Silent Night

Christmas Eve has arrived. I have completed my list of things to have done for Christmas. The Church Windows as our family always called the chocolate, marshmallow, coconut candy is done.

The recipe is simple: 1/2 cup of butter or one stick ; 1 – bag of semi-chocolate chips 24 ounces; 1 – bag of colored mini marshmallows 10 ounces; 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract; 2 cups of coconut (optional)

In a pan on low heat, melt the butter. In a bowl pour the marshmallows.

While the butter is melting, I set up the aluminum foil and wax paper to put the candy mix on to form a roll. I put down foil, then wax paper, then a row of coconut. This year I am only doing coconut on half of the roll, as my granddaughter does not like coconut. Other options for coconut is almond slices, chopped pecans, or graham cracker crushed.

When the butter is melted add the chocolate and peppermint extract to the pan. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Once the chocolate is melted, pour chocolate over the marshmallows and stir until all the marshmallows are covered.

1/2 coconut, and 1/2 without.

Spoon mixture onto the wax paper in a row on top of the coconut. Put coconut on top of the mixture, gently press roll together. Wrap with wax paper, twisting the ends, then roll in the aluminum foil. The aluminum foil keeps the wax paper from coming apart from the candy, creating a mess in the refrigerator. Cool for 1 hour or freeze to use later ( I have kept it for 6 months) then cut into 1/2 inch slices and enjoy.

The recipe makes two rolls approximately 12 to 15 inches long. I did not get as much coconut as I usually do as I was in a hurry.


Cinnamon Rolls

A Christmas tradition is homemade Cinnamon Rolls loaded with raisins and nuts, covered with a sweet frosting. Tradition is to bake the cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve. We open gifts on Christmas Day. When everyone woke up on Christmas morning, each would get a cinnamon roll, then sit down as gifts were handed out and opened. Cinnamon rolls were pre-breakfast snack. Once all the gifts were opened, the living room picked up, I would start cooking breakfast, and then Christmas dinner.

My recipe for the sweet dough comes straight out of Betty Crocker Cookbook. The recipe gives the options of shortening, margarine or butter – I always use butter. I make the rest of the recipe as written.

After the dough has doubled and is ready to become cinnamon rolls, this is where I get creative. I will roll the dough into a rectangle, sprinkle with cinnamon almost covering the dough entirely. Then I sprinkle on 1/3 cup of brown sugar, add raisins and pecans to my desired amount. Now for a secret ingredient I learned from an aunt, pour some corn syrup over the mix, not a lot of corn syrup, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, to help the brown sugar melt and soak into the dough during baking.

Next roll up the dough, gently squeezing together as you roll. Once rolled, pinch the edges together. Then I cut 1 inch slices and place in a greased cast iron skillet. Do not place too tight together, as the dough has to rise again. After about 1 1/2 hours, they are ready to bake in the oven at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Once the are baked, I use a brush to cover them with butter. A person can eat them at this point, frosty is not necessary. But if you want frosting, now is the time to frost as the warmth helps the frosty to cover and soak in.

Frosting is simple, a teaspoon of butter, 1 – 2 Cups powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 – 3 Tablespoons of cold water or milk. Mix, if frosting needs to be stiffer mix more powdered sugar.

A delicious dessert or early breakfast. A treat my family enjoys.


Lamb Roast with Summer Squashes

I live on a farm. I have a tiny garden and raise sheep. This meal is from what the farm produces, with the exception of the carrots and celery.

I started with a two pound lamb roast, seasoned with garlic powder and black pepper, then browned in a cast iron dutch oven. I consider my cast iron dutch oven the best pot to cook roast in. Cast iron spreads the heat and retains the heat better than other pots I have used.

While the lamb roast was browning, I chopped the vegetables. For the vegetables I used butternut squash and yellow squash I had raised in my tiny garden. Carrots, celery and onions. I placed the vegetables in a bowl, and seasoned with garlic powder, oregano, rosemary, salt and black pepper.

Once the lamb roast was browned on all sides, I added the vegetables and some water and two cups of beef broth to cover the vegetables.

I placed the dutch oven in the an oven preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, cooked for 3 hours.

A delicious one pot meal.


Mom’s Goulash

Another meal that can “stretch” the groceries is goulash. My mom would make goulash with a little bit of ground meat and leftover vegetables.

