Just keep an eye on it. When the top is golden, it is usually done. The middle should not be runny, but it is quite normal for the dressing to be moist. This is not like stuffing that tends to be very dry. This is delicious served with turkey gravy!

Picture Tutorial:
Crumble your cornbread and biscuits. It is very quick, easy, and less messy if done in the bags.



Combine the two breads in a large bowl.



If you haven't already, chop your vegetables. There's no more putting it off now! I procrastinate terribly when it comes to onions. I usually end up cutting half of them with my eyes squeezed shut and tears streaming down my face and my eyes on fire! Onions and me: we have a love/hate relationship.


This still needed another stalk of celery.
Add all the ingredients to the breads in the bowl.



Aw! It's almost too pretty to mess up! But mess up, we must if we want deliciousness! I use my hand to mix. It's just the way I was taught. Feel free to mix however you like. :) I stir the mixture around a bit and kind of squeeze the eggs between ingredients, and then I slowly begin to add the broth. I add about half to get the mixture mixed.



Add small amounts of liquid and mix until desired consistency is reached.


Not even close! Add more broth.
Still too dry! Add more broth!
Getting there, but still gotta add more!
It's so hard to tell from the photos, but this is good. You don't want it soupy,
but you don't want it dry, either.
Pour the mixture into your greased 9 X 13 dish.


It's probably easier to tell more about the consistency in this photo.
Place it in the preheated oven until the top is golden.



And there you go! I promise it is so incredibly easy and delicious! You have to try it! It's one of those recipes that if it comes out a little dry, just tell the family that's what the gravy is for- or perhaps that is simply the way you prefer it and no excuse is needed! If it is a little more moist than you intended, just pretend that's the way you planned it! lol!! Either way, the dish is right! It is a great southern keeper!

In the next post we'll make sweet potato souffle! Oh! It is so good! Stay tuned!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Turkey Gravy

Happy New Year, everyone!! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I had a gathering at my house on the Monday before Christmas, and my husband came home from Texas that evening. Late that night, I was flat on my back on the sofa sick as could be for two solid days, but Christmas wouldn't wait. I pushed through and refused to let it steal my or my family's Christmas joy. It was a wonderful time with all of us together. We even managed to have a wonderful family meal on Christmas Day despite me trying to cook without being able to taste or smell until the very minute I sat down to eat. I was so glad I had tested my recipes at Thanksgiving! Craziest thing! Good news is that I'm pretty much back to normal! Bad news is that I didn't get to finish my holiday meal series before the Christmas holidays! lol! Oh, well. I suppose I will complete it now so that when Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around next year, we will all be set and ready to go! :)

In my last post, I gave you directions for the brine, herb butter, and turkey. Today, I will cover the gravy. For so many years, I have been so intimidated by gravy. I have no idea why! It is so incredibly easy! Let me tell you all about it! :)

I am terribly sorry! I know this is not the most attractive picture. Things get
to moving at such a quick pace at meal time, I forget my nice pictures
sometimes. Hunger will do that to a girl!

There is no recipe, only a method. This is what I did.


When I put the turkey in the roaster to cook, I placed the neck with a little leftover herb butter, salt and pepper in a saucepan. I covered it with plenty of water and let it simmer on the stove until the turkey was done and I was ready to make the gravy. When doing this, keep an eye on the pan periodically to make sure you don't boil it dry. When the turkey was done and removed from the roaster, I placed two heaping tablespoons of flour in my one cup glass measuring cup. I slowly added small amounts of pan drippings to form a thick paste. I gradually added a little more drippings until I was left with a smooth, thick mixture. The key here is to add very small amounts of liquid and stir very well after each small addition until you are left with the thick mixture. To that thick mixture, I added liquid from my cooking turkey neck until my mixture was a loose liquid. I removed the neck from the pan and slowly added my flour mixture into the liquid from my turkey neck while stirring continuously. Continue stirring while heating the gravy on a medium low heat. Eventually, the liquid will thicken, and viola! You have gravy! You can even remove meat from the turkey neck to add to the gravy if you wish. I added some. It sounds way more complicated than it actually is. Try it! You may surprise yourself and your family!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Roasted Turkey

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now Christmas is just a few days away! Where has time gone!? Have you already got your Christmas plans figured out?

Today, I simply must sit down and make my list for the grocery store, or we are going to be eating dry oatmeal all day for Christmas! Okay, we would do a little better than that, but I do seriously have to get my list done and get to the store today.

If you need a little inspiration, let me help! I will help you make this meal a family favorite! Since my last post was cranberry sauce, you already have a start to your meal!

Yes, I know all the pieces aren't in the correct place, but that is a story for
another day. :)
What do you like to have on Christmas? Just like we do at Thanksgiving, we like to have a ham and a turkey. Perhaps you have a turkey thawing in your refrigerator waiting, for the big day, but perhaps you aren't excited by the thought of the dry, dull, tasteless meat. Never fear! I have the cure for that! Your first step will be your very best friend in cooking a turkey: brine! Not a boring brine, but beautiful brine! Don't run! It's not hard in the least little bit, and it will leave your cooked turkey so tender and moist and full of flavor! We were trying to catch the juice before it ran in the floor when we carved ours on Thanksgiving.


