Friday, April 22, 2011

Old Fashioned Banana Pudding

  Through the years there have been many a concoction created claiming to be banana pudding. But for this good ole southern boy there is only one kind of banana pudding and that is the kind mom used to make. I say "used" to make because nowadays she's on a health kick so sugar is out, splenda is in and everything is cooked in the microwave it seems so there is a definite loss of flavor. Oh sure, I use a microwave to pop popcorn or warm up leftovers and such but as far as cooking goes it has to be on a stove top and in the oven (non-microwave kind of oven!). So when I asked mom to send me her recipe for banana pudding - the way she made it when we were growing up - she did but she also had to include her directions for making it in the microwave. Directions, I might add, that I simply ignored.
  So here, without further ado, is my and mom's recipe for that stalwart favorite of southerns everywhere - Banana Pudding.

2 Cups of scalded milk
3 Bananas
1 Box Vanilla Wafers
3 Eggs
3/4 Cup sugar (for pudding)
6 Tbsp. sugar (for meringue)
1/3 Cup all-purpose flour
1.5 Tsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tspn. vanilla flavoring

  I like everything all set out and ready to go before I start cooking. Once you have everything together start by mixing the 3/4 Cup of sugar, salt and flour together. Mix it well. This is why I save butter containers - they are perfect to use, just put all three ingredients in, snap the lid on it then shake it several moments in several different directions to get it thoroughly mixed. Once this is done set it to the side. You can do the same thing with the lemon juice and vanilla flavoring, then set them aside.
  You can do this part at any time before the pudding is ready to pour but I like to go ahead and line my glass baking dish with a layer of vanilla wafers so it will be ready when the time comes.
  Next, crack your eggs and separate the yolk from the egg whites. Don't throw the egg whites away cause you'll use them later.
  Start by scalding the milk. Easiest way to do this is to put it in a sauce pan or pot and put on high for a few minutes while stirring constantly. Take a couple of spoonfuls of the milk and add to the egg yolks, beat them so they have the consistency of a liquid and set aside. Before milk gets to boiling point turn eye to low then, still stirring, gradually add in your sugar, salt and flour mixture. Once the mixture is well blended and before it thickens, stir in the egg yolks you set to the side a few minutes ago. Continue stirring constantly until your pudding mixture thickens. You don't want it so thick it won't pour around your wafers and bananas but you also don't want it to be too watery. Slice up your bananas and put a layer down on top of the first layer of wafers. Now pour enough of the pudding mixture in to cover most of your bananas. Add another layer of wafers and bananas then more pudding. Continue this until you're out of pudding mixture then set to the side.
  Time to make your meringue topping. This is really easy. In a mixing bowl combine your sugar and egg whites. Beat with a blender on high speed for several minutes or until the meringue is good and thick and holds it's form much like suds in a bubble bath might. Dip meringue out onto pudding and cover entire surface. Be sure to allow meringue to go over the lip of the dish slightly to seal the pudding.
  Preheat your oven to 350° then bake for about five minutes or until the meringue has a nice golden brown color to it (see the photo). Remove and let cool a bit. I love my banana pudding to be warm from the oven if you don't then let it cool or put in refrigerator till it has cooled. Cooling it will also help firm up the pudding for easier serving.
  Thanx mom for the recipe!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spaghetti and Meat Sauce Meal

I've found over the years that real Italian food tends to be rather bland for my tastes. I love the tomato flavor that predominates most traditional Italian dishes but they still seem to lack a good punch to the palette. When it comes to spaghetti and meat sauce though I firmly believe mine is far superior to any found in a restaurant. Then again I find that I prefer most of the meals I fix over any that you might find in a restaurant. I will say also that I do not make my own tomato sauce, or grow my own garlic or make my own seasonings but that's okay 'cause let's face it - sometimes it's a lot easier to just buy an ingredient than it is to grow it.