Brown 1/2 pound of ground meat (beef, pork, turkey or chicken), add leftover vegetables or some mixed vegetables of any kind, elbow noodles about 2 cups for a family of 6, a can of diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes cut up, and cover with water. Add some garlic powder, pepper, salt, oregano and thyme for your taste. Cook over low, until noodles are cooked. Some addition water may need to be added as the noodles absorb water during cooking in order to keep from scorching, but too much water and you have a good soup.

When I make goulash, I always think about a specific time my mom made goulash. I was ten or eleven years old. After meals, mom would scrap any food us kids left on our plates into a bowl for the family dog. This one specific time mom made goulash, as she put some on my plate, I mentioned it looked like “dog food”. Mom gave me a dirty look and said, “If you think it is dog food, you do not have to eat.” I quickly apologized and said it looks and smells good. Which it did. I was very careful about what I said concerning my mother’s cooking after that meal.

We did not grow up with abundant money. There were times the pantry was slim. Mom would go grocery shopping once a month, and the food purchased would have to last all month. She tried to be creative with some of the meals towards that end of the month. The last resort was beans without meat.

Hope you enjoy.


Cream of Mushroom Casserole

In my last post I spoke about tough times for everyone due to rising costs of groceries and other items we need. I also mentioned I can make a pound of meat “stretch” to make three meals. One of my favorite recipes I developed when going through tough times was Cream of Mushroom Casserole.

Obviously you need a can or two, depending on how large of a casserole you may need. If you are feeding 1 to 6 people, 1 can is sufficient. My recipe is for a family of 6.

Along with cream of mushroom soup, some meat is needed. Now this can be ground meat approximately 1/2 a pound or 2 cups of cooked and deboned chicken or a large can of tuna.

Noodles are added. Again this can be various type of noodles. My favorite is egg noodles, but I have used what was in the pantry at the time, elbow noodles, spaghetti and linguini noodles. I have even used ramen noodles in a pinch. This is where you can make the “meat stretch”, as the noodles are the filler to make more food for the family.

Peas are also a good add to this dish. Frozen peas work best, as you add them when frozen, and they do not get smashed during the mixing in stage. But fresh or canned peas work, you should fold in the peas when they are added.

Optional ingredient to add, provide there is money is a can of black olives.

Directions for creating the meal.

If using ground meat, brown the meat and season with garlic and black pepper to your taste.

Chicken – I like baked chicken, and I have used leftover fried chicken that is deboned and chopped into bite size pieces. Cream of chicken soup works great if using chicken.

Tuna – I add to the noodles after they are cooked to my liking – al dente.

Cook the noodles according to the directions of the noodles you are using. Drain off most of the liquid, but not all as you will need some liquid for the can of soup. After draining the liquid, add the can or cans of cream of mushroom soup (if using chicken, cream of chicken soup works good), peas and olives.

Cook over low heat until hot enough to eat for stove top.

Oven – mix ingredients, add smashed saltine crackers to the top with some cheese. Bake at 350 F, until casserole is bubbly.

There are many vegetable variations you can use with this recipe. I have used onions, bell peppers and squash, sauteed until tender and then added to the mix.

I hope you enjoy, and maybe will give you some variation.


Happy S’mores Day

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August 10 is Happy S’more Day, the sweet treat prepared over a fire. A camping tradition of ending the day with conversation and eating s’mores.

The recipe is simple, get a two gram crackers, put a piece or pieces of chocolate on one side, roast your marshmallow and sandwich between the gram crackers. Then eat the sweet sticky sandwich you created.

Conversation always turns to how to roast the marshmallows. There are those who place the marshmallow in the flames, let it burn, creating a black burnt sugar crust. Then there are the patience roasters, taking time to turn and slowly cook the marshmallow to a golden brown. And lastly there are the impatient ones who put the marshmallow over the fire and remove it saying the marshmallow is done.

When I was a child, on camping trips with my family, we would have marshmallow roasting competitions. The goal was to see who could get the largest roasted marshmallow. There are several tricks to creating a roasted marshmallow four to five times the original size.

The marshmallow must be roasted slowly and evenly. The stick can not be too thin or too fat. Then there is learning when to roast it and to remove it from the heat to cool, then putting the marshmallow over the heat again. To obtain the largest roasted marshmallow, the golden crust can not form too early, but needs to form to help hold the marshmallow on the stick. A fine art of timing to create the largest marshmallow.

Regardless on how you roast the marshmallow for eating or making s’mores, the goal is family time, and having fun.