Brine
1-1/2 c kosher salt
3/4 c sugar, brown or white
5 sprigs sage
5 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
peel of one orange or tangerine 
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T black peppercorns
4 or 5 cups warm water

*My store didn't have all the herbs I needed in individual packs, so I picked up a pack of fresh herbs that had 'Poultry Herbs' written on the front. It turned out to have all the herbs listed above.

In a large pan, combine salt, sugar, and warm water. Stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Add cool water to bring the temperature of the brine down to room temperature or below. You don't want to add a warm brine to your cold turkey. Remove anything that may be in the cavity of the turkey. Keep the neck and/or organs to simmer for your gravy. Place your turkey in a large stockpot. Pour the brine in and over your turkey. Fill the rest of the way with cold water. Make sure the turkey breast is down in the water. It's okay if the water doesn't cover all of the back. Put the pot in the refrigerator and that's it for 8-18 hours! Take a few minutes during this period to make an herb butter. Directions are below

Make sure not to leave the turkey in the brine longer than 18 hours; it will get too salty. At the end of that time, remove the turkey. Rinse and dry the turkey. Put it on a pan, and put it in the frig overnight. The next day, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature and rub with herb butter before cooking.

The next recipe will be your other greatest friend when making your turkey! This is my absolute favorite part! While your turkey is in the brine, leave one to one and a half sticks of butter out to soften.




Herb Butter
1 - 1-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t salt
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t ground turmeric
1/8 t ground sage
1 t dried basil leaves
1/4 t dried thyme leaves
1/8 t celery salt
2 pinches nutmeg
1/4 t crushed dried rosemary leaves

In a bowl, blend the butter and herbs. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use if you make it ahead of time. Just be sure to pull it out in time for it to soften before using it to rub your turkey.


The turmeric will give it a strange color, but it is so good!
Rub your turkey with the butter. 



Bake your turkey according to your directions. I cooked mine in my electric roaster for two hours.  And viola! A beautiful, delicious turkey. Make sure to let it rest at least ten minutes before carving.




Reserve some of the pan drippings for your gravy!! Happy cooking and eating! Merry Christmas!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cranberry Sauce



Good evening, all!

What a busy summer we had! Autumn continues to be just as busy! I simply cannot believe that Thanksgiving is here already! Have you been making preparations for the big day? My little family will be staying home for the first time ever to have Thanksgiving with just the four of us here in the Meadow of Simple Blessings. It will be strange not to be surrounded by so many family members, but I am so excited! I have already started making preparations.

Tonight, I put the turkey in a brine I made. That crazy thing has been in the refrigerator since Saturday, but it is still frozen. Nevertheless, into the brine it went, giblet pack and neck and all! lol! I have never roasted a turkey before, so this is sure to be an adventure! Just look at the brine, though! Isn't it pretty?!

haha! I didn't notice until now that it looks like a face!
After getting done with that, I decided to make homemade cranberry sauce. Boy, am I glad I did! I am not a huge fan of that funny looking stuff that plops out of the can, but this turned out so well, I had to make an emergency run to the computer just for all of you! I didn't want you to miss out in case you happen to have free time tomorrow and want to try it! heehee! In fact, I was in such a hurry, I didn't get a pretty picture of the finished jelly with my good camera! I had to get the image I made with my phone off of my Facebook page! lol! I'll even give you the recipe before I give the step by step instructions! If you don't have time to make it for Thanksgiving, perhaps you can whip up a batch for Christmas!



Cranberry Sauce
2 12oz bags of cranberries
Juice of 2 oranges plus enough water to make 1-1/3 c liquid
1/8-1/4 t ground cinnamon
2 c sugar
1/2 packet liquid pectin

Wash and sort berries. Remove any under ripe or mushy berries. Put liquid in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil. Add berries. Let them cook 5-10 minutes. The berries will pop. Strain berries through a mill or sieve. Discard all the fibrous remains. Add pectin to the strained berries. Bring this mixture to a boil, and add all the sugar at once. Stir continuously, and bring the mixture back to a rolling boil. Once at a boil, boil exactly one minute. Remove the jelly from heat. Skim any foam with a metal spoon. Fill jars to 1/2 inch headspace and seal with a lid and ring. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for half pints and pints.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Before starting, place three or four jelly jars in your canner and keep the jars warm until you are ready to fill the jars. Also, go ahead and place the lids in water to simmer on low heat until you are ready to use them. Lastly, measure out your sugar and open the pectin. To keep the pectin from falling over and spilling, you can place it in a small cup to keep it upright until you are ready to use it. Now it's time to begin!

Wash and sort berries. 



Let them drain while you juice two oranges. Throw the peels in a brine if you are making one! ;)



Pour this liquid into a measuring cup.