One (1) box (approx. 12 oz.) of whole wheat spaghetti noodles
Three (3) tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Two (2) 29 oz. cans of Tomato sauce
One (1) 14 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
One (1) 14 oz. can of mushrooms - stems and pieces
Two pounds of lean ground beef
Two (2) tablespoons of minced garlic
1/4 cup of ground garlic
Two (2) tablespoons of ground oregano
One (1) tablespoon of salt
One (1) tablespoon of ground pepper
Two (2) packs of McCormick's Thick and Zesty Spaghetti Sauce mix
Two (2) bottles of Chianti red wine
One (1) loaf of French Bread (sliced)
Bunch of butter
One container of garlic salt
Strange but it doesn't seem like a lot when I'm cooking it!

Begin by sauteing (is that even a word?) the minced garlic in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Drain.
Brown ground beef, adding the sauteed minced garlic when it is about half done. Drain and set to side.
Open the bottle of Chianti and pour a small glass. Take a sip then set to the side.

In a large pot empty the cans of tomato sauce, petite diced tomatoes and mushrooms (feel free to chop the mushrooms up if you think the pieces are too large). Stir until well blended bringing mixture to a boil then turn to low. Now add in the ground garlic, ground oregano, salt, pepper and the one pack of the McCormick's mix. Stir again until well blended. Take another sip of Chianti.
Next add the ground beef and the second McCormick's mix then stir again and for good measure take another sip of Chianti.

Cover and let simmer on low heat for two hours. Take your glass and bottle of Chianti and put a movie in the DVD and sip away. Don't forget to set your timer for fifteen minute intervals to go check and stir your sauce so it doesn't burn to the bottom of the pot.

When close to meal time fill a good size pot halfway with water, add a pinch of salt and the rest of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil then bring to a boil. Take the whole wheat spaghetti (I promise you'll never be able to tell the difference from the regular and it's healthier for you) and break them in half then put them into the boiling water and oil. Lower heat and stir periodically. When noodles are nice and tender then drain the water off.

Pre-heat oven to 350° then slice the French bread and cover one side of each with lots of butter then sprinkle garlic salt on it. Put on tray and into oven for about five minutes then take out.

Now serve up your noodles and sauce on a plate with a side of bread and a glass of wine for all (or give everyone else grape juice and keep the Chianti for yourself!)

Being single I can make this much up and have a great lunch and dinner for days OR I can invite bunch of friends over and share (but they have to bring their own Chianti!) :)

Ohh! and lest I forget... I like my sauce nice and thick but if you prefer it a bit more runny then just add a little water when cooking the sauce.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Creamed Eggs on Toast

Okay, okay, I admit it sounds gross but trust me this is the absolute tastiest non-traditional breakfast you can eat! This is another one that I grew up with, though admittedly mom didn't fix it near as often as I would like even though it's simple and easy. This one I do a lot by feel so the measurements are my best guess.

Five (5) hard-boiled eggs, peeled & sliced (if I didn't say peeled then some yahoo would surely try and make it with the egg shell intact!)
One (1) teaspoon of salt
1/8 cup of butter
1/3 cup self-rising flour
Three (3) to four (4) cups of milk
One box of Strawberry Poptarts

You can use a small to medium size pot or a large saucepan but I prefer a pot.
After you've boiled and sliced your eggs you need to make a white sauce.
To make the sauce melt the butter in the pot over medium heat then add the the flour. Mix it well until it has the consistency of a good thick paste. Add a little milk and stir. Continue slowly adding milk making sure you stir until the flour/butter mixture is dissolved into the milk. Add the salt. There will likely be a few beads of the mixture that won't dissolve further but don't sweat it. Continue cooking on medium heat and stirring. Sure you can take a break and stop stirring for a moment or two but don't stop longer than that. When the mixture has thickened to a point that you like it then you're ready. I prefer my sauce to be moderately thick like room temperature pancake syrup would be.
Now fold in the sliced eggs making sure they are all mixed in well. Place toast on a plate and ladle the mixture over the toast, sprinkle with Paprika, serve and enjoy.
This recipe will make approximately enough to cover eight slices of toast.
Oh! And the Poptarts? Well those are for the kids who turn their nose up at this fantastic meal but personally, if they won't eat what you fix I'd make 'em do without until lunch! Trust me though, this is a fantastic breakfast, even got my roommate and her son loving it!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Southwestern Stuffed Chicken