Frog Eye Salad, a tradition

There are some recipes our family uses in celebration of different seasons and holidays. Frog Eye Salad is an Easter dinner tradition. I found the recipe years ago in a school generated cookbook. The school collects recipes from the families of students attending, and compile the recipes into a cookbook and sell them to raise funds for specific items or programs at the school.

Where the name Frog Eye salad comes from I do not know as there are no frog eyes in the recipe. It is a sweet tropical pasta fruit salad. There are three parts to the recipe: the sauce, the pasta and the fruit. I do variations of the recipe depending on what is in the cupboard at the time. I will put my variations in parenthesis to show the difference from the original recipe.

The Sauce:

1 Cup of Sugar 2 Tablespoons of flour 1/2 teaspoon of salt 1-3/4 Cups of Pineapple juice ( I get the juice from the cans of fruit I am adding, or if I am using fresh pineapple, after blending the pineapple I strain the juice into a cup ) 2 eggs beaten 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Combine sugar, flour and salt, stir. Beat eggs then add to pineapple juice. Add the juice/eggs to flour mix, stir well, cook over moderate or medium heat, stirring the mixture until it thickens. I like the consistency of thick gravy. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, can be fresh or bottled.

The pasta:

The type of pasta is Acini de Pepe or pearl pasta. Same pasta two different names.

16 ounces of pasta

Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Really soft pasta does not hold up in the pasta salad. Drain.

In an airtight container mix the pasta and the sauce together and refrigerate until cold.

The Fruit:

3 – 11 ounce cans of mandarin oranges, drained 2- 20 ounce cans of pineapple chunks, drained 1- 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple, drained

(I will substitute fruit cocktail for a can of mandarin oranges or one can of pineapple. The pineapple makes the salad. One fresh pineapple is substituted for all the canned pineapple chunks and crushed. I also drained Maraschino cherries to add color to the salad for July 4th. )

1 – Cup of miniature marshmallows (I consider these optional, if I have them I use them. If I do not it does not distract from overall taste.)

1 – Cup of coconut (This is listed as optional, but I consider it a main ingredient. The flavor combination of pineapple, oranges and coconut are what give this salad character. )

Fold the fruit, marshmallows and coconut into the pasta, until well blended and refrigerate until cold.

If kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator, this salad can keep for up to a week.


Seasonal Traditions

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My family has recipes for every season and holiday. This past Christmas, both my daughters asked that I write down all our traditional family recipes for each holiday. They also threw in requests for my bread recipe, cinnamon rolls and others.

I love to cook. During the holidays, I would have all my children join me in the kitchen to cook the meals. My sons enjoyed cooking as much as the girls. I did not have much money for gifts, but we could celebrate and have fun in the kitchen during the holidays. The foods we cooked did not have a written recipe, but was a pinch of this, a bunch of that, just so of this. They would watch and help. The measurements of how many hands of flour would change as they grew older. When they try to make the foods today, they call mom for instructions or to verify the instructions, what temperature to cook at, etc.

I also have recipes from their grandmother on their dad’s side of the family. Some of her recipes were from her maternal great-grandmother. A couple of the recipes for canning, say to “grind” the ingredients. I remember my mother using an old hand cranked meat grinder to make pickle relish. There were different blade patterns for different functions.

I am hoping next year to give these cookbooks of recipes and pictures to my children and grandchildren as gifts before Christmas. My children all love to cook and try new recipes. My grandchildren are starting to learn. It will be a nice legacy not just from me, but from generations back of their family.


Soup to Warm the Soul

When it is cold outside, I like to warm up with homemade soup. One of my favorites is potato soup.

First I peel some potatoes.

I dice the potatoes and place in a pan.

I add enough water to cover the diced potatoes.

I add a clove of garlic minced or crushed and an onion diced

I place a cover over the pan and cook on low to medium heat until the potato pieces can be cut with a spoon.

Now to make the soup creamy. I add 2 cups of whipping cream or milk or half and half or evaporated milk. My favorite is whipping cream.

I add 1 cup of sour cream and stir.

Next for the pot is 2 cups of shredded cheese. I love sharp cheddar cheese. Sometimes I mix in 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar and 1 cup shredded swiss.

I shred the cheese so the cheese blends in with the liquid easier.

Cook on low heat until the cheese is blended in with the soup.

This is my basic potato soup recipe. There are times I will add bacon bits, diced ham or diced bell peppers to give the soup a different twist.

Ready to serve. Season to your desire.

Cold weather always brings out the potato soup.

Stay warm.