Add enough water to equal 1-1/3 cup of liquid.


Since my cup only held one cup, I had to add more water after I dumped this.
Pour all the liquid into a large stock pot, add cinnamon, and bring the mixture to a boil.



When the liquid has come to a boil, add all the berries.



Cook the berries for five to ten minutes until half to most of the berries have popped and the mixture feels mushy.

Using a mill or a sieve, strain the berries into a sauce. If you are like me and not lucky enough to have a food mill, one of these strainers will work. Just use the spoon to stir and press the berries against the metal. Keep going. Most of the mixture will go through leaving mostly solids in the strainer. Just be patient. :)



This is the beautiful sauce that you will be left with.



Clean out you stock pot. You don't want all those yucky leftover solids in your sauce from where you cooked the berries. Once it's clean, pour the sauce back in with the half packet of pectin. 




Stir as you heat it to a boil. Once at a boil, pour all the sugar in at once.



Stir continuously, and bring the mixture back to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, time for exactly one minute and remove from heat. Skim any foam from the jelly using the edge of a metal spoon. I dare you to try not to taste it!

Fill your jars to 1/2 inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes for half pints and pints.



Remove the jars from the water bath and let them cool on a towel for 24 hours.




I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Have a wonderful, Thanksgiving!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Pickled Hot Banana Peppers



The story behind this recipe was a little funny here at the Meadows of Simple Blessings.

A while back, on one of our trips to Texas, I bought some hot pepper rings. I remember my husband eating them, saying how good they were, and that he would like some more. I was so excited because I knew the exact peppers I needed to make them. The trouble was, I didn't have any last year, so I couldn't make them.

Well, this year, my friend Barbara Ann grew some in her beautiful, plentiful garden...And boy did she! She has had produce galore come from that beautiful garden, and I have been the most gracious recipient of more than one item of hers! In a round about way, I ended up with two plastic grocery bags of those beautiful peppers! Some of them I used in the Cowboy Candy from my last post. The rest I used in this recipe.

Oh, I was soooo excited to get these peppers! I was going to do something so special and exciting for my husband! He was going to be so excited and impressed that I was making the peppers he liked so much in Texas! I remembered the day I got the call to come get them. I practically danced along as I hurried to his shop to tell him where I was going!

The first day, I made the batch of Cowboy Candy. He didn't really say anything, but it was okay. They didn't look like the peppers I knew he liked. The second morning, I was just finishing up slicing all those peppers when he awoke and came to the kitchen. He finally just stopped and stared at the bowl of sliced pepper...Oh he must be so wowed that he is going to have so many peppers to enjoy!...Wait...no smile, only a confused look...huh???...Finally, he asked why I had sliced them all up. He was met only with my confused stare...What was I supposed to do with them? I'm making his peppers he liked so well!...I finally found the words to explain I was doing the peppers he had eaten, liked so well, and said he wouldn't mind more of. Again he just looked at me, finally tellling me these weren't the peppers he was talking about. He wanted the small, whole peppers. I was deflated and crushed! lol! What??? He had a good chuckle! Either he had forgotten about eating the rings, or I dreamed it. Either option was quite possible! :) Either way, I made lots and lots of pickled peppers, and today I share the recipe with you!

This is the recipe for the brine. I had to double or triple the recipe to have enough for all my peppers.

Pickled Hot Banana Peppers
4 c water
4 c white vinegar
1 c sugar
1/2 t turmeric
1 t mustard seeds
1 t celery seeds
1 clove of garlic for each jar
1/2 t salt for each jar
As many hot banana peppers as you wish to process sliced into rings.

In a large pan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, and celery seeds to a boil. (This brine may need to be multiplied depending on how many peppers you wish to process.) Pack hot jars with peppers leaving 1/4 inch head space. To each jar of peppers, add one clove of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour hot brine over peppers to 1/4 inch headspace. Seal and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Process in Pictures:

Before slicing peppers, place your jars in your water bath canner to heat. Also go ahead and get your bine ingredients into the pot. Start heating that when you are almost done with slicing to save a little time.

Using gloves, slice your peppers into rings. Be sure do discard the stem. Yikes! I was almost ready to can before I remembered I was supposed to be taking pictures! If I remember correctly, this was right at six pounds of peppers.


Turn up the heat under your brine to start bringing it to a boil while you pack the jars. Pack the jars with peppers to 1/4 inch headspace.


Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and one clove of garlic to each jar. I didn't have fresh garlic, so I just used the canned minced garlic.


The garlic and salt can be put in the jars
first, if you like. Whatever tickles your
fancy is fine. :)
Make sure brine has come up to a boil.


Ladle the hot brine over the peppers leaving 1/4 inch headspace.


Remove air bubbles, wipe the rim clean, and seal.


Aren't they so pretty!?
I had some leftover peppers and brine I didn't want to waste, so I threw them all in a jar, too.


Process pints in a hot water bath 10 minutes, and voila! Do not disturb your jars for 24 hours.


Until we meet again, may you be blessed!