Not everyone enjoys the flavor or even texture of two meats served together. I do. Sometimes. I also like food that has a punch to it whether its spicey, salty, tangy, fruity or whatever.
I used to buy the Southwestern Style Chicken meal in a box that Campbells put out but for some reason they either stopped making it or stopped selling it in my area and I haven't found it in years. So I decided to create my own and of course added my own twist to it as well.

Three (3) or four (4) boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
1/3 roll of Wampler Farms HOT ground sausage
Half a block of pepper-jack cheese
One (1) box of southwestern style rice (the kind with black beans in it)
One (1) cup of kernel corn
One (1) 8oz can of petite diced tomatoes

Preheat oven to 400°

Brown and drain the sausage and break it up into crumbs then spread it over a paper towel to get rid of additional grease.
Slice cheese up into blocks a little smaller than a die (that's singular for dice if you were wondering).

Take a deep casserole dish (I prefer to use a round one) and coat the inside of it with butter. Empty the contents of the box of southwestern style rice into the bowl. If your's didn't come with a packet of seasoning then you probably got the wrong one! Add the corn and petite tomatoes. If you want you can also add some kidney beans and black beans as well. Stir the mixture up then set to the side.

Take a thin filet knife and insert it into the thick end of the chicken. Try to keep the hole the same size as the knife blade. Push the knife into the chicken breast and using the insertion point as the axis cut the inside of the chicken breast only so as to form a cavity. You don't want the knife to cut all the way through the chicken. Take the sausage and the cheese and stuff it into the cavity. I like to stick a cube of the cheese in first followed by sausage, then another cheese cube, more sausage and a final cheese cube. You can use more or less cheese or sausage but the point is to stuff the chicken breast to the point that it feels like it will burst out.

Now take the mixture and place it in the rice mixture. You will want to push it down into the mixture so that once all the pieces are placed they will be almost submerged in the mixture. If the juice from the can of petite tomatoes doesn't seem sufficient to cook the rice then add a little bit of water in.

Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook for 45 minutes, remove and check to make sure rice is soft. If not then add a little more water and cover again and cook for another 20 minutes. Uncover and put back in oven for about 10 minutes to brown. Remove then serve.

If you like you can also garnish with a little paprika as well.

Awesome Chip hor d'ourves

I went to a party last winter and the hostess served the most marvelous hor d'ourve. It was really quite simple as well. When I had a birthday party at my home this past February I took that simple hor d'ourve added my own little twist and it became a big hit. With just three simple ingredients your guest will love this too.

One (1) bag of Tostitos "Hint of Lime" tortilla chips
One (1) block of pepper jack cheese
One (1) roll of Wampler Farms HOT ground sausage

Of course if you have a favorite brand you prefer, by all means try it. I have a hard time finding the "Hint of Lime" flavor sometimes but I have also used the "Hint of Jalapeno" flavor and it works just fine only with a slightly different flavor.

Pre-heat your oven to 375°

First brown and drain about a cup of ground sausage. Make sure you break up the clumps of sausage into "crumbs." After draining, set to the side. I like to spread them out on a paper towel to soak up as much grease as possible.
Get a cookie sheet cover it with aluminum foil (makes an easier cleanup). Open the bag of Tostitos "Hint of Lime" tortilla chips and select whole, unbroken chips and place them on the cookie sheet side by side.
Open the block of pepper jack cheese and slice off portions about the thickness of two pennies and place the cheese sections on the chips.
Next take the sausage crumbs and spread a little on top of each piece of cheese.
Place the sheet of chips in the oven just long enough to melt the cheese (for me it's usually about five minutes.
Remove from oven and serve.

If you don't get rave compliments from this recipe then your guests either don't like you, are lactose intolerant or are vegetarians!